Winning the Bronze
Date Added: Mar. 21, 2004
In the world of e-mail, we've come to accept that pictures and stories can be faked, mismatched or misunderstood. At a time when many are questioning whether the continued U.S. Military presence in Iraq is appreciated, this hopeful story and touching photo have many skeptics hoping they're real. The picture is real - the sentiment in the e-mail blurb, however, is not.
The statue above was made by an Iraqi artist named Kalat, who for years was forced by Saddam Hussein to make the many hundreds of bronze busts of Saddam that dotted Baghdad. This artist was so grateful that the Americans liberated his country, he melted 3 of the fallen Saddam heads and made a memorial statue dedicated to the American soldiers and their fallen comrades. Kalat worked on this night and day for several months.
To the left of the kneeling soldier is a small Iraqi girl giving the soldier comfort as he mourns the loss of his comrade in arms.
It is currently on display outside the palace that is now home to the 4th Infantry division. It will eventually be shipped and shown at the memorial museum in Fort Hood, Texas.
According to a news release from the Iraqi Coalition Provisional Authority, the photograph depicts a real statue and the story about its creation is fairly accurate:
"During the Saddam era, the Iraqi artist who goes by the nomme d’art of “Kalat," was required to create hundreds of statues of the megalomaniacal dictator, Saddam Hussein. After Operation Iraqi Freedom, Kalat was so grateful for his new-found liberty that he decided to melt down three bronze busts of Saddam and sculpt a new creation honoring the fallen Americans who gave their lives for his freedom and that of his country. The statue in honor of the heroic Coalition forces was a true work of love."
The statue was created in 2003 with bronze removed from a palace in Tikrit, Iraq. the artist used a photograph of a real American soldier, 1st Sgt. Glen Simpson, who posed for the sculpture.
However, a Wall Street Journal report that includes an interview with the artist, tells a somewhat less touching story. According to the Journal piece, written by Yochi J. Dreazen, the artist, Khalid Alussy ("Kalat" is an Americanization of his first name), is a sculptor-for-hire. He was not forced to create the statues for Hussein, but rather offered his services to the former regime "because I needed money for my family and to finish my education. And I decided to make statues for the Americans for the exact same reasons." Other discrepancies between official U.S. Military reports (and the e-mail circulating above) of the statue's creation and the Journal report:
In February 2004, the work was shipped to its permanent home, the 4th Infantry Division Museum at Fort Hood, Texas. Its vision truly is a touching salute to our fallen soldiers. One can only hope the true story of its origins lies somewhere between the extremes above. Break this chain.
References: Snopes.com, About.com, IraqiCoalition.org, The Wall Street Journal - March 8, 2004