Thursday, April 10, 2003

I heard something on NPR this morning that I thought was pretty striking. A correspondent reporting from Baghdad was talking about the images that we've all been seeing and celebrating--namely, the toppling of Saddam statues around the city. She noted that while it was amazing to watch the American flag draped over Saddam's visage while he was tugged off the pedestal, she couldn't help but feel a little sadness. She felt that it should be the Iraqis pulling down the statue, and it was saddening that it was not them. This instantly made me think of the images from Moscow in 1991, when jubilant mobs tore down Felix Dzerzhinsky's (founder of the secret police that became the KGB) statue, and hurled paint and rocks at statues of Stalin, Lenin, etc. It was a powerful and symbolic moment in that nation's history, and I cannot help but think it would have been emasculating and somewhat humiliating if they were relegated to the sidelines while a foreign force tore down the statues for them. If nothing else, it gave the population a sense of volition. This was their triumph, it was something they did, not something that was done to them or for them. And I think that the rebuilding of Iraq will be all the harder for the fact that the Iraqis do not have these revolutionary, unifying, and (pardon the word) empowering moments to remember. It's a relatively small point, but it's representative of a larger problem, I think.


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