Display of U.S. Flag Barred After Unfurling on Statue
By BERNARD WEINRAUB
V CORPS HEADQUARTERS, in northern Kuwait, April 10 — Officers whooped and hollered in the Army's command center on Wednesday as they watched the televised scene of a United States marine draping an American flag over the face of a statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad.
Then there were second thoughts.
Today, the Army, seeking to demonstrate that its troops in Iraq are liberators and not conquerors, barred any display of the American flag on vehicles, buildings, statues and command posts.
The order, which effectively halts the display of the flag anywhere in Iraq except the United States Embassy, said that flying the flag on buildings in Iraq would only reinforce the anti-American message that the military was "here to oppress the Iraqis."
In issuing the order today, the military tacitly acknowledged that it was deeply concerned about the perception, among Arabs and others, that American soldiers and marines in Iraq were an occupation force that would rule the nation for years. Displaying the flag would reinforce that image, officers said.
"It's an issue of perception," Gen. William S. Wallace, the V Corps commander, told his staff this morning. "It's an issue of decorum."
At the start of the war, the Coalition Forces Land Component Command at Camp Doha, near Kuwait City, ordered soldiers, marines and Air Force personnel not to display the American flag on vehicles or buildings. That order was loosely followed until Wednesday, when the marine briefly unfurled the flag on the face of the statue. The command center, made up mostly of midlevel and senior officers, seemed to burst into shouts and applause. Moments later, the marine removed the flag, apparently on orders from a superior.
Today, Brig. Gen. Daniel A. Hahn, the V Corps chief of staff, said it was natural for American soldiers to carry the flag and place it at various sites in Iraq.
"It's a source of great pride," he said."It's seen as like a gift to Iraq."
But General Hahn added that sensitivity to Iraqi pride and nationalism was foremost in the minds of the American military, as the United States helps Iraq reshape its government.