10-year anniversary of Baghdad fall to US forces
BAGHDAD (AP) — Ten years ago, a statue fell in Baghdad’s Firdous Square. Joyful Iraqis helped by an American tank retriever pulled down their longtime dictator, cast as 16 feet of bronze. The scene broadcast live worldwide became an icon of the war, a symbol of final victory over Saddam Hussein.
But for the residents of the capital, it was only the beginning.
The toppling of the statue remains a potent symbol that has divided Iraqis ever since: Liberation for Shiites and Kurds, a loss for some Sunnis and grief among almost everybody over the years of death, destruction and occupation that followed the fall of Baghdad to U.S. forces on April 9, 2003.
“Ten years ago, I dreamed of better life,” said Rassol Hassan, 80, who witnessed the fall of the statue from his nearby barber shop. “Nothing has changed since then for me and many Iraqis, it has even gotten worse.”
In an opinion piece in the Washington Post, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said the overwhelming majority of Iraqis agree that they are better off today than under Saddam’s brutal dictatorship.
“Iraqis will remain grateful for the U.S. role and for the losses sustained by military and civilian personnel that contributed in ending Hussein’s rule,” he said.
“Iraq is not a protectorate of the United States; it is a sovereign partner,” al-Maliki said in response to the contention that Iraq has become more pro-Iran than pro-West. “Partners do not always agree, but they consider and respect each other’s views. In that spirit, we ask the United States to consider Iraq’s views on challenging issues, especially those of regional importance.”
In the past 10 years, Iraqis have seen the country’s power base shift from minority Arab Sunnis to majority Shiites, with Kurds gaining their own autonomous region.
“For Kurds there is no regret,” said Mahmoud Othman, a Kurdish legislator. “April 9 is a national liberation day for us.”
Ali al-Moussawi, a spokesman for Iraq’s Shiite-led government, said “April 9 is a day of contradictions: We ended the oppression of Saddam” but began the American occupation. Still, he emphasized that Iraqis were looking forward.
“Our fight is against terrorist groups that kill people and want to prevent them from tasting the freedom they had lost for 30 years (under Saddam).”