As American troops took Baghdad yesterday, the day became an impromptu holiday for many Iraqi Americans. Hundreds of people celebrated in the streets of Dearborn, a predominantly Arab Michigan city – people honked car horns, waved American and Iraqi flags and held celebratory signs.
Iraqi American students on campus expressed relief and happiness at the news.
Laith Alattar, an LSA and Music senior, drove to Dearborn to be a part of the celebration. “It’s crazy. It’s emotional, really emotional,” he said. “Everyone knows everyone today. It’s just like what’s happening in Iraq, on a smaller scale.”
The fall of Baghdad prompted Alattar, an Iraqi-American Shiite Muslim, to speculate on the future of Iraq. “It seems obvious to me that today has been a victory for America and Iraq,” he said. “It’s the beginning of (Iraqi citizens’) freedom.”
LSA freshman Calvin Kattola said all Iraqi Americans are celebrating today. “You will not find any Iraqi Americans who are opposed to this war,” he said. “The people who do oppose the war are the Iraqis in Iraq who are misinformed or are just too scared to say otherwise.”
But LSA freshman Sayf Al-katib, a Sunni Muslim born in the United States, said he thought celebration was premature. “I’m relieved but I don’t know if celebration is how I feel,” he said. “I guess I would have to wait a little bit until I celebrated. It’s more of a symbolic taking over right now.”
“Beautiful” was the word LSA senior Paul Gabrail used to describe the sight of American troops entering Baghdad. “All the things we thought would happen, happened,” he said. “A lot of people are happy the U.S. is there.”
Gabrail is a member of the Chaldean ethnic group, which consists of Catholics from northern Iraq. He cautioned against jumping to early conclusions about the war. “It’s not over,” he said. “I just hope we can start planning the rebuilding. I’m happy if the U.S. goes in and establishes a new government.”
Al-katib said he worries that the war effort is not focused on the long-term stability of Iraq. “It seems like a lot of the developments have been more military and not developments in the future of Iraq” like forming a government and developing the economy.
“Right now it still seems like a lot could go wrong,” he said.
While Kattola, a Chaldean born in America, said he was disappointed that it took so long to take over Baghdad, Al-katib said he was surprised at how quickly American forces moved through Iraq. “This war has been very efficient,” he said. “I was worried that it could have been a more brutal war.”
Gabrail said he had thought there would be less Iraqi resistance to American troops. “I guess I thought they would surrender and give up in much bigger numbers,” he said. He said the ones who resisted were probably Saddam’s supporters who feared for their lives if they surrendered.