Today is tomorrow in Iraq, Tuesday, the 30th of June, which has been declared a national holiday because it is the day the United States formally hands over responsibility for the security of all Iraqi cities to the Iraqi government and security forces:
Iraqi forces officially assumed control of Baghdad and other cites across the country early Tuesday, following the withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from urban areas. Celebrations in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, include music, dance and poetry.
Iraqi government TV has been playing patriotic music to celebrate the U.S. military withdrawal from cities, towns and villages across the country, officially set to be completed by Tuesday June 30th.
Iraqi military vehicles were also covered with flowers to celebrate the event, and military parades, complete with band music, were organized in Diyala and Diwania provinces.
The government declared a "Day of National Sovereignty" to mark the event, and has invited ordinary citizens to join evening celebrations at Baghdad's Zawra Park for a festival of music and poetry.
Interior Minister Jawad Boulani told journalists the U.S. withdrawal is almost complete and Iraqi forces are capable of maintaining order across the country.
As I recall, Diyala and Diwania were scenes of heavy fighting from 2005-2007, yet now they're gearing up for concerts and a poetry festival. I'd call that a win, wouldn't you, Senator Reid?
Minister Boulani expressed the opinion that Iraqi forces are now up to maintaining internal security. I hope he's right. There's been a disturbing rise in violence as the Americans began to pull back, including pogroms against homosexuals and Christians, not to mention a rise in bombings in Baghdad and Kirkuk. Clearly the coming months and years will be a test for the Iraqi government and security forces to see if they can not only guarantee public order, but equally to all Iraqis.
I have confidence in Iraq and the Iraqis, however. Since liberation in 2003, they've faced incredibly difficult circumstances and always come through: I still marvel at the success of the elections of 2005 and forest of purple fingers raised in pride. They've written a constitution (and stuck to it), and they're adapting to the freewheeling style of democratic parliamentary politics. Sure, there have been frustrating setbacks and delays, but with each success Iraq takes another step toward becoming the first real democracy in the Arab world, and example that could revolutionize the region — and perhaps the power of this example is already being felt in neighboring Iran.
I hope somewhere former President Bush is taking satisfaction in this moment; he earned it, and I hope Iraqis tomorrow remember to toast him with a raised glass of sweet tea. Without his decision to invade and overthrow Saddam Hussein in the first place and then to risk everything on the success of the surge in 2007, we wouldn't be at this moment, and Iraq would likely still be a Hell-hole.
But it isn't, and that's a reason to celebrate.