WASHINGTON — A decade after the beginning of the U.S.-led war in Iraq, myths and distortions persist about how the conflict evolved into the current incarnation of Iraq as a fragile, highly sectarian state with a domestic political crisis that's only exacerbated by volatile neighbors Syria and Iran. Here are some of the most comon:
Myth: Iraqis greeted U.S. troops as liberators.
Truth: While many Iraqis rejoiced at the ouster of their oppressor, Saddam Hussein, from the outset they expressed trepidation and unease at the sight of foreign forces taking over their country.
Myth: The "surge" strategy of sending 20,000 additional U.S. forces to Iraq in 2007 was the catalyst for a turnaround in the war, bringing enough calm to the country for the U.S. military to stay on schedule for withdrawal.
Truth: The surge was only one factor in the temporary abating of violence at that time. It was successful only in tandem with several other important events, chiefly the unilateral cease-fire of the Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militants, previous military successes against some extremist Sunni leaders and the near-total sectarian cleansing of Baghdad neighborhoods.
Myth: As of 2011, there has been a full U.S. withdrawal from Iraq.
Truth: Iraqi and American officials couldn't reach an agreement on keeping some U.S. forces in the country for training and in advisory roles, but that doesn't mean there's not a substantial American presence remaining in Baghdad. At the time of the withdrawal, the State Department said that up to 17,000 diplomatic personnel would remain, supported by more than 5,000 private security contractors.