fallen symbols

If you haven't been reading Bill Allison's Great War series, you've missed out on some of the most important posts in the blogsphere in the past few weeks. Here is a quick index: Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

Bill also points to a post from War Words, which I will also reproduce in full:

"In Iraq, images of Saddam Hussein are crumbling to the ground. Statues, murals and posters of the leader dominated many Iraqi towns for years. Now, coalition forces and some Iraqis are pulling down the Saddam tributes -- using tanks, hammers and even their own hands. The ripping, pummeling and shattering is taking place in coalition-controlled areas from the southern port of Umm Qasr to Kurdish territories in the north. In Baghdad itself, troops toppled another Saddam statue, leaving it face down in a gutter. Coalition officers call the images a legitimate target in psychologically liberating the Iraqi people. And it seems to be having the desired effect.One U-S commander says every time the troops take down another image of Saddam, 'the people cheer'. " AP, www.khnl.com, 04/08/03

"We have destroyed 80 percent of the statues. There is only a small amount left and we will destroy that soon." Abdul Hai Muttmain, a spokeman for the Mullah Omar, on the Buddha statues, 03/11/01

Bill asks why these quotes should be juxtaposed, wondering if Benny is trying to equate Saddam's virtue with the Buddha, or the morality of the Coalition forces with the Taliban. I think that the point is that there is a parallel, not between the virtue of Saddam and the Buddha, but rather the perceived vice, from the perspective of the US and the Taliban. This is an explicit and stated intent to erase the past by toppling its grandest symbols, systematically and permanently.

Both the Taliban and the US forces view the Bamiyan and Saddam statues repsectively as analogous to the Golden Calf (from the perspective of their self-interest and their ideology). Since I subscribe to the latter but not the former, I am biased, but I still appreciate the similarity of purpose in the physical act of destroying the statues. And i think it reveals more about the Taliban (and the rotten core of Qutb's ideas) than it does about the pros and cons of US foreign policy.

Now, consider the burning of the Museum of Baghdad in the same light.

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