BAGHDAD—After 19 months of struggle in Iraq, U.S. military officials conceded a loss to Iraqi insurgents Monday, but said America can be proud of finishing "a very strong second."
"We went out there, gave it our all, and fought a really good fight," said Gen. George W. Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq. "America's got nothing to be ashamed of. We outperformed Great Britain, Poland, and a lot of the other top-notch nations, but Iraq just wouldn't stay down for the count. It may have come down to them simply wanting it more."
American tanks and infantry surged out to an impressive early lead in March 2003, scoring major points by capturing Baghdad early in the faceoff. The stage seemed set for a second American victory in as many clashes with Iraq, with commentators and generals alike declaring the contest all but decided with the fall of Tikrit in April 2003.
"In spite of jumping out to an early lead and having the better-trained, better-equipped team, I'm afraid we still came up short in the end," Casey said. "Sometimes, the underdog just pulls one out on you. But there's no reason for the guys who were out in the field to feel any shame over this one. They played through pain and injury and never questioned the strategy, even when we started losing ground."