hands of victory
is another baghdad monument connected to the war between iran and iraq that is known to coalition soldiers as "the crossed swords" or "the crossed sabers." when the first armored division arrived in baghdad, this was our central transition point and temporary headquarters. every unit started here before breaking off to their permanent locations around baghdad to set up camp. i will never forget the first time i saw this massive monument. i had just driven for 24 hours straight from kuwait to baghdad. my first sergeant and i convoyed up (with one more vehicle from my battalion) as advance-party with an air force unit, and by the time we arrived, i was an exhausted bundle of nerves. i stepped out of my humvee to walk around and stretch my legs, and i looked up at the hand towering above me. when i first drove up, i thought the nets were holding coconuts, but as i got closer, i realized they were thousands and thousands of helmets... they spilled from the nets and were cemented into the road like speed bumps from one sword-yielding fist to the other. it was breath-taking... i had never seen anything like it. my first sergeant and i shared a couple of disposeable cameras for the long roadmarch north from kuwait, and the last picture on the roll was of me underneath the crossed swords, marking the beginning of a 15-month deployment that aged me 10 years. i took this picture at the end of the deployment. while the enormity of the monument was the same as it was the day i arrived in baghdad, it looked much different to me as i was leaving.
here's a little history about the crossed swords. i copied it from here:
To celebrate his "victory" over Iran, Saddam decided to build a Triumphal Arch. The concept of a triumphal arch is a European import, without precedent in the Middle East since Roman times.
The colossal Hands of Victory monument has dominated Baghdad's skyline since the end of the Iran-Iraq war. Built in duplicate, it marks the entrances to a large new parade ground in central Baghdad, towering 140 feet above the highway. The triumphal arch is shaped as two pairs of crossed swords, made from the guns of dead Iraqi soldiers that were melted and recast as the 24-ton blades of the swords. Captured Iranian helmets are in a net held between the swords. And surrounding the base of the arms are another 5,000 Iranian helmets taken from the battle field. The fists that hold the swords aloft are replicas of Saddam Husseinís own hands. The German company that built the monument, H+H Metalform, said it was given a photograph of Saddam's own forearms to use as a model.
When Saddam inaugurated these triumphal arches, he rode under them on a white horse ó an allusion to the steed of Hussein, the Shi'ite Muslim hero martyred at nearby Kerbala. The day before the first bombing run on Baghdad during the 1991 Gulf War, Iraqi TV showed a mass of Iraqi soldiers marching beneath the huge crossed swords of the Victory Arch, to the theme music from 'Star Wars'. In April 1998 Iraq's "volunteer army" paraded for six hours in Baghdad's "Grand Festivities Square," the large outdoor arena marked by the two sets of enormous crossed swords.