This week the skies of iraq have lit up not with tracer bullets of anti-aircraft fire and the detonation of bombs but with fireworks celebrating Sovereignty Day, where the US begins it’s pull back of troops and the local army steps up to take control of it’s own country. (And when I say ‘steps up’ it might be worth considering that this apparently derelict, half-baked group of unemployed middle aged men with guns who you may also recall as the most dangerous people on earth who wished us all death for no good reason and were a mere 15 minutes away from launching nuclear Armageddon).
This is the first stage of what is to be an eventual complete pull out of US troops from iraq. (And when we say ‘ complete pull out’ we mean maintaining a standing army of around 40,000 for the next decade, the world’s largest and most fearsomely guarded ’embassy’, and thousands of private security firm personal guarding the country’s vast oil fields – or, as they have been euphemistically called in the past, weapons of mass destruction). Safe to say that, with flowers laid on check points, all night parties, and open air concerts, the locals are pretty happy to see the backs of their occupiers/”liberators” even if it is just down the road into some of the world’s most heavily fortified barracks.
None of this can, of course, be done without ceremony or outrageously inappropriate Americanism. Gotta stage manage something for the folks in the US. So when the head of the US Armed Forces passed control to his Iraqi counterpart, how did he do it? Well, he handed him the keys to the city. The city being Baghdad. Are they serious? They are handing them back the keys to their own city? And not exactly in better shape either, I would suggest. This is like your worst enemy arriving at your door, punching you in the face, taking your car and driving it like a lunatic in no clearly articulated direction for seven years, crashing it, torching it, selling the best parts of it, having sex in it, siphoning it of all it’s petrol, leaving junk food wrappers in it, before holding a ceremony in your front yard and handing it back to you and expecting a thanks. (note to self: this could be implemented against my friend Joel who has a nice new European car).
That’s the end of all that but here’s a question as an aside: what exactly are the ‘keys to a city’? is this something that would even have the remotest resonance in Iraq? What happens if you go out drinking and lose them? Upon what hook do they hand, and where did Saddam keep his? Is there a set of Florida Keys? These are all important questions. Or are they?