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Aug-30-2008 14:00printcommentsVideo

Crossed Swords of Baghdad, Iraq: a Window into History (VIDEO)

The crossed swords over Baghdad, one of Iraq's most recognizable sites, are a story of previous war with Iran and a failed dictatorship.

Crossed Swords of Baghdad, Iraq
Photo by Justin King

(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

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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'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.

Serving the community in very real terms, is the nation's only truly independent high traffic news Website. As News Editor, Tim among other things, is responsible for publishing the original content of 82 writers. He reminds viewers that emails are easily missed and urges those trying to reach him, to please send a second email if the first goes unanswered. You can write to Tim at this address:

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Comments Leave a comment on this story.

All comments and messages are approved by people and self promotional links or unacceptable comments are denied.

sts September 5, 2008 12:24 pm (Pacific time)

no problem happened on other websites I posted this on. I figured it was something like what you mentioned. Thanks for the update tho. And thanks for putting up with me. :-)

Matt September 4, 2008 10:36 pm (Pacific time)

sts. I'm sorry but the ampersand has special meaning in database and is replaced automatically with the word "and" to keep from causing any issues.

sts September 4, 2008 4:43 pm (Pacific time)

I copied my previous link and it went to the arabic language.. I checked, and the only thing differnt than my link was a "&" instead of a "and" anyway here it is again. My apologies, and my word I wont post many links at all in the future.
if you see the word "and" in this link, just change it to a "and"


(Edited by Matt to allow & Ampersand)

sts September 4, 2008 11:49 am (Pacific time)

What we see with our eyes can many times be deceiving. Knowledge is highly important. More peaceful in Iraq? 1. the U.S. armed tens of thousands of sunnis, and are payin them almost one million dollars a day not to fight. What happens when the money runs out? 2. Sadr asked his people to slow the fighting. why? he realizes that a more peaceful iraq means no need for the u.s. to be there. Sadr and Iran are the main reasons for the calmer attitudes. 3. Millions of Iraq's have been killed or displaced to syria/jordan, and the ones that remain have gone thru ethnic cleaning in neighborhoods. Last but not least, is this link. Yes, I know, links are frowned upon, but of the hundreds I read each week, this one is quite important. I will keep them VERY few and FAR between.

Tina Miller August 31, 2008 3:16 pm (Pacific time)

Great piece Tim. We are proud of you, and are very happy to know that you are well. These are rare glimpses into Iraq and I hope people will not overly politicize your reports. Keep doing what you do, and know we appreciate you.

Henry Ruark August 31, 2008 1:54 pm (Pacific time)

Agree re need for open discussion, but honest ID adds great dimension to that since knowing source makes all the difference.
Example; Yours re Iraq people taking part in discussion of their fate, with record clearly that Bush cabal, preemptive attackers, now still trying to beat down any opposition to their goal.
Re "surge", depends on who pays cost, for what purposes, and why ever-needed, thus goes back to preemptive attack now obviously to snatch oil et al.
Re "been there", if all open opinion on f-policy had to depend on that, Beatles might well be better than most politicians or military, at that.
Re impeachment, of course it is political; so is whole Constitution, which now seen by millions as under attack, with obvious remedy what the Founders presciently provided for us. I note you hazard a guess as to what may happen but totally ignore stating your own stance...which may be most revealing of all your stuff so far.
SO, one more time, do you feel we SHOULD or SHOULD NOT impeach Bush, and perhaps others, too ?
IF NOT, WHY NOT ? If you do, when on time-line ? Now, or Later, or Never ?
IF you cannot or will not answer, that, too is revealing, as is failure to put up ID on continued request which is good faith action here, for all to see, to establish any remaining credibility...sir.
Only credible reason NOT to do so already-stated for all to ponder...

Some may wonder why I feel so intensely re ID. Simple: Anonymous sources are a very sore point for any working journalist, ever since before the Civil War. Poynter Institute, famed school, did classic report in its Winter 1999 issue, by Emeritus President Bob Haiman wrote: "Anonymous Sources" Never!", as his address when awarded Distinguished Service to Journalism Award. His major point is that one cannot evaluate any response OR conversation without crucial knowledge of the source -- plain common sense most persons use without any conscious need to remember. More important than ever now we all depend on Internet for so much...easily distorted, purposely perverted, for not only political but other also malign purposes. Will send PDF of his two-pp. article to anyone sending ID to Editor with request.

Sinbad August 31, 2008 1:31 pm (Pacific time)

I have no problem with people who disagee with me, and I hope they can also appreciate that discussing opposite viewpoints are what gives meaning to democracy. It's when debates are shut down by individuals/organizations that one should take the time and try to see what their motive(s) may be. As far as the "surge" working, that's a given. Why we invaded Iraq may some day best be answered by free Iraqi's, afterall they're in the best position to at least participate in that assessment. Certainly more so than those who have never been there to witness and experience the country themselves. As far as impeachment, I have a feeling that Speaker Pelosi just may pull the trigger. Probably will depend on future polls/focus groups...nothing about the law, it will be political if it happens, in my opinion.

