Baghdad Monuments: Hands of Victory

When I had deployed to Iraq, many of the images I had seen, I did not fully understand and appreciate. The “Hands of Victory” monument has a crazy history all its own, and the story is worth telling. Some of the images, as shown by the photo of Stephen Farrell/The New York Times, displays the graffiti some American soldiers had written on the Iranian helmets cemented to the bottom of the monument.

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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 Bhagdad 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.

for more on this Iraq war monuments and others visit: http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/iraq/baghdad-monuments.htm

for more of images by Stephen Farrell/New York Times: visit: http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2007/12/28/world/20071228_ahmad_ss_index.html

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