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"Maybe they’ll see it as we’re conquerors," said Spc. Sixto Garcia of the 301st Military Police Brigade. "When we put the flag on the moon it basically said ‘We conquered the moon.’"

"Maybe they’ll see it as we’re conquerors," said Spc. Sixto Garcia of the 301st Military Police Brigade. "When we put the flag on the moon it basically said ‘We conquered the moon.’" (Jason Chudy / S&S)

"Maybe they’ll see it as we’re conquerors," said Spc. Sixto Garcia of the 301st Military Police Brigade. "When we put the flag on the moon it basically said ‘We conquered the moon.’"

"Maybe they’ll see it as we’re conquerors," said Spc. Sixto Garcia of the 301st Military Police Brigade. "When we put the flag on the moon it basically said ‘We conquered the moon.’" (Jason Chudy / S&S)

"To us, it’s (flown for) pride," said Capt. Elena Raspitha of the 226th Medical Battalion. "To the Iraqis, they could see it as we're occupiers and want to stay."

"To us, it’s (flown for) pride," said Capt. Elena Raspitha of the 226th Medical Battalion. "To the Iraqis, they could see it as we're occupiers and want to stay." (Jason Chudy / S&S)

Iraqi vendor Imad Sabbar said, through an interpreter: "It would make people more angry. It would be beautiful if they could put up the Iraqi flag to show that U.S. forces are here to serve Iraq."

Iraqi vendor Imad Sabbar said, through an interpreter: "It would make people more angry. It would be beautiful if they could put up the Iraqi flag to show that U.S. forces are here to serve Iraq." (Jason Chudy / S&S)

BAGHDAD — Troops are everywhere on Camp Victory in Baghdad, and there’s a post office, a Burger King and a large post exchange. Everything screams that the U.S. Army is in town.

Everything is there, that is, except for the U.S. flag flying from the base flagpole.

Despite the large presence of U.S. forces, military rules have prohibited the flying of Old Glory in Iraq since April 2003.

“No one may fly, display, post or place the U.S. flag in, on or over vehicles, command posts, captured equipment, structures, buildings, monuments or any other location in Iraq,” wrote Coalition Press Information Center officials in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes.

The policy receives either understanding approval or harsh criticism from troops in Iraq, who nearly all have U.S. flags sewn on their shoulders as part of the Army uniform.

“That’s [expletive],” said Spc. Starlet Loftice of the 57th Signal Battalion when she read the regulation. “It’s not like they (Iraqis) don’t know we’re here.”

In fact, U.S. flags dots bases in Afghanistan like so many Ferrari banners at a Formula One rally. At Kandahar Airfield, nearly two dozen Stars and Stripes could be found flying above tent cities, on the flightline and festooned from Humvees.

At Bagram air base, units run up several U.S. flags a day and then send them home to family and friends with special certificates saying the flag was "flown in the face of the enemy."

“Why wouldn’t we be able to fly our flag?” asked Maj. Rob Cunniff of the 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division, in Kuwait preparing to head into Iraq. “We are American soldiers. We wear the flag on our right shoulder every day, and it reminds us of the freedoms we protect.”

“I think they should have them because it is a U.S.-secured area,” said 2nd ID Sgt. Jose Martinez of the 1st Battalion, 503rd Parachute Infantry Regiment. “We came here to liberate the people of Iraq. They should have respect for our flag, as we do theirs.”

Coalition officials counter that the reason for the lack of U.S. flags flying on the bases is simple.

“Displaying the American flag counters the perception that we are liberators and partners for Iraqi’s future security and stability,” the e-mail stated. “Public display of the U.S. flag in Iraq creates false perceptions and unfounded suspicions that U.S. forces intend to permanently occupy Iraq.”

Others agree with the policy.

“To us, it’s (flown for) pride,” said Capt. Elena Raspitha of the 226th Medical Battalion. “To the Iraqis, they could see it as we’re occupiers and want to stay.”

“Maybe they’ll see it as we’re conquerors,” said Spc. Sixto Garcia of the 301st Military Police Brigade. “When we put the flag on the moon it basically said ‘We conquered the moon.’”

Coalition officials also wrote that the flying of the U.S. flag could be used as propaganda by enemy forces.

Iraqi vendor Imad Sabbar agreed and said, through an interpreter: “It would make people more angry. It would be beautiful if they could put up the Iraqi flag to show that U.S. forces are here to serve Iraq.”

Walking through the International Zone, Spc. Dale Wade, a Pennsylvania National Guardsman with Company B, 2nd Battalion, 103rd Armored Regiment, understands how the Iraqis might perceive the flying of the flag as signifying permanence.

“Yes, maybe a few might,” he said. “But some actually fly the American flag themselves.”

Like many National Guard units, Wade’s company has been flying its home state’s flag.

Others think that flags should be flown in selected areas.

“I think flags should be flown on base camps, but if there are other places where it would be considered offensive then, no,” said Maj. Eric Albertson, 2nd Battalion, 2nd ID, Strikeforce chaplain. “Americans have always been sensitive to the countries in which they are living.”

“I think yes, because it is our camp and we are just letting people know that there are U.S. soldiers inside,” said Sgt. Joe Ramos, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Brigade, 2nd ID. “If it is a building we take over, I don’t think so.”

Stars and Stripes reporters Seth Robson and Jon R. Anderson contributed to this report.


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