Friday, January 02, 2009

Heart of U.S. Occupation Reverts to Iraqi Control

The Green Zone, for nearly six years the headquarters of the American occupation of Iraq, passed from American to Iraqi control on Thursday. The New York Times reports:

... The Iraqi flag was raised during a small ceremony at what had been the Republican Palace of Saddam Hussein attended by Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki.

In a speech broadcast on state television, Mr. Maliki said that the handover had a special meaning for Iraqis. “It means we have gotten rid of the most dangerous remains of the policies that the former regime adopted,” he said.

Later, on a street elsewhere in the 5.6-square-mile Green Zone, a second ceremony was attended by senior Iraqi security officials, including the defense minister, and senior American Army officers, including Lt. Gen, Lloyd J. Austin III, the second-highest ranking United States commander in Iraq.

At that ceremony, there were speeches about Iraq’s readiness to take over responsibility of the Green Zone, children sang songs and a poem was read about Iraqi unity. An Iraqi marching band — with bagpipes — played the country’s national anthem.