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Crossed Swords of Baghdad, Iraq: a Window into History (VIDEO)Tim King Salem-news.com
The crossed swords over Baghdad, one of Iraq's most recognizable sites, are a story of previous war with Iran and a failed dictatorship.
(BAGHDAD, Iraq) - It is still an active war, but the International Zone of Baghdad is calmer than at any other point in Iraq's recent history. One place most Americans would recognize from news clips and photos is Saddam Hussein's parade area where troops passed under massive crossed swords.
They are, quite literally, a direct reminder of the former dictator. Andrew Hanselman is a Public Affairs specialist with the U.S. Army in Baghdad. He says the swords are a painful reminder of the late Saddam Hussein, and that they are actually molded after Saddam Hussein's wrist or hands. Today the swords serve as reminders of Iraq's ties with violence and war. Cemented into the bottom of one of the swords, are more than 2000 helmets from one of Iraq's previous conflicts. Hanselman revealed an interesting fact about the helmets, "The helmets are from the Iran/Iraq War and they are supposed to be the Iranian soldiers' helmets that the Iraqi's had killed."
Lt. Col. Jerry Brooks is based out of Baghdad's Camp Victory, "There is a whole lot of symbolism here. You've got the helmets embedded in the concrete, so every time the Iraqi's would come through here, they were stepping on the heads of the Persians, you know their traditional enemies."
As it turns out, there is little consistency in these Iranian military helmets. They amount to a hodge podge of surplus from other nations that Iran had amassed over the years. Jerry Brooks was an ideal person for me to find at this location by chance. He is a historian with the U.S. Army.
"You have an old British helmet here. This is an old German paratrooper's helmet. Then you have the old WWII U.S. M1 helmet that they had in WWII, Korea and early in Vietnam. This is a Swedish helmet right here. So you have a whole series of them here. You have an old British tommy helmet here. This is an old Eastern Bloc Russian (helmet) right here. So you've got a whole littany of old helmets. And what is interesting is that all of these helmets were caprured from the battlefield during the Iran/Iraq War between '80 and '88. It's just amazing, but the fact that you've got a German paratrooper's helmet there; I see in there the remnants of a British motorcycle helmet which you don't see that often." The turning of the tide in this war now allows time to pause and take in sights like this. In the past, things here were very different according to Hanselman.
"Yeah we're in the International Zone and it's pretty much as safe as it can be. The safest part of Baghdad for us now."
Brooks pointed to the quiet afternoon, "You don't hear the shots fired constantly. I know the first time I came through here you had to have full body armor, your weapon was locked and loaded and that was 2005 and 2006. Now here we are in 2008 weapons are not loaded, no body armor, you don't hear the gunfire in the distance."
As a military historian in Iraq, Brooks says he is allowed an amazing vantage point as history moves forward.
"Oh it's incredibly fascinating because you get an opportunity to look at what is going on. You're a fly on the wall as everything is happening around you. Be it planning in operations, be it coming out and looking at historic sites like this. It's just a wonderful job."
This Lt. Col. says he remains sold on the progress that the war in Iraq ultimately represents for many of the Iraqi people.
"Uday had a lakefront home, and there is a brothel for Uday and Hussay and the high ranking members of the Baath Party. And to have that there, and what they did to the people of Iraq, is just horrendous and the fact that they are gone is a good thing. You know no matter what people say about what we did here, the fact that Iraq is free of that type of tyranny can only be a positive."
Produced by Tim King
Tim King is a former U.S. Marine with twenty years of experience on the west coast as a television news producer, photojournalist, reporter and assignment editor. In addition to his role as a war correspondent, this Los Angeles native serves as Salem-News.com's Executive News Editor. Tim spent the winter of 2006/07 covering the war in Afghanistan, and he was in Iraq over the summer of 2008, reporting from the war while embedded with both the U.S. Army and the Marines.
Tim holds awards for reporting, photography, writing and editing, including the Silver Spoke Award by the National Coalition of Motorcyclists (2011), Excellence in Journalism Award by the Oregon Confederation of Motorcycle Clubs (2010), Oregon AP Award for Spot News Photographer of the Year (2004), First-place Electronic Media Award in Spot News, Las Vegas, (1998), Oregon AP Cooperation Award (1991); and several others including the 2005 Red Cross Good Neighborhood Award for reporting. Tim has several years of experience in network affiliate news TV stations, having worked as a reporter and photographer at NBC, ABC and FOX stations in Arizona, Nevada and Oregon. Tim was a member of the National Press Photographer's Association for several years and is a current member of the Orange County Press Club.
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