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Aug 14, 2005

Held At Pen Point


As the deadline for a new Iraqi constitution expires today, I was looking at posters showing support for the effort. 

Although reading in to a picture is always a subjective matter, my first glance at this image left me somewhat startled.  Before I realized I was looking at a pen, the black object with the pointy steel head -- and the blue and yellow elements slanting down from the sky with the tracer lines -- made me think of missiles. 

If that association "misses the mark" for you, however, there are other more pragmatic aspects that seem a little curious.  For example, why is the pen lined up with the very bottom of the left hand page?  Is that any kind of place to begin a new chapter?  And, why in the middle of the book?  (Or, is it past the middle?) 

Also, given the perspective, is the pen even lined up with the book, or is it actually in the foreground?  And, if that's the case, is it possible the book is intended to remain blank? 

Then we have the two sweet girls.  In real life, they are intertwined.  At the same time, though, each is framed by a different pen and a different book.  Whether the former Iraq dissolves as the function of a constitutional process, or the country just splinters apart in reaction to a Bush-mediated "bum rush" democracy fantasy, is there any doubt that many, many bonds like these will be torn apart?

In earlier days, the BAG would have left no visual element on the table.  (For example, those lollipops would probably have been taken up in some tall way.)  As the BAG matures, however, it finds virtue in restraint, as well as the value of leaving room for the insightful analysis of the readership. 

So, I hand this over to you.  I didn't touch the baby or the torn poster or any of the geometry.  If you didn't see projectiles, I just hope these children didn't either while their independent-minded elders have been hard at work finessing their autonomy.

(Note: According to the caption, the posters read 'We will make our future constitution.')

(image: Hadi Mizban/AP.  August 14, 2005 at YahooNews.)


Is that how you hold a fountain pen when writing from right to left?

I take the "blue and yellow elements" to represent the new Iraqi flag, which Iraq's Governing Council adopted last year as the new national flag to replace the Pan-Arab flag that was Iraq's for 40 years. While the design may be said to represent peace, Islam and Iraq's Kurdish population, it hasn't exactly flown with the Iraqi people. Maybe this heart-warming poster with two little girls holding hands will help? I don't know -- who is it who gives out candy to children in Iraq? If the pens reminded the BAG of missiles, those lollipops reminded me of who's still working the PR machine behind the scenes in Iraq.

This is a powerful photo because the outcome of the constitution will play a major role in the lives of these two little girls. Word has it that women are getting no respect in this new Iraqi constitution. Iraqi women will have fewer freedoms than they did under previous leadership.

We (US) spent a lot of money (on our credit card) and lost a lot of lives to have freedoms taken away from these children.


Why? Oil.

Don't they write in the other direction? In that case the pen is not so odd if you think it's in the hand of a person facing you (inside of the poster) and writing.

It's a scary pen though! Missiles came to mind before you mentioned them. It's a also a dagger coming for the girls. Ominious!

Also I get the sense that it's a big rush. All of the slanted lines... the text also acts to make the pens look speedy... the posters are even hung up crooked... it all says HURRY!

The gilrs are looking down... They seems almost sad. "too bad this won't work out"

Word has it that women are getting no respect in this new Iraqi constitution. Iraqi women will have fewer freedoms than they did under previous leadership.

Wow! I didn't know about that! Please tell me more. Source. Source...

Susan -

Just Google "Iraqi women's rights" for much more on the subject.

Because many Iraqis resent U.S. intervention, fundamentalist Islamic views continue to spread rapidly throughout Iraq as a form of resistance to westernization. This is bad news for Iraqi women, since Shariah, or Islamic law, grants few rights to women.

Iraq was a secular country before we took it over. The new court sytem looks like it will have a diferent religious court for every different region of Iraq. {Not good for women,imho}

It seems as if we are taking the country apart.

Peace, Mug

Something struck me about the lollipops. If, as you say, though I doubt it, the lollipops represent propaganda/foreign candy, then it is a kind of internalization that reads from one girl to the next. The product being, of course, procreation and domesticity [re: doll]. It is interesting that the thought of writing could bring this about, especially a certain kind of writing--i.e. calligraphic, with an old-fashioned ink. Again, following your read, the body, not the book, is to be written on. And written on in a certain archaic, old-fashioned way.

Now I know that I am leaving you room to maneuver here but, really, what is wrong with encouraging women in Iraq to devote themselves to family, or for that matter, to learning how to write the story of their bodies in a way that is consonant with their tradition? Are the Iraqi women supposed suddenly to become first-world feminists, rejecting the 'archaic' role of domesticity and mother for the project of re-writing themselves into the role of hard-nosed progressive fighter? I doubt it. THe archaic writings of their culture, their belief systems, their very bodies make it doubtful. Who is to say that the new constitution makes women's freedom less possible, given the situation in which it is being composed?

