Watching the fall

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 9, 2003

Watching the statue of Saddam Hussein fall in Baghdad's Firdos Square, one can't help but see the symbolism. Alone, despite persistence and ingenuity, the gathered Iraqi's could not topple it, a figure, cold, grim metal, deeply imbedded in stone. Given time, no doubt, they could have done it alone. Would they have stopped trying?

They asked the Marines present to help. An armored personnel carrier was driven to the base of the statue, where the Iraqis swarmed gleefully over it. First a cable was tried, but wasn't strong enough. Then, fastened by an American Marine, a chain was wrapped around the despot's neck and the statue came down.

Hollow. Unstable. A symbol of fear and hatred that was seized upon and destroyed by citizens of Baghdad as soon as they felt it was safe to do so without fatal repercussions.

One event that will, no doubt, be overblown as a military faux pas, the young Marine fastening the chain around the statue's neck briefly placed an American flag over Saddam's face. While there were no resounding boos from the Iraqi crowd, there were no cheers either, until it was replaced with an Iraqi flag. Keep in mind that this marine was no doubt young, excited to be helping the men around him topple a tyrant, both figuratively and literally, and got carried away. But even this temporary slip of diplomacy is symbolic of the battle we have fought and are fighting. This war should not be about America, but about Iraqi freedom, as it has been named.

Our presence should be as briefly felt as the Stars and Stripes were, covering the bronze visage of Hussein. By working with the Iraqis and for the Iraqis, we can help them topple a regime - and build a newer, better government in its place.

Handled right and the American flag will fly over Baghdad where it belongs - at an American embassy, where it will represent the peace it has brought and bought with American blood, as well as Iraqi.