Henry Ruark August 31, 2008 12:50 pm (Pacific time)

S-Bad: Your key phrase is:"...they may have an agenda, usually both the latter and former are accurate". Fyi, everyone has an agenda, consciously or otherwise. Some even get paid to act on their own or agenda from others. The real question is the motive behind and beyond that agenda, proven unquestionably more by action than ostensible "open statement" without revealing ID-information for both responsibility and accountability, leading to real earned-credibility. Neocon/record is clear dead give-away for revelation of that basic "content analysis" principle, discovered early-on before War II, put into place by (...), taught-and-followed ever since...with some truly awesome results, both positive and negative. SO check sources, check facts, check motivations, and assess whole/smear, with own mind rather than as directed by others. Which is why we use "see with own eyes" here, via persons whose ID is out there in staff section, for what it may be worth to guide you. Others invited to set self up same-way, do own Op Eds on same basis, documented, open to evaluation and response by all, on same basis of checkable fact, and open-ID for same evaluation/factors as for any other open, creditable honest conversation. What other reason is there for continuing concealment, when ID-requested, than for obvious factor bearing on credibility ? Any possibility of fear of "retaliaton"here highly remote and surely contemptuous of S-N record AND other participants.

Henry Ruark August 31, 2008 11:44 am (Pacific time)

S-Bad et al:
Appreciate your timely support for fact via Tim's trained-eye and discerning skills in communication "truth" as he discovers it. Re "surge", even if what you state is fact-now, does NOT reduce damaging, defeating and denigrating fact of preemptive attack when none was needed OR should ever have been permitted to occur.
WE shot ourselves in...a very sensitive place. WE are the finally-responsibles, and WE owe it to the world, now, to make amends by what we do next --including impeachment to make sure a solid, unavoidable precedent is set, and Congress is finally brought to its senses to avoid any other such heinous situations in the future.
After all, THEY work for US, as representative governance is defined and must work --or fail completely, thus demanding the otherwise-coming Second American Revolution, already visible on the edges of our collapsing large cities.

Sinbad August 31, 2008 10:45 am (Pacific time)

The below posters who demean the writer of this article are doing a disservice to our fine men and women in the military. You assume that they all collectively are involved in some type of henious cover-up? Please try to realize that those who have been to Iraq (and Afghanistan) are going to experience things differently as positioned in both time and place(please note there are reporting journalists all over Iraq who are reporting similar observations as the above journalist is). Since you below critics have no experience in this matter, then appreciate that your opinions have very little meaning. I have known many people who have gone over recently who had been to Iraq years earlier and have been absolutely amazed at the improving situation. Once again it is place and time as to one's experience in most all war zones. The Iraqi people will soon be in a sink or swim situation and my informed opinion is that they will succeed. By the way, the "surge" worked, though it's amazing how so many do not feel that is the reason for the improving situation over there. Generally these people have no miltary background (especially in tactics/strategy) and they may have an agenda, usually both the latter and former are accurate.

sts August 31, 2008 10:11 am (Pacific time)

To the person who asked me if I talk to Iraqi's, well, the answer is no, but I do listen to them. If you search hard enough on the internet, you can learn much from people who live there. Some can get a message out.
I support Tim. I wonder how long he is going to be there, because news from holland says this:

I try to find news from other countries, and what I find can be quite eye opening. Sometimes I find interesting articles from Iraq. Maybe I should start saving them to my hard drive

 EDITOR:For future reference, Please do our viewers a favor and make your point as succinctly as possible without guiding them away to another site to finish your statement. Links are manually approved and therefore may delay or eliminate your comment from being posted. Thanks.


Henry Ruark August 31, 2008 8:33 am (Pacific time)

J., sts et al: You both have good points. The saving grace here for all is Tim's proven longtime and highly professional integrity as reporter-observer. He will relay what HIS OWN feelings, sensitivities and common sense tell him, you can count on that, despite what the military may try to set up as "truth". That's what any proven true professional does overseas, and that's why the dangerous job they do is the height of professional proof of both integrity and skill. Go it, Tim !! We KNOW what we will get from you, for sure and despite blandishments and any distortions from military there, since you can see what is happening to whatever you may send us. Stay safe, keed !!

KB August 31, 2008 8:11 am (Pacific time)

My question to the comments posted before is have you ever been to Iraq? Have you ever spoken with the Iraqi people, or are you just falling into the anti-Bush mainstream? I enjoyed reading about the cross swords and the significance to the Iraqi people.

Vic August 31, 2008 6:50 am (Pacific time)

I agree with matter how honest and dedicated to true journalism a reporter is, you can not report on what you are not allowed to see. Despite Tim's best efforts..this will not be unbiased reporting..he will see and report on only that which the military allows him to..and we know what pathological liars the military talking heads are.

Julie L. August 30, 2008 8:07 pm (Pacific time)

News Flash! The Bush regime created a dirty, corrupt war. Now that that's affirmed, can we move on? This "historian"'s appraisal that "iraq is free" sure seems like a stretch. But Tim's reporting what he experiences, and it's still a benefit to us to get that angle. We don't have to agree. I'm sure he doesn't, necessarily. That discussion is for another time though, not when he's so close to the heat. That's when true perspective will be achieved.

sts August 30, 2008 4:18 pm (Pacific time)

The U.S. have paid the sunnis billions of dollars and given them weapons to fight for the U.S. Now, the sunni's, just as I predicted, are holding the U.S hostage. DO WHAT WE WANT OUR WE WILL TURN OUR WEAPONS AGAINST THE US.

Millions of Iraqi's displaced to Jordan and Syria. How would YOU like to have to leave your home to another country never to return. How about hundreds of thousands of children and women dead.  I will NOT accept this commentary from Tim, and I will speak up until they ban me from this site. It is lies, and Tim is falling right in line with the mainstream

Maybe Tim should try going to northern Iraq where the kurds are wanting secession from Iraq and willing to fight for it.
Nope, the military will make sure Tim is in the right places at the right time, to continue the extreme lies.  

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