Happy New Year! It's that in Iraq (quagmire, quagmire, Vietnam); in fact, Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki wishes for January 1st to be a national holiday in his sovereign country. Baghdad's International Zone (Green Zone) has been turned over to the Iraqis as of midnight, 01/01/09. The Green Zone has long been a symbol, to the Iraqis, of the U.S. military presence, and now it is not.
Saddam Hussein had the palace compound's main building decorated with giant busts of himself to demonstrate his hold over Iraq. After the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, the palace came to symbolize the American role in the country, first as the headquarters of the U.S. occupation authority and later the U.S. Embassy. American civilians and troops held "salsa night" dances around the pool behind the palace before retiring to trailers sheathed in sandbags.
When the clock struck midnight on Wednesday, the U.S. returned the palace to the Iraqi government and relinquished formal control over the Green Zone, a heavily fortified six-square-mile enclave on the Tigris River where key U.S. and Iraqi bureaucracies are situated.
Of course, there will be more of a transition from U.S. to Iraqi control of various security issues, such as the issuing of badges (hall passes) for the Green Zone, and some Iraqi lawmakers and the Washington Post (linked above) remain skeptical, asserting "that the Americans will still be in control."
HOPE. CHANGE. HOPE. Gee, this one's for real and Bush did it with General David Petraeus, not David Axelrod.