It’s not exactly “mission accomplished”, but yesterday President Obama announced an end to combat in one of the most costly wars America has ever committed itself to. After seven and a half years of violence — which saw the loss of 4,400 American soldiers, up to 100,000 Iraqis and over a trillion dollars in spending — many are still debating the war and its merit. The success of the war has been called into question as Americans sigh with relief at the prospect of their troops returning home.

From his newly-decorated Oval Office, Obama made the official end-of-combat announcement, declaring:

“Ending this war is not only in Iraq’s interest; it’s in our own. The United States has paid a huge price to put the future of Iraq in the hands of its people. We have sent our young men and women to make enormous sacrifices in Iraq and spent vast resources abroad at a time of tight budgets at home.

“We’ve persevered because of a belief we share with the Iraqi people, a belief that, out of the ashes of war, a new beginning could be born in this cradle of civilization. Through this remarkable chapter in the history of the United States and Iraq, we have met our responsibilities. Now it’s time to turn the page.”

The New York Times stated in its editorial the importance of the President’s speech in allowing us to “reflect on how little Mr Bush accomplished by needlessly invading Iraq in March 2003 — and then ludicrously declaring victory two months later”. The paper also sought to blame the politicians, rather than the military or soldiers, declaring: “One of the few rays of light in the conflict has been the distance America has come since Vietnam, when blameless soldiers were scorned for decisions made by politicians.”

Unsurprisingly, The Australian‘s Greg Sheridan opined that the war has been a “great, historic American success” due to improved life for Iraqis. He cites statistics such as Iraq being the “12th fastest growing economy” where “electricity production is 40% higher” and that “1.7 million Iraqis are now connected” to the internet, where previously there had only been “5000”.

Obama’s speech has come under scuritiny for its obvious attempt at pleasing both sides of politics. The Guardian columnist Dan Kennedy argues “the result was bland and inoffensive enough that some of his usual critics gave him a pass. But it also lacked the inspirational quality that might have garnered him higher praise. Based on my read of the morning-after punditry, it appears that Obama earned a B-minus.” The fact the Obama so blatantly tried to please both sides of politics indicates just how divided over the war America still is.

Eugene Robinson in The Washington Post was also more concerned with Obama’s people-pleaser speech than with analysis of the war, saying: “Liberals will say he gave George W. Bush too much credit; conservatives, not enough. But I think he did himself and his party some good tonight. He was generous enough to Bush, resolute in his intentions and obviously sincere in his praise of the troops.”

Jon Lee Anderson at the New Yorker offered a great take on Obama’s speech:

“The situation there is still too uncertain to be overly self-congratulatory. And yet he did choose language which, I fear, will linger and fester in the halls of our memories for some time to come. When I heard him say, ‘America has met its responsibilities, now it’s time to turn the page’, I winced. It didn’t gall in quite the same way as Bush’s intemperate ‘mission accomplished’ sound bite in May, 2003, but Obama’s words had a distinctly hollow ring, and I know that more than a few Iraqis will have cursed angrily upon hearing them.”

He wasn’t the only one despairing at the “turn the page” line. “Turning the page entirely will be difficult; in fact, the president raised more questions than he answered,” notes Richard N. Haass of the Council of Foreign Relations think-tank.

It’s a sad end to a war based on false pretenses, argues Christian leader Jim Wallace over at the Huffington Post: “Even in the Oval Office speech last night, the mission of the war in Iraq still wasn’t made clear — and it never was.”

The Obama administration may be quietly pleased that most commentators appeared more concerned with the result of the speech than the result of a war that cost over a trillion dollars.

Who won the war exactly? According to Sarah Wildman of Politics Daily: “Some analysts believe the real winner of the war in Iraq is neither the Iraqis, nor Americans, but the Iranians.”

With almost 50,000 troops remaining to help train the Iraq security forces and special forces still being tasked with hunting down Al Qaida opartives, American soldiers still remain at risk. Anne Gearan from the Boston Globe summed up the situation well: “Although the remaining troops’ main role is to help train Iraqi forces over the next year, they are not out of harm’s way.”

So while the combat aspect of the war is technically over, it doesn’t mean the death toll of US troops is.