On the occasion of the final withdrawal of American forces from Iraq, after a shocking eight years of invasion, confusion, and civil war, the entire Arab world wishes Iraq well. The Iraqi government has a huge responsibility to rebuild the shattered nation after decades of dictatorship and the trauma of civil war. More than 103,000 Iraqis were killed in war-related violence and more than 1.3 million Iraqis were internally displaced by the war. The invasion of Iraq started on March 19, 2003. It was supposed to be justified by a claim that Saddam Hussains government was developing weapons of mass destruction, but it is hard to forget Colin Powell, former president George W. Bushs then secretary of state, failing to convince the world at a crucial meeting of the United Nations. The worst aspect of the invasion was that the US made no plans for post-invasion nation building. Bush forced Iraq into a fantastic muddle that devastated an entire country. When the invasion was planned, the State Department had a plan for reconstruction of Iraq, but a few weeks before the troops went in, responsibility for managing Iraq was transferred to the Department of Defence, which had no plans at all. As a result, days after the invasion we watched the depressing start of country-wide looting, and heard Donald Rumsfeld, then secretary of defence, comment: Stuff happens. Paul Bremmer, the US-appointed Administrator of Iraq, disbanded the Iraqi Army, putting 400,000 men onto the streets, and removed all Baathists from positions in the civil service. These two moves alone removed the most trained and able people from the task of rebuilding the countrys institutions and sent tens of thousands of angry and despairing men to join the looming civil war. For years after the invasion, Iraq suffered from rampant corruption, as the administration received billions of dollars in aid and support from America and other countries, with huge sums going missing. Some of the corruption became institutionalised with security companies like Blackwater making tens of millions for ill-defined and unmanaged services. One of the worst legacies of the American domination of Iraqi politics is institutionalisation of sectarian thinking. Under Saddam Hussain, Iraq had become largely secular in its government and public affairs, but the occupying forces swiftly changed that by looking for leaders according to their religion or sect. The sectarian militias gained a significant amount of political power, like the Shia Mahdi Army, the Kurds Peshmerga and the Sunni Anbar tribes. This poisonous legacy is a tragedy and will take decades of efforts to put right. It is too early to say that Iraq has overcome its problems. The country is not yet stable, and far too many factors are still undecided, but at least one seriously divisive factor was removed when the American military withdrew. Gulf News editorial