Anyone who knows anyone who has served in Baghdad will have seen two iconic pictures sent home by the troops - a picture taken at the Hands of Victory monument and a photo taken on the throne in the Al Faw Palace. The pictures at the Hands of Victory monument are of troops standing under the arch or climbing up into one of the hands.
The Hands of Victory monument consists of two triumphal arches, marking the parade ground in Central Baghdad. Built to celebrate the 'victory' over Iran, though started long before that war was concluded, the duplicate arches consist of a pair of crossed swords, said to be made from the guns of dead Iraqi soldiers that were melted and recast as the 24-ton blades of the swords. The fists that hold the swords aloft are replicas of Saddam Hussein's own hands. A net holds captured Iranian helmets. At the base more helmets of Iranians are placed. The arches soar over 140 feet above the parade ground.
At the dedication of the monument, Saddam rode under the arch on a white horse. 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 Victory Arch to the theme music from 'Star Wars.'
Soon, the arches will be no more. The Iraqi government, Committee for Removing Symbols of the Saddam Era, has begun the process to dismantle the Hands of Victory arches. Large chunks of the hands have already been cut away.
Newsweek calls the arches "a symbol of Saddam Hussein's out sized ego and his iron grip." This most visible reminder of the Hussein regime has dominated the skyline for almost 20 years.
Not all are pleased. Mustafa Khadimi, director of the Iraq Memory Foundation, which documents the atrocities of Saddam's regime, is quite unhappy to have it removed. He feels it is a reminder to all of the oppression of Saddam. His organization had hoped to build a museum of the reign and atrocities of Saddam near the arches.
While it is easy to understand the desire to remove the symbols of the regime, it should concern everyone when they are destroyed. They represent a part of the history of the country. Destroying symbols does not erase the history, but it makes it easier to be forgotten.
Some are concerned that this will increase the sectarian tension in Iraq. What do you think?