The choice of Firdos Square was not accidental. Following the capture of Baghdad two years ago, the US military, together with small numbers of Iraqi supporters of then US favourite Ahmed Chalabi, staged the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s statue in the same square for the media cameras. At Saturday’s demonstration, protestors mocked this piece of contrived propaganda by pulling down effigies of US President George Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, as well as Hussein.Citing the same Los Angeles Times article (Edmund Sanders, "Livid Iraq Protesters Tell U.S. to Get Out," 10 Apr. 2005), Juan Cole notes that "[i]f it were even half that, these would be the largest popular demonstrations in Iraq since 1958!" (emphasis added, "Up to 300,000 Demonstrate in Baghdad," Informed Comment 10 Apr. 2005). An impressive show of force.Unlike the Pentagon’s theatrics in 2003, last weekend’s protest had broad support. The exact numbers are not clear. While the media generally reported that tens of thousands took part, the figure could have been much higher. The Los Angeles Times noted in passing that estimates were up to 300,000. (Peter Symonds, "Baghdad Protest Demands an And to US Occupation of Iraq," WSWS.org 11 Apr. 2005)
Thousands of Iraqi Shi'ites loyal to cleric Moqtada al-Sadr hold a protest in Baghdad April 9, 2005. The rally was called on the second anniversary of the fall of Baghdad with protesters demanding an end to the U.S. military presence in Iraq and a speedy trial for former president Saddam Hussein (Ali Jasim/Reuters).
Tens of thousands of Iraqis wave flags of Iraq during a rally in Baghdad, Iraq Saturday, April 9, 2005. The supporters of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who led uprisings last year against U.S. troops, called Saturday for American forces to withdraw from Iraq. The demonstration overflowed Firdos Square, where protesters pulled down a towering statue of Saddam Hussein two years ago to the day (Hadi Mizban/AP)
Lenin's Tomb sees the "Paradise Revolution" in the making: "The Paradise Revolution" (11 Apr. 2005). The Financial Times reports, however, that "[s]ome [of the demonstrators] said they had been instructed by the leadership not to chant slogans against Iraq's current government" and that "the Sadrists said there had been no co-ordination between" them and the organizers of "anti-occupation rallies in the Sunni town of Ramadai" that coincided with theirs (Steve Negus, "Sadr Followers Plan Campaign to Oust US," Financial Times 11 Apr. 11 2005). If true, those are two obstacles that Iraqis must overcome as they organize a "Quit Iraq" movement.