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Two Years in Iraq: Fall of Baghdad Marks New Beginning

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 8, 2005 – Two years ago April 9, the world looked on, captivated by the compelling television images of a towering statue of Saddam Hussein being ripped down in Baghdad, Iraq, and images of the Iraqi dictator being burned on the streets.

Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz likened the view to "seeing the Berlin Wall come down all over again," and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld lauded it as an important sign of things to come.

"We're seeing history unfold and events that will shape the course of a country, the fate of a people and potentially the future of the region," Rumsfeld said during an April 9, 2003, Pentagon press briefing. "Saddam Hussein is now taking his rightful place alongside (former dictators) Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, Ceausescu in the pantheon of failed brutal dictators.

"And the Iraqi people are well on their way to freedom," he added.

The toppling of Saddam's statue was just one -- but perhaps the most symbolic -- part of the fall of Baghdad from the grip of the brutal dictator who had ruled it with an iron fist for more than three decades. Days earlier, coalition troops captured the city's airport, named after Saddam, and renamed it Baghdad International Airport. They also took the Presidential Palace in downtown Baghdad and began moving freely through the city.

Eight months after his larger-than-life image was pulled from its podium in downtown Baghdad, Saddam was pulled from a "spider hole" near his hometown of Tikrit. About 600 members of the 1st Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, along with special operations forces, captured him after receiving intelligence that the former dictator was in the area.

Saddam remains imprisoned at an undisclosed location awaiting trial on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Now, two years after the launch of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Iraq is on a new course. During a March 19 radio address marking the second anniversary of the start of the operation, President Bush heralded successes being made.

"Before coalition forces arrived, Iraq was ruled by a dictatorship that murdered its own citizens, threatened its neighbors, defied the world," the president said. "Now, because we acted, Iraq's government is no longer a threat to the world or its own people. Today, the Iraqi people are taking charge of their own destiny."

On April 6, Iraq's Transitional National Assembly took a step toward that destiny by selecting its next president and two deputy presidents, representatives of the country's diverse population.

"Iraq's Transitional National Assembly took a momentous step forward in Iraq's transition to democracy," Bush said April 6 upon the election of Iraq's presidency council by an overwhelming majority.

Speaking at a Pentagon town hall meeting on March 18, the eve of Operation Iraqi Freedom's second anniversary, Rumsfeld praised those who have made changes in Iraq possible.

"The positive changes under way would certainly not have happened ... without the hard work and the dedication of America's men and women in uniform, their families, and indeed, the efforts of all of you who have devoted your lives to our country's defense," he said. "I want you to know that we are grateful and your country is grateful for your service."

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