If it is compared to, say, the events of Hungry 1956 or Eastern Europe 33 years later, the real meaning of the event becomes clear. In both these cases, a people subject to a totalitarian regime rose up and destroyed both it and the symbols of their oppression by their own hands. In Baghdad the invading troops of the imperial power which had previously supported and armed their oppressor pulled down his statue for them.
So while no one can deny that this act was a welcome sight to all, particularly the Iraqis, the symbolism of the event was not what it was claimed to be. It was not an act of liberation but rather of conquest. It was a clear message of who is to run post-Saddam Iraq and who this war is designed to benefit. It is not the people Saddam had tyrannised for decades (with only the last 12 years being without US approval). They played the role of, at best, spectators, at worse, victims of bombs and missiles which "liberated" them of home, food, water, electricity, health and (for over a thousand) life itself.
Moreover, this "defining" moment looks like it may have been somewhat less that what it said on the packet. Looking at the pictures there does not seem to have been that many Iraqis there (and not only the wide-angle shot now available on Indymedia sites across the world). Rather than the tens of thousands who surrounded the toppling of the statues of Stalin and Lenin, we got about one hundred at best. The population of Baghdad is around 5 million.
Then there is the "coincidence" of the pentagon flag. It seems incredible that the US state is still punting the lie that Saddam was involved in the 911 attacks, but they are. And then there is the strange coincidence that the event took place right next to the headquarters of the foreign media. The US knew it was there. They had attacked it the day before.
The expression stage managed springs to mind. But what can you expect? This war was stage managed from start to finish. The phoney excuses and feeble evidence. The ridiculous rhetoric and silly arguments. All, sadly, taken seriously by an all-to-willing media. Why be surprised that this "defining moment" is as made up as the rest?
Oppressed people have managed to pull down regimes and the statues of their leaders by themselves. The Kurds managed it a few days latter in Kirkuk. That is what real liberation is all about. And it explains why the US insisted that Kurds not take the town themselves. Thankfully the Kurds ignored them.
The Kurd's toppling of Saddam's statue may not be considered the "defining" moment for the mainstream media or the history books. However, it will be considered as such for all those who opposed both Saddam's tyranny and US/UK imperialism. And who knows, it may become the defining moment which marked the start of the unofficial war of the US invaders against the Iraqi people for control of Iraq.
For while it is a good guess that most Iraqis are very happy to see the back of Saddam, we cannot assume they will welcome the US invasion or occupation. Or that they will support a US imposed "Iraqi" regime or vote for US approved candidates if they are finally allowed free elections.
As the statue toppling showed, the US expects the Iraqis to be spectators. Precisely the role citizens are expected to play in any functioning capitalist regime. We are expected to leave the difficult job of making history to others. Luckily for humanity, we do not. What liberty and hope we have to due to the spirit of revolt. And significantly, when we do make history, it is labelled "an excess of democracy," "chaos," "undemocratic," "anarchy" by the ruling elite and their lackeys.
Whether the Iraqi people will play the role assigned to them by US planners remains yet to be seen. For their sake and ours, let us hope not.