There’s a Celebration in Iraq Today
Milestones don’t always mark what they should. Tomorrow all these things are true: there are 130,000 U.S. troops in Iraq; procedures and circumstances and contingencies pertain whereby urban security will still be a U.S. mission; there is a U.S. combat mission, by binding diplomatic accord, for an additional 13 months; another year will pass after that before U.S. troops depart; there is ever-present danger in Iraq, if not necessarily strategic peril; and the scope and contour of a U.S.-Iraqi relationship on Jan. 1, 2012 remains to be determined, and may feature a small U.S. military advisory presence. Within this context, it’s easy to consider June 30, 2009 a minor date on a calendar that always has another page.
But not if you’re an Iraqi. Just read the outpouring that The Washington Post reports for the end of a major U.S. presence in the cities and the towns:
“Out, America out!” a group of sweat-drenched young men chanted Monday at a Baghdad park as the sun was setting. They jumped up and down to the deafening beat of drums and the wail of horns.
It’s a “carnival” in Baghdad, according to The Post’s Ernesto Londono, filled with Iraqi troops grinning as they take their lives into their own hands and graffiti writers further south demanding, “Pull your troops from our Basra, we are its sons and want its sovereignty.” Don’t tell them today is just another day.
Building on the political opportunity afforded by today’s national celebration, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki declared victory, reports The New York Times:
“The national united government succeeded in putting down the sectarian war that was threatening the unity and the sovereignty of Iraq.”
Adds reporter Alissa Rubin, “He made no mention of the American military’s involvement in fighting here for the last six years.” If you were Maliki, would you? Rubin also notes that the government turned American reporters away from the Green Zone — the former U.S. enclave now under Iraqi control — in an apparent gesture “to signal that the Iraqi authorities were in charge.”