Essential Architecture- Iraq
|01. Hussein Palace Main Gate, Babylon.
Palace Main Gate. Standing over 100 feet tall, this is the only building readily visible from Tikrit. Most of the buildings are hidden from public view behind 12 foot walls surrounding the compound.
Twin Saddam Statues at Main Gate. Combat engineers from the 4th Infantry Division demolished these statues in the summer of 2003. The metal was melted down and used to build the 4th ID memorial, now located at Fort Hood, TX. A clip of the demolition is seen on the Fox News commercial.
(editor's note- I think these statues should have been preserved). Images thanks to- http://www.shadowsoftikrit.com/preview.html
|02. Hands of Victory, Swords of Qadisiyah
The crossed swords are a major landmark inside the Green Zone. The official name of the monument is the Hands of Victory, though hardly anyone living inside the Green Zone knows the real name.
Saddam built them to serve as an Arabic version of a Roman triumphal arch. They were built to celebrate the end of the Iran-Iraq war. Saddam took guns from dead Iraqi soldiers, melted them down, and recast them to make the 140 tall blades. Saddam also placed captured Iranian helmets in nets held between the swords. The fists that hold the swords aloft are replicas of Saddam Hussein's own hands!
In 2005 the ‘Committee to Remove the Remains of the Baath Party and to Consider Building New Monuments and Murals’ was formed to make the determination of which of the larger monuments should go and which should stay. Already hundreds of smaller statues and monuments throughout the streets and cities of the country had been torn down, and Hussein’s face had been taken off the dinar, but still hundreds remained. One of the first to receive wide controversy was the ‘Hands of Victory’.
Built in 1989, these two immense triumphal arches stand at either end of a wide parade ground in a central Baghdad park, now part of the Green Zone. Each sword is 140 meters long and weighs 24 tons, gripped by a fist based on plaster casts of Saddam’s own hands, with even his own enlarged thumb-print added. They were built to commemorate ‘victory’ in the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988), despite the fact that construction was started 2 years before the war ended, and the fact that the war was widely thought to have ended in a ‘stalemate’. The swords are said to have been built after a design sketched by Hussein himself, using metal smelted from the armor and weaponry of fallen Iraqi soldiers. Tumbling under nets at the base of each hand are hundreds of helmets, said to be looted from Iranian corpses from the battlefield. Accordingly many of them are cracked and have bullet-holes.
Controversy over the Hands began in 2007, as the Prime Minister slated them for demolition. However he was over-ruled by the US Ambassador, who reportedly feared their destruction would widen the rift between Iraq’s Shiite majority and its Sunni minority. Now American soldiers clamber up inside the hollow hands to have their souvenir photos taken.
|03. Busts of Saddam
Saddam had 27 palaces throughout Iraq. He moved from palace to palace in a paranoid attempt to stay one step ahead of potential assassins.
When the Americans arrived in Baghdad, the U.S. military quickly captured the 600-foot-long Presidential Palace located on the banks of the Tigris River. Because this palace was one of the few that was not bombed during the invasion of Iraq, it quickly became the seat of the U.S. occupation and to this day it still serves as the de-facto American Embassy.
When the Americans arrived at the palace, they found four 30-foot-tall busts of Saddam on the roof of the four-story palace. In late 2003, the U.S. government removed them. Oddly, the U.S. government did not destroy the busts. They now stand far from their original home in a Stonehenge-like setting in a quiet part of the Green Zone.
|04. Saddam’s Statue in Firdos Square
The first to go. US soldiers hauled the statue down with an M88 tank recovery vehicle, though it took a lot more effort than many US news stations showed, and spawned numerous accusations of ‘stage management’ on the part of the Army. At one point a US soldier climbed the ladder and draped a US flag over Saddam’s head, but soon took it off as the clamoring Iraqi’s (supporting the statue’s removal) voiced their disapproval. The image of the toppled statue became iconic and symbolic of victory, convincing many in Arab countries that Iraq had been defeated, when they had previously thought it was winning.
|05. Saddam’s Giant Heads on the Palace of the Republican Guard
Four giant busts of Saddam Hussein once dominated the Baghdad sky-line. It took Coalition forces until December 2003, 8 months after the initial invasion, to tear them down, as their massive size (4 meters tall) and weight complicated matters. Eventually they were removed with cranes and melted down as scrap metal.
|06. The Martyr’s Monument- al Shaheed
The Martyr’s monument looks a split blue onion-dome, quite massive and built in 1983 to commemorate Iraqi soldiers who died in the war with Iran. A museum, library, cafeteria, lecture hall and exhibition gallery are located in two levels underneath the domes. There are currently no plans to demolish this site, but its long-term future is certainly in some doubt.
|07. Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Another monument to the war with Iran, representing a traditional shield (diraa) dropping from the dying grasp of an Iraqi warrior. Beneath the giant canopy of the shield is a large cube made of seven layers of metal, said to represent the seven levels of Heaven in the Islamic faith. Inside the layers of metal are sheets of red acrylic, said to represent the blood of the slain Iraqi soldiers. Iraqi soldiers currently guard the monument, though will grant access to the underground museum if requested. The underground museum is not currently lighted, except for the light that shines in from the windows above and through the doors (when opened). Visitors must bring their own flashlights to view the now-empty cases that once held numerous war relics.
|08- The Tikrit Bush-Shoe
In December 2008 President Bush went on a ‘victory lap’ of countries he’d invaded, ending up in Baghdad’s Green Zone, where a reporter at a press conference pulled off his shoes and hurled them at the President. Bush of course dodged, but the incident became infamous, both for the insulting nature of hurling a shoe at the President of the United States, and for Bush’s cat-like reflexes and cheeky grin. Early in 2009 a sofa-sized statue of the shoe was unveiled in Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s birthplace.