It was exactly one year ago today that the statue and regime of Saddam Hussein fell in Baghdad. The statue was brought down after the US Marines rolled into the city.
Despite the progress made by coalition forces in the intervening year, violent attacks by rebel groups have escalated. Forty US soldiers have been killed this week.
No one could predict where our troops would be one year later. We spoke with a retired commanding general from Fort Stewart today about the fall of Saddam and what lies ahead for our soldiers. Lt. Gen. Donald Rosenblum (ret.) still remembers watching that statue of Saddam come down, but he says our soldiers still have a big job ahead of them.
"It was a joyous time to see a statue come down and obviously, the Iraqi people were jumping up and down with great joy," he said. Rosenblum remembers the day well. "Frankly, I think a lot of us thought it was the end of the regime and maybe the end of any problems we had."
But it was not. Soldiers are still battling fierce resistance, including a Shiite uprising in central and southern Iraq. "I'm convinced it's outside countries bringing in people, because we have a history in this country, when things get tough: i.e., Mogadishu, i.e. Vietnam, we leave," said Rosenblum. "I think those people have read history and maybe think we'll leave."
So far, American and coalition forces are committed to remain, and the Third Infantry Division is slated to go back this fall. "That's why they train so hard," said Rosenblum. "That's why they want to be ready in the event that they have to do things like that. That's part of being a soldier."
However, Rosenblum says it's difficult to say if the Third ID will face the violence we're seeing today. "That's a tough question. I don't have a crystal ball. I don't know if they will get better."
Rosenblum says a lot could depend on what happens in our country in the coming months, especially in the November presidential election which takes place the same month the Third Infantry Division may be called back to Iraq.