Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Iraq restores monument symbolizing Hussein era

As hundreds of thousands in Egypt protested the iron rule of that country’s president, Iraq quietly began restoring a bronze fist of its former dictator, Saddam Hussein.

Without public announcement or debate, the authorities here ordered the reconstruction of one of the most audacious symbols in Baghdad of Mr. Hussein’s long, violent and oppressive rule: the Victory Arch, two enormous sets of crossed swords, clutched in hands modeled after his very own.

“Nuremberg and Las Vegas all rolled in one,” Kanan Makiya, an Iraqi-born author and architect called the monument in “The Monument: Art, Vulgarity and Responsibility in Iraq,” which was published in 1991 under a pseudonym to protect himself then, even in exile.

After years of neglect and a partial dismantling in 2007 that was halted amid protests after the panels of one fist and the pommels of two swords were removed, workers recently began to put back together the detritus of Mr. Hussein’s megalomania.

The restoration represents a small but potentially significant act of reconciliation with a past that remains deeply divisive nearly eight years after Mr. Hussein’s government crumpled.

The restoration of a monument to the glory of Saddam Hussein?

There could be no greater symbol of the waste and failure of our adventure in Iraq.

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