In a surprise ceremony on June 28, the United States officially returned sovereignty to the Iraqi people. Paul Bremer and members of the Coalition Provisional Authority have now left Iraq, but over 138,000 U.S. troops continue to soldier on. Although the transfer of power marks an important milestone, it has not eliminated the daunting challenges on the ground: the Iraqi economy and infrastructure are in tatters; the security situation remains highly unstable; and ethnic and religious tensions are still at a boil. Across America newspapers are giving their opinion on the transfer of power.
Miami , Florida – The Miami Herald
June 29, 2004
"The extraordinary turnover ceremony, conducted amid secrecy and with virtually no notice, is a metaphor for the situation in today's Iraq.
"The occupation, which will continue in all but name, has fallen far short of its goals.
"The turnover of power represents a gamble that the Iraqis are capable of governing themselves, a dubious proposition in view of the present chaos, decades of tyranny under Saddam Hussein and Iraq's own history. There is no palatable alternative, however, which makes the task all the more urgent.
"The mission is still far from accomplished."
Kansas City , Missouri – The Kansas City Star
June 29, 2004
"As the new interim government takes over in Baghdad , American officials exaggerate its authority and downplay the violent challenges that will continue to face U.S. troops.
"President Bush should still be held accountable by the American public for U.S. military activities in Iraq in the coming months.
"American officials talk as though they are trying to discourage the interim government from overly repressive measures. Let's hope that's true. The Bush administration should not use the interim government in Baghdad as an excuse for steps that would take Iraq further away from democracy."
Portland , Oregon – The Oregonian
July 29, 2004
"In a perfect world, Monday's transfer of sovereignty to Iraq would be the signal that U.S. and other coalition troops could withdraw and the world could expect a smooth transition to democracy.
"…The transfer has always seemed like an interim step. Coalition troops still must help provide security for the new regime.
"Maybe the best we can hope for at this stage is that Iraqis will heed the words of their interim prime minister, Iyad Allawi, and begin to believe in their own national future.
"Even if that works — and it's a big if — Iraq has plenty of obstacles strewn before it.
"Monday's events were cause for optimism, it seems to us. But they do not signify the end of American military involvement, as much as we'd like that to be the case. And they do not mean that a good outcome is inevitable."
Fort Lauderdale , Florida – Sun-Sentinel
June 29, 2004
"More than 100 laws, edicts and regulations passed by the Coalition Provisional Authority remain in effect…
"…Iraqi sovereignty [is] mostly symbolic for now. No country is truly sovereign until it can stand on its own feet, without requiring 150,000 foreign troops to prop up the government. Iraq is a long way from that.
"Clearly Iraq is still far from the independent democratic country envisioned by the Bush administration before the war."
Chattanooga , Tennessee – Chattanooga Times Free Press
June, 29 2004
"For all the wordsmithing about Iraq 's sovereignty, what actually has been transferred is limited sovereignty.
"Joblessness is endemic, tax revenue is marginal, and oil-field security, street crime and extortion remain serious issues that spawn political unrest and fear.
"The nature of the transfer . . . reveals not just that the vaunted victory Mr. Bush declared more than year ago remains today increasingly more tenuous. It also confirms that U.S. goals for a stable and democratic Iraq remain distant, and Iraq 's actual sovereignty still incomplete."
Austin , Texas – Austin American Statesman
June 29, 2004
"Returning governance to the people of Iraq early, in a surprise ceremony without fanfare, was an unmistakable bow to the power of the insurgency in that country.
"This is not yet democracy, and the current leaders have a long way to go to establish the security, stability and orderly transfer of power that marks successful democratic nations. The war is far from over — for the Iraqi people and for the American and coalition troops on the ground.
"Iraq's government may not look like a Western-style democracy for a very long time because the insurgency is strong and the infrastructure is crippled.
"A government that can succeed under the truly horrible conditions existing in Iraq would be an amazing testament. Not necessarily the success of the American invasion or the bumbling of the occupation, but certainly to the will of the Iraqi people."
Atlanta , Georgia – The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
June 29, 2004
"While the strategic date-switching maneuver may serve to temporarily disrupt terrorist activities, it's unlikely to have much of an impact on the formidable challenges that still face the newly minted Iraqi leaders and their American patrons in the coming months.
"…The interim Iraqi government will have no command or control over [the foreign] troops, which raises the question of exactly how much 'sovereignty' it can actually exercise. Although the Iraqi government could politely ask those troops to pack their billets and go home, doing so would likely prove suicidal.
"In a decidedly low-key ceremony broadcast Monday on Arab television, Iraqi President Ghazi Al-Yawer proclaimed: 'This is a historical day . . . a day that all Iraqis have been looking forward to. This is a day we are going to take our country back into the international forum.'"