The Corner

Baghdad Anniversary

Today, reporting about Iraq focuses on the backroom deal-making to build a new coalition government. It is also the seventh anniversary of the fall of Baghdad.

While there certainly is much to debate about post-war reconstruction, too many Bush critics and journalists have revised history to forget that U.S. troops were indeed greeted as liberators initially. A few press stories from the time:

From the Boston Globe, April 10, 2003:

Discarded Ba’ath Party uniforms littered the streets. Abandoned weapons lay piled on sidewalks. Static filled the screen on Iraqi television. Checkpoints and machine gun posts sat empty.

The regime that ruled Iraq for 23 years, residents of this city realized yesterday morning, was apparently gone. So they took to the streets, shredding Saddam Hussein posters, toppling Hussein statues, looting Hussein offices.

Jubilant Iraqis greeted US troops with cheers, victory signs, and flowers. Weeping Iraqi elders kissed grinning US soldiers. A few Iraqi men, apparently caught up in the moment, rushed into the street clad only in underwear to greet passing US troops.

The Washington Post, April 10, 2003:

Swept aside by U.S. troops who drove through the streets of Baghdad, President Saddam Hussein’s government collapsed today, ending three decades of ruthless Baath Party rule that sought to make Iraq the champion of a modern Arab world but left a legacy of fear, poverty and bitterness.

As U.S. Army troops occupied the west bank of the Tigris River and U.S. Marines rolled into the eastern part of the city, facing only scattered resistance, thousands of Baghdad residents poured into the streets to celebrate the government’s defeat and welcome the U.S. forces in scenes of thanks and jubilation…

With the rage of grievances accumulated over a lifetime, members of the crowd beat the fallen statue with sledgehammers, rocks, chains and their feet. Some slapped their shoes on it. Others made off with its head, dragging it through the streets.

“It was a strong statue,” said Stefan Abu George as he watched the scene unfold. “It’s not strong anymore.”

Down the street, crowds greeted U.S. troops with flowers, candy and, occasionally, kisses.

There have been many mistakes with regard to Iraq going back to the 1980s, and there have been many mistakes since that fateful day. The decision to liberate Iraq, however, is not among them.

Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, senior lecturer at the Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Civil-Military Relations, and a senior editor of the Middle East Quarterly.


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