Iraqis dance in streets as U.S. troops pull back -- Americans like it too
Iraqis danced in the streets today as American soldiers pulled back from towns and cities (including Basra, above) to the stronghold of U.S. bases. A countdown clock on Iraqi TV ticked to zero as midnight approached. Fireworks lit up the skies over Baghdad.
Some voiced fears about renewed violence. And some 200,000 U.S. soldiers remain in the country -- four tragically killed just last night during the transition, joining the more than 4,300 U.S. soldiers who have died in the cause.
Iraq declared a national holiday and Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki proclaimed June 30 Iraq's "National Sovereignty Day." "All of us are happy — Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds — on this day," Waleed al-Bahadili said to the Associated Press as he celebrated in a Badghad park. "The Americans harmed and insulted us too much."
Americans might be upset to hear that, given that they gave so much of blood and treasure to give Iraq a chance at democracy. But the latest poll by CNN found 73% of Americans favor the withdrawal with surprising unanimity -- 72% of Democrats and 74% of Republicans said yes. And two-thirds said even if violence flares again (which a majority think is likely), U.S. troops should not go back into Iraqi population centers.
Of course, the Big Number is that two-thirds of Americans no longer support the war in Iraq, a rebuke to President Bush's policy -- though his neo-con supporters hope he will be vindicated by history's more long-range endorsement -- and an explanation for President Obama's decision to end combat operations in Iraq by Aug. 31 of next year.
But for today, the news was not in the Oval Office but in the streets of Iraq. Here are more photos:
-- Johanna Neuman
In Ramadi, as Iraqi forces take charge of patrols in the city.
In Basra, Iraqi police officers celebrate.
At a cafe in Baghdad.
In Baghdad's Green Zone, a parade of Iraqi security forces.
Spc. Charles Lewis of the 10th Combat Support Hospital prepared to leave Baghdad.
Photo credits, from top: Khalid Mohammed / Associated Press; Karim Kadin / Associated Press; Haider Al-Assadee / European Pressphoto Agency; Khalil al-Murshidi / AFP/Getty Images; Ali al-Saadi / AFP/Getty Images; Daniel C. Britt / Reuters