The Fall of a Statue.
Published on 9 April 2003 in Television
It was, without a doubt, one of those news moments. An occasion where the world looked on as the pictures were beamed across the globe. A sight that will be remembered by those who watched it. The live broadcast around the world of a statue of Sadam Hussain being brought crashing to the ground.
The open plan office I work in is a U shape. On the left and right sides are lined three TVs, suspended by the ceiling. We get a rather eclectic mix of stations, from the British terrestrial stations, to rolling news channels like Sky News, BBC World and CNN, plus a multitude of foreign stations not found on the Sky EPG, mainly as they’re not on Sky.
This afternoon they were all tuned to BBC News 24. Well all but the seventh TV at the end of the room (which is actually just a Sky box connected to a TV) which was showing CITV.
The news has been on in the office throughout the war that was occurring in Iraq, although mostly with the sound muted.
A seemingly surreal view.
By lunchtime my eye was caught as the Amercian tanks and soldiers moved into the centre of Iraq, next to the hotel where the world’s press was located.
It had been an odd morning. Pictures of people looting, and journalists making the most of the fact that their Iraqi ‘minders’ had disappeared. Where they went to who knows. Many would add to that, who cares?
I saw one rather surreal shot of someone grinning as he carried what looked like a large portrait of Sadam Hussain, stripped of it’s frame, occasionally being hit by the man carrying it with his shoe. Then someone running up, and taking a flying leap at the picture.
But as the tanks rolled in, the whole war seemed to take a rather surreal view to me as a viewer, as I got back to work, but my eyes were quickly turned again.
The Visible Result of the Regime falling Apart.
And slowly but surely Iraqi citizens came to the streets, throwing shoes at the giant statue of Sadam standing tall over an area called Paradise Square – as the BBC’s Rageh Omar explained, a huge insult in that part of the world.
As I watched the pictures being shown on News 24 and by no doubt on hundreds of stations across the globe, people were seen climbing onto the statue. A rather scraggly piece of rope was trying to be tied around it. They managed to get it, noose like, around the neck of the statue. An amazing sight ? the Iraqi people present were preparing to hang their president.
A Statue and a Piece of Rope.
The rope was too short. Once tied, it didn’t even make it to the ground, and to us in the office watching, it seemed woefully inadequate for the task it was being asked to do ? nowhere near strong enough for the task.
It may have not been up to the job, but it made the intent clear. This statue wasn’t going to remain in it’s present location.
Slowly but surely we witnessed an ever increasing crowd. And, seemingly reluctantly, an American armoured personal carrier was moved into position. The sentence was to be enacted.
What followed was more comical scenes as a cable was tied to the base of the statue. This was later removed – the marines presumably deciding that if it snapped, there could be a lot of trouble, and instead an army crane – presumably on the same vehicle, was used to attach heavy chains around the neck of Sadam.
One marine wrapped Sadam’s face in the Stars and Stripes. Whilst Rageh on the scene told us this was greeted with cheers by many in the crowd, in the office was despair, people shouting at the screen in disbelief that a US marine could be that stupid. It was quickly removed, replaced temporarily by an old Iraqi flag.
Bringing it down.
And then, by now some time after it had all started, time for the statue to come down. We could see the marines moving people back, the chains being tensed. The first signs of wobbling as the cables were tensed. And it came down.
You could feel the gasps as it dangled almost upside down , but still attached to it’s podium. A brief pause and then it came fully down, dragged briefly on the floor, as those present lept on the statue, dancing on the dead ‘body’. Later we saw the sight of the decapitated head being dragged along the streets.
Even as a bystander watching it all happen, it seemed deeply moving and filled with symbolism.
Quite why tyrannical dictators feel the need to stick huge statues of themselves everywhere (in an almost Big Brother style) we may never know, but as they come crashing down, the viewing becomes almost addictive. It’s probable that the edited footage of todays events will become on par with that of the Berlin War being ripped apart, or of statues of former leaders in the USSR being attacked as communism fell apart.
And it saw the globe once again glued to it’s television screens as something deeply symbolic and very important happened in the world.