On April 9, 2003, the statue in Baghdad's Firdos Square, directly in front of the Palestine Hotel where the world's journalists had been quartered, was toppled by a U.S. M88 armored recovery vehicle surrounded by a group of Iraqis. One such futile attempt by sledgehammer wielding weightlifter Kadhem Sharif particularly caught media attention.
According to the book Shooter, the first plan was to attach a cable between the M88 and the statue's torso area. Someone pointed out that if the cable snapped, it might whiplash and kill people. The alternate method chosen was to wrap a chain around the neck. Eventually the M88 was able to topple the statue which was jumped and stomped upon by Iraqi citizens who then decapitated the head of the statue and dragged it through the streets of the city hitting it with their shoes. The destruction of the statue was shown live on cable news networks as it happened and made the front pages of newspapers and covers of magazines all over the world - symbolizing the fall of the Hussein government. The images of the statue destruction provided a clear refutation of Information Minister Muhammad Saeed al-Sahhaf's reports that Iraq had been winning the war.
A green, abstract sculpture by Bassem Hamad al-Dawiri now stands on the site of the former statue.
Before the statue was toppled, Marine Corporal Edward Chin of 1st Tank Battalion, 1st Marine Division (attached to 3rd Battalion 4th Marines) climbed the ladder and placed an American flag over the statue's face. According to the book "Shooter", by Coughlin, Kuhlman, and Davis, other Marines of the 3/4 realized the PR disaster unfolding as the formerly cheering crowd became silent, with one woman shouting at the soldiers to remove the flag. Kuhlman had appropriated an Iraqi flag as a war trophy during a raid earlier in the war, and quickly unfurled it and headed for the statue. The crowd grabbed this flag and then placed it over the statue.
Event possibly staged
The event was widely publicized, but allegations that it had been staged were soon published. One picture from the event, published in the London Evening Standard, was allegedly cropped to suggest a larger crowd. A report by the Los Angeles Times stated it was an unnamed Marine colonel, not Iraqi civilians who had decided to topple the statue; and that a quick-thinking Army psychological operations team then used loudspeakers to encourage Iraqi civilians to assist and made it all appear spontaneous and Iraqi-inspired. According to Tim Brown at Globalsecurity.org: "It was not completely stage-managed from Washington, DC but it was not exactly a spontaneous Iraqi operation." The 2004 film Control Room deals with the incident in depth and indicated that the overall impression of Al Jazeera reporters was that it was staged. The Marines present at the time, 3rd Battalion 4th Marines as well as 1st Tank Battalion, maintain that the scene was not staged other than the assistance they provided.
- Lucas, Dean (2007). "Famous Pictures Magazine - Fall of Saddam Hussein's Statue". Famous Pictures Magazine. http://www.famouspictures.org/fall-of-saddam-husseins-statue/. Retrieved 2007-07-16.
- Coughlin, Jack; Kuhlman, Casey; and, Donald A. Davis (2005). Shooter: The Autobiography of the Top-Ranked Marine Sniper. St. Martin's Press. http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/0312336853/ref=sib_dp_pop_fc?ie=UTF8&p=S001#reader-link.
- The Memory Hole > Doctored Photo from London Evening Standard
- Army Stage-Managed Fall of Hussein Statue
- Coughlin, GySgt Jack and Kuhlman, Capt. Casey with Davis, Donald A., Shooter: The Autobiography of the Top-Ranked Marine Sniper, St. Martins, hardback edition - 2005, paperback edition - 2006.
- "Lights, camera, rescue", Seattle Post-Intelligencer, May 30, 2003
- Bevan, Robert (2006). The Destruction of Memory: Architecture at War. Reaktion Books. pp. 91 ff.. ISBN 978-1-86189-319-2.
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