Monday, July 04, 2005

Crossed swords, Saddam survives, so many did not...

It took 7 months of contracting in Iraq during 2004 to make me realize just how cheap life becomes when a dictator forces ideology onto the masses. Besides the hundreds of thousands Iraqi nationals that died at the hands of Saddam prior to the US invasion in 2003, between 22000 and 25000 Iraqi civilians and "non- Iraqi coalition supporting contractors" have died in Iraq since the US invasion. Iraq body count
Despite the "war" having been officially declared over, the death toll increases daily at an alarming rate. There are varied opinions as to the relevancy and justification of the foreign presence in Iraq and many believe that Iraq was better off before the Bush administration declared war and dropped its first Bombs. All I know is that between Saddam and George, there will be a lot of answering to do on the day of judgment.

I was privileged to work with some of the bravest and most genuine people during my contract in Baghdad and Basra. Iraqi, American, British, Canadian, Danish, South African, German, Irish, Scotts, French, Italian, Slovakian, Fidjian, Australian, Filipino, Russian, so many different nationalities brought to a place of extreme violence and danger. The majority of the people I worked with started off there contracts with the earnings as their goal, but after living under the daily threat of being bombed, mortared, shot or beheaded, material possessions take on a jaded value. We were there to earn money, no doubt about it, but we were there to make a contribution, to rebuild what the politicians had destroyed.

To celebrate his "victory" over Iran, Saddam decided to build a Triumphal Arch. The concept of a triumphal arch is a European import, without precedent in the Middle East since Roman times.
The colossal Hands of Victory monument has dominated Baghdad's skyline since the end of the Iran-Iraq war. Built in duplicate, it marks the entrances to a large new parade ground in central Baghdad, towering 140 feet above the highway. The triumphal arch is shaped as two pairs of crossed swords, made from the guns of dead Iraqi soldiers that were melted and recast as the 24-ton blades of the swords. Captured Iranian helmets are in a net held between the swords. And surrounding the base of the arms are another 5,000 Iranian helmets taken from the battle field. The fists that hold the swords aloft are replicas of Saddam Hussein's own hands. The German company that built the monument, H+H Metalform, said it was given a photograph of Saddam's own forearms to use as a model.
When Saddam inaugurated these triumphal arches, he rode under them on a white horse - an allusion to the steed of Hussein, the Shi'ite Muslim hero martyred at nearby Kerbala. The day before the first bombing run on Baghdad during the 1991 Gulf War, Iraqi TV showed a mass of Iraqi soldiers marching beneath the huge crossed swords of the Victory Arch, to the theme music from 'Star Wars'. In April 1998 Iraq's "volunteer army" paraded for six hours in Baghdad's "Grand Festivities Square," the large outdoor arena marked by the two sets of enormous crossed swords.

Victory Arch. I took this photo the day before exiting Baghdad after living in the "Red Zone" for 4 months. In that time I lost 2 friends and 3 fellow work college's (non-military) The families of those that died, would they recognize a monument to a man who has caused so many to lose their lives? Victory for whom?

Saddam survives... So many did not...


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