Of course, they were supposed to greet us with those flowers, not our exit. Flowers are flowers, though! According to Reuters, the US troops are finally vacating Baghdad and leaving in their wake a stream of jubilant Iraqis overjoyed with the long-awaited departure:
BAGHDAD (Reuters) – U.S. troops pulled out of Baghdad on Monday, triggering jubilation among Iraqis hopeful that foreign military occupation is ending six years after the invasion to depose Saddam Hussein.
Iraqi soldiers paraded through the streets in their American-made vehicles draped with Iraqi flags and flowers, chanting, dancing and calling the pullout a "victory."
One drove a motorcycle with party streamers on it; another, a Humvee with a garland of plastic roses on the grill.
The head of Iraqi security forces in Baghdad reported to Reuters that the city was free of the US troops as of Monday afternoon. Iraqi officials indicated to Reuters that US troops proximal to Badhdad "would leave at the last minute."
Better late than never, though still not soon enough. According to the same Reuters report, 130,000 troops remain in Iraq. And Iraqis are still anxious over the prospect that militants will seize on the withdrawal of US troops to increase their presence. Nonetheless, the mood in Iraq seems hopeful:
"The American forces' withdrawal is something awaited by every Iraqi: male, female, young and old. I consider June 30 to be like a wedding," said Ahmed Hameed, 38, near an ice cream bar in Baghdad's upmarket Karrada district.
In keeping with this spirit, the Iraqi government has dubbed June 30 a national holiday. The US should follow their lead. I wish our troops a safe, speedy and permanent return home--and the people of Iraq some long overdue peace!
Update: Reports of random acts of fireworks! And with the fireworks, more flowers still!
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.
Links to a few gratuitous pictures follow: