BAGHDAD - After more than a year of American occupation, Iraq was ruled on Wednesday by an Iraqi interim government in its first full day. Prime Minister Aldullah Watya-saya said, "Today is a historic occasion. Today is the beginning of the new Iraq. Our liberation begins, and it will roll forward."
His trainer, Lt. Col. Paul Bodenschatz, gave a gentle tug on Watya-saya's choke chain, and then tossed him a treat. "Good prime minister, that's such a good boy!" he crooned, ruffling the PM's hair.
"It's really great to see these guys rising to the service of the country," said Bodenschatz later, after Watya-saya had been returned to his cage and was happily batting at a crumpled treaty. "Some people thought these folks wouldn't be ready. Thought they'd crap on the carpet, or lunge at the reporters, or something. Well, I guess all of the doubters back home can see how wrong they were." Watya-saya responded by lifting his head, perking up his ears, and yipping.
The story on the street is similarly encouraging. There are now fewer than 2,500 US tanks roaming the streets of Baghdad, down from 2,000 six months ago and a staggering zero before the invasion. "At this rate, we'll be under 15,000 tanks by 2005," said Maj. Gen. Ramrod Ethnez, US commander of all US forces in Iraq. "And the desertion rate of Iraqi military trainees has dropped from 25 percent in the spring to only about 98 percent today. At this rate, the Iraqi Army will be fully manned, equipped, trained, and ready to go by 2350. That's why we're planning on reducing the number of permanent military bases in Iraq from zero today to nine in ten years."
Some have expressed doubts nonetheless. Sen. Thewald Burger, D-Vermont, asked on Capitol Hill whether the same results could have been achieved without unilateral military action. "It just seems to me that we had the UN in there before the invasion, and they were looking for WMDs, and then we invaded, and we still didn't find any..."
The Senator's comment was interrupted by a short, sharp yank on his choke chain, causing him to lose consciousness momentarily. His trainer, Maj. Andy Prescott, said, "What the Senator meant to say is that today is a bright one for the future of democracy."