BAGHDAD, Iraq – U.S. soldiers observing Independence Day held barbecues at bases across Iraq on Friday and celebrated along with Kurdish allies, who are also marking the anniversary of the establishment of their first government.
Some U.S. troops joined actor Arnold Schwarzenegger in a screening of his latest Terminator movie.
Thousands of U.S. troops chowed down at a barbecue at Baghdad International Airport, where the U.S. military had trucked in 3,000 pounds of sirloin, 1,000 cases of potato chips, piles of corn on the cob and about one ton of charcoal.
"I will never grill again on the 4th of July, " said Sgt. Joseph Cannings, a 43-year-old Dallas native, flipping about 40 filet mignon steaks on an enormous grill. "My family will be eating lunch meat from now on,"
A huge line of soldiers snaked away from the barbecue pit.
"Anybody want medium rare or don't care, come on up," screamed Sgt. Ronald Bretzke, 37, but there were few takers.
Earlier Friday, troops joined Schwarzenegger at the airport to watch his latest movie, "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines."
Schwarzenegger addressed a rambunctious crowd of soldiers in one of Saddam Hussein's former presidential palaces located inside the airport compound.
"It is really wild driving around here, I mean the poverty, and you see there is no money, it is disastrous financially and there is the leadership vacuum, pretty much like in California right now," he said.
Schwarzenegger, 55, has indicated he may run for governor of California as a Republican if residents there vote to recall Democratic Gov. Gray Davis.
"I play terminator, but you guys are the true terminators," he told the soldiers, before heading to a base north of Baghdad near the town of Balad, which came under attack late Thursday, injuring at least 18 soldiers.
U.S. troops have been beset by a stepped up insurgency in recent weeks that has raised fears of a political and economic quagmire. Troops said Friday the pressures of serving in Iraq -- and the immense summer heat -- made passing the holiday away from home even tougher.
"I miss my family and I wish I could be there with them today," said Sgt. Jason Bramlett of Ft. Myers, Fla., who was on patrol in the Iraqi capital. "But we have a job to do here. The Iraqi people need our help."
Meanwhile, U.S. soldiers were treated to a grand 4th of July celebration by grateful Kurds at a spectacular lakeside resort near Dokan, a town in the semiautonomous Kurdish north of the country. Kurds also celebrate July 4 as the anniversary of the establishment in 1992 of a Kurdish government, thanks in part to a U.S.-British enforced no-fly zone that kept Saddam Hussein's forces out of the north.
Barham Salih, a leader of the eastern half of the Kurdish enclave, thanked U.S. troops for ousting Saddam.
"What you have done is immense," he said. "You have come from afar and delivered our people from injustice. You came to liberate our people. Mission accomplished."
Salih sent out invitations to all of the military units with ties to the north, as well as the Coalition Provisional Authority, the U.S. and British occupation power.
"It's fantastic to celebrate the 4th with our allies," said Dick Naab, northern Iraq's top coalition provisional authority official. "When you can't be home, the next best thing is being with friends."