​Bob Schieffer on war and the failure of politics

A U.S. soldier carries his gear through a door as he prepares to fly out of the Sather Air Base in Baghdad, December 15, 2011. LUCAS JACKSON/AFP/Getty Images

As we try to sort out where we are in Iraq, only two things seem clear to me: we went there for the wrong reason, we left in the wrong way.

When we were told Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, I thought we had no choice but to go to Iraq.

That proved wrong. There were no such weapons.

As young Americans died and the country grew weary of war, we announced our job was done and we would be leaving. The administration wanted to leave a small training force of American soldiers behind.

But Iraq wouldn't agree to let those troops remain under America's legal control, and we have never put American forces anywhere under that condition, so we left.

But did we push hard enough for such an agreement, or was this just an excuse for a war-weary America to get out?

That, like our reason for going there, will be a question for historians, and should be. World War I began 100 years ago this week, and we're still debating what caused it.

But let us remember that whatever the historians' judgment, those who died in that long-ago war -- like those who died in Iraq -- won't come back to life. Those scarred by war remain as war left them, whatever history's judgment.

It has been said that war is an extension of politics, but what it really is, is the failure of politics.

And only those we send to war truly know the awful cost that failure brings.

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    Bob Schieffer is CBS News' chief Washington correspondent and anchor of Face the Nation.

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