There was quiet jubilation here and a bit of "I-told-you-so" triumphalism as statue after statue of Saddam Hussein fell, the iconic symbol of a break from the past from Budapest to Bucharest, now extending to Baghdad. The White House was bathed in a palpable sense of vindication and US vice-president Dick Cheney congratulated himself and the Pentagon for "one of the most extraordinary military campaigns ever conducted". But officials cautioned that some Iraqi resistance may still lie ahead and a long roster of tasks remained before victory could be declared. On the "To Do" list, regime change can safely be crossed out as "done" but "who next" and "what happens now" are the big remaining questions for American strategists.
The chaos, the looting, the broken water and telephone lines and possible ethnic clashes as the lid comes off the pressure cooker of emotions are just some of the formidable challenges ahead for US troops. The "smart" war plan must now recalibrate into a policing and administrative operation to bring order. The killing of Abdul Majid al-Khoei—a prominent Shia leader supported by the Americans—in Najaf a day after Baghdad fell, exemplifies the complexities of future power equations. The fierce competition for support among Iraq’s majority Shia population will have a profound effect on any future government.