Do you think the Iraqis should be forced to view or to be women according to your understanding? That kind of force would mean, perhaps, more and longer commitment from our troops. Are you ready for that?

So, the promised 'freedom revolution' looks more likely to end up looking like Iran than a Western Democracy. Today is the day scheduled to announce the ratified Constitution, which Rummy assured us last week would be integral in stopping the insurgency. Does the administration REALLY believe all the crap they spew, or are they just praying the US electorate will? Either way, it's freaking sad that their unique brand of total incompetence is now set to push Iraq even further into the abyss of chaos. Sitting up here in Toronto, it's with a deadening sense of acceptance that I understand the Bush cabal WILL NEVER be held accountable for their innumerable disgraces. Iraq is now a nation ripping itself apart at the seams with sectarian violence, political conflict and an incessant overlord that cannot impact any positives in an increasingly no win situation. With the Iraqi government openly courting Teheran, with the Constitution likely to restrict rather than enshrine civil rights, and the endless bloodletting which has ravaged the country, where is the success so often touted by BushCo? Reminds me of Lebanon in the 70's, which took some 20+ years to stabilize, and then only with the iron fist of Syria. Mission accomplished indeed. I can't wait to hear how the delaying of the Constitution is yet more proof that 'democracy and freedom' are flourishing in Baghdad.

Dear RedStateRepublican, under Saddam's administration, brutal though it was, women were attending schools, universities, holding professional jobs as doctors, scientists, teachers. They could go in public without covering their faces. They could get a divorce. They could get medical care. They could vote. They could be seen in public with the opposite sex and not be stoned to death. They had access to birth control.

You sound like Senator Rick Sanatorium with your smarmy, stay-at-home-stay-pregnant views for women as if that's the only really moral choice a woman should have. There is nothing wrong with a woman wanting to stay home to raise a family but it should be a CHOICE.

What you advocate is a return to the Taliban, and you probably would like to see America come up with its own version of oppression of 51% of its population.

The pen is pointing at the bottom left because is read and written right to left. It's our equivalent of the bottom right.

Do you think the Iraqis should be forced to view or to be women according to your understanding? That kind of force would mean, perhaps, more and longer commitment from our troops. Are you ready for that?

Great point.

Do you think the Iraqis should be forced to view or to be women according to your understanding? That kind of force would mean, perhaps, more and longer commitment from our troops. Are you ready for that?

Until we came, they were treated with respect, had rights and freedoms. Now they are losing them because of us. We have caused the enslavement of half a population for a lie. Is it any wonder much of the world hates us?

According to colors (Iraqi flag colors are nowhere to be seen, is nationality lost?, the foreboding is no more "unified" Iraq reality map. Fragmentation agreed on in blind faith or under duress?
Too many symbols of foreign influence and coercion.
The innocence of girls and shyness with a background of propaganda constutition poster. The "solution" empty pages facing the pen in strange coordination do not strike any warm feelings, rather I feel the emptiness of human emotions and greed. Somebody has tried very hard to make it surgically clean.


Ignoring the smack of paternalism that glides from your lips to your fingertips, who says Iraqi women don't want the same human rights granted to their fellow men? Do you know anything of their culture? Do you know anything of Iraqi women and what they want for themselves and their country?

For starters, I'd recommend Nine Parts of Desire: The Hidden World of Islamic Women by Geraldine Brooks. She does an excellent job of interviewing women around the Middle East and uncovering the ways in which the Koran is misinterpreted to subjugate women and deny them basic human rights.

What makes you think that because a woman stays at home she automatically forfeits her right to participate in public life?

Mother, Homemaker, Feminist and "Hard-Nosed Progressive" are all written on MY body ... is it so hard to imagine that one woman could embody those roles and more?

BAG ~ Somewhere there's a lollipop/Lolita/sweet object of desire connection with those pics but it's hiding from me at the moment. Argh.

Susan Murray ~

Houzan Mahmoud has written a lot on Iraqi women's lives under fundamentalist rule. The following article is dated today:

Houzan Mahmoud: Iraq must reject a constitution that enslaves women

what a startling, powerful image! i am overwhelmed with an immediate impression that the pen & book of Fundamentalism dooms these children, by virtue of their gender, to a segregated and entirely dis-enfranchised destiny.

if there is one common kernel of all, Judeo-, Christian-, Islamic- Fundamentalism, it is this obsession with gender, n'est-ce pas ?

from womens' health, education and wealth ~ to the feminine traits of mixed-gender born (homosexual) genetics ~ one thing that all 3 forms of Fundamentalism seem to agree on is that female gender(s) are themselves, property; and have no rights to liberty, intellectual or capital property, thus.

to me, it seems obvious that the key to defeating Fundamentalism is the enfranchisement of women/gender rights, rather than the killing of men.

and interestingly, W's most serious challenge has so far been (Sheehan) the mother he never had; the woman who cared enough about W, to sacrifice her self, to save him.

