Yes, the media got played, the world got played, a few dozen Iraqis witnessed it, but the worst of it all was that we got played like a violin. Here's a report from one of the soldiers, evidently.
It looked like the infantry unit up there could use some support, so we moved our [tactical PSYOP team] TPT vehicle forward and started to run around seeing what they needed us to do to facilitate their mission.... There was a large media circus at this location (I guess the Palestine Hotel was a media center at the time), almost as many reporters as there were Iraqis, as the hotel was right adjacent to the Al-Firdos Square.
The Marine Corps colonel in the area saw the Saddam statue as a target of opportunity and decided that the statue must come down. Since we were right there, we chimed in with some loudspeaker support to let the Iraqis know what it was we were attempting to do. The reporters were completely surrounding the vehicle, and we started having to ask the reporters to move out of the way, but they would not move. We were getting frustrated, but we were also laughing about it. We dismounted the vehicle again and just started pushing the people out of the way. They were starting to really inhibit our ability to conduct our mission. The tanks . . . formed up into a perimeter around the square, with the statue in the middle.
At this point the Iraqi people were nervous. The soldier talks through all the action, even to the point of placing Iraqi kids on the tow truck that pulled the statue down.
Somehow along the way, somebody had gotten the idea to put a bunch of Iraqi kids onto the wrecker that was to pull the statue down. While the wrecker was pulling the statue down, there were Iraqi children crawling all over it.
That's your tax dollars at work, folks. The scene was witnessed by a few dozen Iraqis, then hit the US airwaves to impress the war-crazed public on repeated viewings on all the news stations. Bush's approvals went through the roof and the news that it wasn't all hearts and flowers greeting the US Forces was kept from us for several more days. Heck, even today Americans view that scene as a spontaneous outpouring of Iraqis and Americans working together to topple Saddam.
We got played, by the PsyOPS teams of Mr. Rumsfeld's Pentagon.