Deception and the toppling of Saddam Hussein's statue in Firdos Square, Baghdad, 9 April 2003
A dossier of information about the toppling of the statue of Saddam Hussein in Fardos Square, Baghdad on 9 April 2003 and media reporting of it. This page does not attempt to come to any conclusions.
The general policy in selecting the reports listed here is to try to find reports published by well-known organisations available on their own websites (as opposed to unverifiable, purported copies of reports elsewhere on the web).
Hence we have first an interview with Perth clergyman Neville Watson, dated 17 April 2003 on the website of the Australian state broadcaster SBS at http://www.sbs.com.au/insight/trans.php3?transid=506 .
Amongst other things, Watson said: "Well, there certainly was some jubilation, but I certainly wouldn't go along with that presented by television. The one that I've seen a lot of since I've been back is the toppling of the statue of Saddam and I can hardly believe it was the same one that I saw, because it happened at only about 300m from where I was and it was a very small crowd. The rest of the square was almost empty, and when we inquired as to where the crowd came from, it was from Saddam City. In other words, it was a rent-a-crowd."
The next one is an eyewitness account by an ("embedded") American reporter John Koopman for the San Francisco Chronicle. "MCCOY'S MARINES: DARKSIDE TOWARD BAGHDAD Chapter 6 of 6". http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2003/11/15/DDP2UPUS1.DTL
Then there is (April 2006) a report on the US military's own website titled "Toppling the Statue--Army PSYOP Supports I MEF", which according to its footnote at http://call.army.mil/products/on-point/notes/ch6-notes.asp is by "Staff Sergeant Brian Plesich, team leader, Tactical Psychological Operations Team 1153, 305th Psychological Operations Company, interview by Lieutenant Colonel Dennis Cahill, 31 May 2003." This report is about one sixth of the way down this web page: http://call.army.mil/products/on-point/ch-6.asp.
It's doubtful whether this should be described as a first-hand account since its footnote implies some kind of filtering through a second person. In any case, given the nature of its source, there is no reason at all to suppose that it can be taken at face value. Here's one obvious internal inconsistency. The third paragraph mentions a "very large crowd of civilians starting to form up", but a couple of sentences later we read that there were "almost as many reporters as there were Iraqis". Here's another oddity. The report is written in the first person, which presumably represents Staff Sergeant Brian Plesich. Yet suddenly we read "It was real quick thinking on Staff Sergeant Plesich's part to get that Iraqi flag up there quick." What's this, Plesich giving himself a pat on the back?
Anyway, the report does at least appear to confirm the involvement of a US military "Psychological Operations" (that's a euphemism for deception) unit.
On the subject of this report, there is an LA Times article "Army Stage-Managed Fall of Hussein Statue", David Zucchino, 3 July 2004 An abstract is freely available on the newspaper's own website: "As the Iraqi regime was collapsing on April 9, 2003, Marines converged on Firdos Square in central Baghdad, site of an enormous statue of Saddam Hussein. It was a Marine colonel -- not joyous Iraqi civilians, as was widely assumed from the TV images -- who decided to topple the statue, the Army report said. And it was a quick-thinking Army psychological operations team that made it appear to be a spontaneous Iraqi undertaking." This is http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/latimes/access/658306361.html (It's easy to verify that this is indeed the archive of the LA Times by going to the archive search on the main LA Times website and searching for it.)
However this article does not add much to the information available from the US military website above.
The removal of a statue in Russia
On the topic of the toppling of Saddam's statue, a posting on an internet forum at http://www.johnnyawe.com/display/ShowJournalEntry?moduleId=22694&entryId=25415
"One thing I noticed about that whole Saddam statue performance is how similar the imagery was to Lenin's statue coming down in Moscow, an image now synonomous with the end of the Cold War and victory to Americans."
- Not quite as it seems? 1994 BBC documentary's depiction of the removal of Lenin's statue in Russia Stephen Hewitt
- Manipulated photograph of Iraq crowd in London Evening Standard, A compilation of information
- Private Eye on “doctoring” of Iraq crowd photo in London Evening Standard of 9 April 2003 Private Eye, 8-21 August 2003, page 4