Oh my goodness, THIS blog is a find. Adding to favorites.

I thought the pen looked more like a knife or dagger, myself...

It appears that the children (Iraq's future women) are being stabbed in the back. I found the image unsettling, at best.

As many others, I also saw the pen as a missile. Democracy rains (reigns?) down on Iraq.

It's curious how Red popped up about the same time AOG departed. AOG is that you? Your previous moniker was more appropriate.


Writing on the left-hand-side of the poster is in arabic -- It reads "We write the constitution. We make the future." Writing on the right is in another language that I'm not familiar with -- I'm going to ask around.

I agree with Susan that ... the pen is not so odd if you think it's in the hand of a person facing you (inside of the poster) and writing. and it's very plausible given the particular tilt of the pen.

The pen is huge though, I mean compared to the book -- the empty book, if I might add. Does it suggest: "we have a lot to say, but we haven't put it down yet"?

My initial thought on the poster was also missiles and violence, but the comment about the pen pointing at the bottom of the page reminded me of something else I read recently:

[ "The Americans say they don't intervene, but they have intervened deep," said Mahmoud Othman, a Kurdish member of the constitution committee who said he met with U.S. officials Thursday and Friday. "They gave us a detailed proposal, almost a full version of a constitution." ]

Sign here, please.

Hey AOG, why not be more obliging and sign or do you mean you're not redstaterepublican who, thank my lucky stars 'leaves room for maneuver' on the question of woman staying in the kitchen? Whatever, the war of civilizations evidently rages on unabated.

The second language must be Kurdish, zoss.

The pen and writing remind me of lightning and the trail of falling stars, fireworks. The fountain pen gives the process a distinguished air, the weighiness of the world of doctors, lawyers and Iraqi millionaires like Ahmed Chalbi, among others, and recalls the scenes of treaties and laws being signed in chandeliered rooms kept clean by world rulers.

The litttle girls gracefully keep each other in balance. The posters are in rigid balance. Everything going on around them is out of balance. This picture is one huge posed distortion of reality geared to evoke visual 20th-century commercial cliches, like the sanpshot of Miss Mushroom Cloud and admirers.


I'm not "redstaterepublican", most particularly because I'm not a member of the Republican Party (I'm actually registered "Libertarian", although I let my official party membership lapse a few years back). Plus, I live in a "blue" state.

But RSR does bring up a two interesting points, although you all seem to have missed them.

First, the concensus here seems to be that we should impose our Western standards of gender relations on Iraq, while not imposing our Western standards of liberal democracy. Why is that? What distinguishes these two cases?

Second, a failure of the push for liberal democracy or the success of the caliphascists in Iraq would result in Taliban / Saudi style oppression of women, yet that failure seems to be the desired result of the same people who complain about the oppression of women from the draft Iraqi constitution. How can those two views be reconciled?

I'm left with two of my own thoughts;

A) It's bad to hurry the constitution but if it is not hurried then it's a quagmire. That's a nice setup for defining any result as a failure.

B) What's wrong with Iraq breaking up? It's a creation of the British Empire in the first place. Shouldn't you all be supporting removing that vestige of European colonialism?

P.S. The reason that the text "creation of the British Empire" looks a little funny is that it is a link to supporting documentation. I know it's an odd habit around here to base comments on facts, but surely you can humor an old man like me.

As for the image itself, the pen is clearly positioned as "almost done" on the page, having nearly finished writing the constitution. The book isn't at the beginning because much has been accomplished already and not at the end because the history of the new Iraq is just starting.

Wow, so now the 'mission' is to remove the vestige of European colonialism? Thanks AOG; might be time to send that one to the geniuses at the White House.


Since you are in the mood of undoing British colonial mistakes, why stop with Iraq? The palestinians are eagerly waiting for US troops to march to undo the creation of the Jewish state. Kashmiris too.

I would really like to know what is written below the book in the tiny writing that we cannot read. Maybe it's not necessary in order to dissect this picture, but I think it would be interesting.

There's something about these cute little girls in this photo that bothers me. Maybe it's that I have a little girl myself and wonder what would be ahead in her life if she was one of the girls in the picture. Of course I'm wondering about her future here in the good ol' US of A, which is disturbing in itself.

Very troubling, indeed.


I'm not in the mood for undoing European colonialism and never said I was. I take it then that you are in favor of maintaining it?


No, I'm actually in favor of empirialists (both old and new) leaving the middle east to its people. I thought you were advocating undoing Europian colonialism when you said: "Shouldn't you all be supporting removing that vestige of European colonialism?"
So if you are not advocating undoing Europian colonialism, then, why bring it up? Or are you just being annoying just as your handle suggests?

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