themcglynn.com

30 Jun

Iraqis celebrate U.S. troops leaving Iraqi cities

Huffington Post

Iraqis celebrate in Baghdad, Iraq, June 29, 2009, to mark the milestone of U.S. troops leaving Iraqi cities, fireworks colored Baghdad’s skyline and thousands of people attended a party in a city park late Monday where singers performed patriotic songs. The Pentagon did not offer any comment to mark the passing of the deadline.

Fireworks, not bombings, colored the Baghdad skyline late Monday, and thousands attended a party in a park where singers performed patriotic songs. Loudspeakers at police stations and military checkpoints played recordings of similar tunes throughout the day, as Iraqi military vehicles decorated with flowers and national flags patrolled the capital.

“All of us are happy _ Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds on this day,” Waleed al-Bahadili said as he celebrated at the park. “The Americans harmed and insulted us too much.”

Al-Maliki declared a public holiday and proclaimed June 30 as “National Sovereignty Day.”

Midnight’s handover to Iraqi forces filled many citizens with pride but also trepidation that government forces are not ready and that violence will rise. Shiites fear more bombings by Sunni militants; Sunnis fear that the Shiite-dominated Iraqi security forces will give them little protection.
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If the Iraqis can hold down violence in the coming months, it will show the country is finally on the road to stability. If they fail, it will pose a challenge to President Barack Obama’s pledge to end an unpopular war that has claimed the lives of more than 4,300 U.S. troops and tens of thousands of Iraqis.

The gathering at the Baghdad park was unprecedented in size for such a postwar event in a city where people tend to avoid large gatherings for fear of suicide bombers. They ignored an appeal by Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi to stay away from crowded places during the U.S. pullback, which has seen more than 250 people killed in bombings over the past 10 days.

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