July 14, 2003


In a deeply symbolic first public action, the governing council on Sunday set April 9 -- the day Baghdad fell to U.S. forces -- as a national holiday and banned celebrations on six dates important to Saddam and his Baath Party. And the act was announced, significantly, by a prominent Shiite cleric. Shiites, long oppressed by Saddam, now dominate the 25-member council.

``The establishment of this council represents the Iraqi national will after the collapse of the dictatorial regime,'' said the cleric, Mohammed Bahr al-Uloum from the holy southern city of Najaf.

The council will have real political muscle, with the power to name ministers and approve the 2004 budget. But final control of Iraq still rests with L. Paul Bremer -- the U.S. administrator of Iraq and a major architect of the council.

I agree with Tacitus that this is a big deal, and deserves a lot more attention than it has gotten.