Marines Raise American Flag Over New U.S. Embassy in Iraq
| | July 1, 2004
WASHINGTON -- U.S. Marines raised the American flag at the new U.S. Embassy in Baghdad June 30, marking the first time an American flag has flown there in 13 years.
During a brief ceremony marking the occasion, the new U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, John D. Negroponte, said, "It has been 13 years since the American flag was last lowered at the United States Embassy in Baghdad on a day as dark as today is bright. This afternoon we have the honor to once again see Old Glory back where she belongs. Wherever one is able to reopen an embassy, of course, it is a high privilege, but nowhere moreso than here in Iraq."
Negroponte said the past 13 years have been long and difficult, "and now there is a new Iraq to explore -- the likes of which has no precedent in the history of this ancient land."
The ambassador said the occasion marked a new beginning in relations between the two countries.
"Our presence, our outreach and our insight into Iraq's political life, its economy and its society, will be crucial to shaping a new era in bilateral relations," said Negroponte, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. "We reopen the United States Embassy in Baghdad convinced that the spirit of freedom summons Americans and Iraqis to great acts of friendship and cooperation. This is the fundamental meaning of the act that we now perform."
Negroponte introduced Ambassador James Jeffrey as the deputy chief of mission. A decorated Vietnam War veteran, Jeffrey, the former U.S. ambassador to Albania, was the No. 2 diplomat at the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait. From 1969 to 1976, he served as an Army infantry officer, with assignments in Germany and Vietnam.
The new embassy in central Baghdad will reportedly be staffed by more than 900 Americans assisted by 600 to 700 Iraqis in the biggest American embassy in the world. The huge embassy is currently housed in a former palace of deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. It will serve as the American Embassy until a site is chosen in Iraq's capital city as a replacement for the embassy seized by Iraq in 1970. Officials speculate that it will take two years to build a new embassy.
The temporary embassy is located in what's called the "Green Zone," a heavily guarded area in Baghdad that encompasses the main palaces of Saddam Hussein. It's surrounded by a wall of reinforced, blast-proof concrete and is guarded by tanks and helicopters.