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Oct 26, 2005

A View Of The Square





Reading the NYT front page story yesterday about the car bombings in Baghdad at the Palestine and Sheraton hotels, I just didn't imagine it that large.  It wasn't until I saw the pictures that the scale really came home to me.

In the article, however, The Times also made a point of emphasizing the symbolism of this attack, explaining how Firdos Square ( as photographed from the balcony of the Palestine) has been one of the primary windows through which the world has observed the war.

(Larger version available at NYT story here.)

More than the aerial view of the explosions, what seemed more fateful to me was this image of The 14th of Ramadan Mosque The Times ran on-line.

(If you check the photo caption, the mosque is not referred to specifically. In general, however, it is hardly ever mentioned and even more rarely named.)

Talking Head

Thinking about the mosque, I began wondering: What have been the more notable scenes in this setting (beyond the repeated view of talking heads from the days of "shock and awe")?


The backdrop marked the last hurrah for Peter Arnett (the star of Gulf War 1) before he was fired by NBC for telling Iraqi television that the U.S. war plan against Saddam Hussein had failed.


On April 7, 2003, the Palestine, itself, came under attack from a U.S. tank which was supposedly retaliating against rooftop snipers. One cameraman was killed.


On April 9th 2003, the square's statue of Saddam Hussein was pulled down in a staged  demonstration orchestrated by the U.S. military.


And on April 9, 2005 (as on many occasions), the square become been a rallying point to oppose America's presence in Iraq, as well as the greater Middle East.

This might sound callous, but I can't help thinking the guys fighting us have got their own Karl Rove. (Of course, he probably doesn't have to work as hard given the tendency to do ourselves in.)

(images 1-4: Reuters Pool. October 24, 2005. Firdos Square, Baghdad. Via YahooNews. image 5: Scott Nelson/World Picture News, for The New York Times. Firdos Square, Baghdad. October 25, 2005. image 6: unattributed. Firdos Square, Baghdad. Via GeekTimes (link);  image 7: Reuters.  March 26, 2003. Via GeekTimes (link); image 8: CBS Webcam. April 7, 2003. Palestine Hotel, Baghdad. Via GeekTimes (link). image 9: image 10: unattributed. April 9, 2005.Firdos Square, Baghdad. Christian Peacemaker Teams.


In the sequence of photos at the top of the posting, the explosion resembles a mushroom cloud. Isn't the Administration thinking about "preemptive" nuclear strikes in either Syria or Iran? The White House will need to create a dramatic distraction to keep Americans from being drawn into the Plame affair.

News organizations have turned the Ramadan Mosque into a background prop. This beautiful building and the spiritual values it represents have been relegated to the background.

In the lead-up to the Iraq invasion, I was over at The Agonist continuously. It was amazing; we somehow how three different feeds from atop the Palestine Hotel and the backdrop was that beautiful mosque. [We worried that it would be bombed.] There were all kinds of journalists: Italian, Japanese, Australian, German, as well as all the Americans. CNN even had a live feeds for quite awhile with Wolf in Kuwait and atop the Palestine as well.

300mm Is Never Enough

If they weren't there, we wouldn't be here.

I've recreated this part and others of Baghdad in 3D, not accurate geographically, and the thing I discovered is that at the time of the war there was actually not much photography of Baghdad on the web. I used source material by photojournalists, recreating the buildings in their images as precisely as I could.

The similar view, same aspect of the mosque even, is Very Remarkable.

well remarked!

Interesting how the background changes meaning in its context given by the foreground. The opposite of what one would expect

Nice series, BAG.

The 14th of Ramadan Mosque images are reminiscent of St. Paul's Cathedral during the London Blitz. What a shame that beautiful architecture is first seen by many in images of war.

There's more on Baghdad mosques at Global Security, including an April 9th, 2003 satellite image of Firdos Square.

Chris Albritton, a journalist in Bagdhad, describes the Palestine hotel bombing as experienced nearby and follows up with the news that the attackers aimed at a US security company. His description gave me a more vivid sense of how frightening this was than any of the pictures.

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