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After Iraq: What will history say?

As the last US forces leave, we see the eight-year intervention in Iraq only as a sketchy outline. WIth time, a clearer picture will emerge -- and a softer memory may descend.

By Editor / December 10, 2011

Tourists cruise in a boat on Halong bay, Vietnam.

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Words like Da Nang, Hue, and Hanoi Hilton still stir painful memories for many Americans and Vietnamese, especially those who were directly involved in the Vietnam War. But as time passes, perspectives shift. Surprising changes occur.

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Today’s Vietnam is a tourist destination known for sparkling beaches, delicious cuisine, and friendly people. Visitors clamber through old Viet Cong caves, tour onetime battlefields, and enjoy spa treatments at seaside resorts outside Da Nang. There’s no Hilton in Hanoi, but the Sheraton's website boasts “blended decor of local traditional-style and French colonial influence, ensuring a warm and comfortable feeling.” 

Time does that – softens old animosities, consigns desperate conflicts to the pages of history. New generations arise with only a faint notion of the pain that ripped through their parents’ lives. The battlefields of Manassas, Va., and Waterloo, Belgium, are now beautiful lawns. Seventy years after Pearl Harbor brought the US into World War II, Tokyo and Berlin are sleek, friendly, 21st-century cities. The awful violence of long ago seems almost quaint.

For Americans and Iraqis, the departure of the last US military units from Iraq starts the slow fade from present tense to past.

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