Monday, April 09, 2007

Iraq, Then and Now

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Edward Wong, reporting from Baghdad earlier today:

Tens of thousands of protesters loyal to the militant Shiite cleric Moktada al-Sadr took to the streets of the holy city of Najaf on Monday in an extraordinarily disciplined rally to demand an end to the American military presence in Iraq, burning American flags and chanting “Death to America.”

Residents said the angry, boisterous demonstration was the largest in Najaf, the heart of Shiite religious power, since the American-led invasion. It took place on the fourth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad, and it was an obvious attempt by Mr. Sadr to show to the world the extent of his influence here in Iraq, even though he did not appear at the rally. Mr. Sadr went underground after the American military began a new security push in Baghdad on Feb. 14, and his whereabouts are unknown.

The Associated Press, reporting the same story:

Draped in Iraqi flags and chanting anti-American slogans, tens of thousands of Iraqis swept into the southern city of Najaf on the call of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr to mark the fourth anniversary of the ouster of President Saddam Hussein, calling for U.S. forces to withdraw from Iraq.

"No, no to the occupier. Yes, yes, to Iraq," they chanted, as demonstrators burned and ripped apart American flags. "Get out, get out occupation."

Others carried banners proclaiming their loyalties to the influential cleric. They had traveled by bus and cars, from Baghdad and Basra, to march peacefully, under heavy security, through the center of one of Shiite Islam's holiest sites.

"We came today raising this flag, our flag, the flag of Iraq, as a show of unity," said Ali Hamza, 26, from Sadr City, the cleric's Baghdad stronghold. Hamza wore the trademark black uniform of the Mahdi Army, Sadr's militia, and an Iraqi flag covered his back. "I would like to show the world we are united. We reject the occupation and we will fight the occupation."
At Sadrain Square, Abdul Razaq al-Nadawi, a Sadr spokesman, walked onto a stage and declared to the crowd: "A few days ago the father of evil, Bush, went out and said: We are staying in Iraq until the mission is accomplished according to the authorization of the U.N. and the request of the Iraqi people. So what would you answer?"

"No, no, America. Get out, get out, occupier," protesters yelled.

Mark at Redstate, today:

We here at RedState did not want to let the day pass without acknowledging a very important anniversary that occurs today and without congratulating the United States Military for this seminal achievement in warfare. On April 9th, 2003, Baghdad fell to United States forces. The collapse of Saddam Hussein's government was symbolized that day by the toppling of the statue of the dictator in Firdos Square.

The military campaign that toppled Iraq's government was by all accounts brilliant. It marked the furthest advance in the least amount of time by the United States military in its illustrious history. The Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines who participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom can and should be rightly proud of their accomplishment in liberating the Iraqi people from an unimaginably brutal madman, and in keeping the United States safe from terrorist plotters these last four years.
A quick scan of the major news outlets shows that this anniversary has largely been forgotten by the mainstream press. Only the Washington Post makes mention of it on their front page, and then only to call attention to the fact that the resulting occupation of Iraq has been a somewhat bumpier ride. Some more shrill sources than the Post seek to deny the military even this small victory and claim that the toppling of the statue was a psychological operations managed event, as if that changes the significance of what the US military did in bringing down the Butcher of Baghdad.

We, on the other hand, realize that the fall of Baghdad was a monumental achievement in and of itself. It deserves recognition as such regardless of the degree to which the occupation has not lived up to expectations, and regardless of one's personal feelings about the war.

So to United States military personnel serving anywhere in the world today; to the troops that participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom; to their Coalition partners; and most of all to the Iraqi people themselves, a hearty congratulations on this day, the anniversary of the liberation of Iraq. RedState salutes the courage and dedication to the cause of a free Iraq displayed by each of you. Whether your part was played by shouldering a rifle or casting a ballot, thanks to you, Iraq is on a path to freedom heretofore unknown in the broader Middle East. To paraphrase John Adams, may future generations view this day as cause for celebration with pomp and parade, bonfires and illuminations from one end of the Middle East to the other.

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