The first thing I saw on the news this morning was a dozen or so Iraqi citizens pulling the head of a toppled Hussein statue around the town square. Free at last? A few moments later the station I was watching replayed the tape from the beginning–as they would many times–and more of the context of this historic event was revealed: an American soldier draping the American flag over the statue’s head (the same flag that flew over the pentagon on 9/11, according the the BBC’s Paul Wood), followed by a massive U.S. military armored vehicle pulling the statue down.
How glorious! It put me in mind of the fall of the Berlin Wall, when U.S. troops hacked away at the wall so that the people of Berlin could dance on them… Oh wait, that didn’t happen. The people of Berlin dismantled that wall.
Maybe there’s a stronger parallel then with the monuments of Lenin, which the U.S. military tore down as part of its drive for regime change in the last days of the USSR. But wait, that didn’t happen either. They were pulled down by, among others, the oppressed people in Ukraine.
So what’s the difference?
Something about seeing that desert-tan military vehicle tugging away at a central symbol of the opposing regime doesn’t sit right with me, and on impulse I turned the channel. It confirmed my suspicion as every channel was showing the same scene, shot from the same angle, shot with the same camera. Apparently this was the scene we were all meant to see. Not a block away, not in the rubble where peoples’ homes had stood, not in the next city over where, even now, the battles rage on.
The Americans are in that square to show the natives how to celebrate their liberation, and to allow us to watch. The Iraqi citizens had gone about it in the wrong way, apparently, having spent the past few days “looting” goods as their city burned. The U.S. soldiers, meanwhile, showed the Iraqis the true path by taking sledgehammers to ceramic portraits of Hussein.
Why are we in Iraq again?
Professor Robert Jay Lifton said that those who seek to control history are doomed to failure. I find that thought incomplete however. I think that those who seek to control history and fail are doomed to failure, but it’s the people who seek to control history and succeed that you have to really watch out for.