FLASHBACK: Bush Awards Iraqis Their Sovereignty — ‘Let Freedom Reign!’

Three years ago today, the U.S. officially transfered sovereignty to Iraq in a “secretive ceremony” that was moved up two days “to thwart insurgents’ attempts at undermining the transfer.” The AP wrote at the time, “U.S. occupiers…wished them prosperity and handed them a staggering slate of problems — including a lethal insurgency the Americans admit they underestimated.”

Other notable moments from memory lane:

“The Iraqi people have their country back,” President Bush said at a NATO summit in Istanbul, Turkey. […]

Bush, whose Iraq policy has drawn criticism abroad and, more recently, at home, was passed a note from National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice that put it this way: “Mr. President, Iraq is sovereign.”

Bush wrote “Let freedom reign!” on the note and passed it back, according to White House spokesman Scott McClellan.


A few hours later, U.S. viceroy Paul Bremer, who had ruled the country for 14 months, “snuck out of the country” with a goodbye wave. Bremer had reporters photograph him entering the Air Force C-130 pictured above for the ceremony, “but after the Iraqis leave, because of security concerns, [he] gets out of that plane and moves to, I think it was a Gulfstream IV that then flies him out.”

858 U.S. soldiers had been killed in Iraq at that point. As of today, the number is 3,570.

UPDATE: A copy of Rice’s note:


You can see this photo and much more in our updated timeline of the Iraq war.

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