Yesterday, four U.S. troops were killed in an attack in Baghdad; their names have not yet been released.
Today, however, their comrades have all but withdrawn from Iraqi cities, leaving them to be patrolled by Iraqi forces under an agreement signed months ago by American and Iraqi officials. This has been proclaimed “National Sovereignty Day,” a holiday to celebrate the great Iraqi victory. Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, acknowledged in a speech that the day could not have happened without the help of the United States.
“While we celebrate this day, we express our thanks and gratitude to our friends in the coalition forces who faced risks and responsibilities and sustained casualties and damage while helping Iraq to get rid from the ugliest dictatorship and during the joint effort to impose security and stability,” Talabani said.
But Iraqi President Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, in a speech at a military parade deep inside the secure Green Zone, claimed that “the national united government succeeded in putting down the sectarian war that was threatening the unity and the sovereignty of Iraq.” According to the New York Times, Maliki “made no mention of the American military’s involvement in fighting here for the last six years.”
The U.S. troops still in Iraq — at last count roughly 130,000 — will continue to engage in combat. The four dead Monday will not be the last to give their lives. The deadline for withdrawal of American combat forces is Aug. 31, 2010, with total withdrawal set for Dec. 31, 2011.
“As the Iraqis stand up, we will stand down,” President Bush used to say. That seems a long time ago. But it’s time, past time, for the promise in those words to finally be realized.