Today, after nearly 8 months here, I finally got the chance to visit this famous landmark in Iraq --
This monument seems to have many names: The Victory Arch, Swords of Qādisīyah, The Hands of Victory, but around here, it's most commonly known as The Crossed Swords. After my meeting in the IZ ended today a little earlier than expected, we finally got a chance to go down the road so that I could get a view of these myself, and cross another item off the list of things to see in Baghdad.
Commissioned in 1986, these arches were to commemorate Iraq's victory in the Iran-Iraq war. The war didn't end, however, for two more years. There are two sets of crossed swords, each pair located at either end of a parade ground near where the Museum of Gifts to the President once stood, near the Presidential Complex, along with the reviewing stand where Saddam would view the Republican Guard; where he was seen in those infamous images firing a rifle into the air. As we drove back, I also noticed that we passed the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which, if I were allowed to see it at night, sounds like it looks pretty cool.
According to Wikipedia, the blades are made of stainless steel and weigh 24 tons each. Our security team told me today that they were made from the guns and tanks of the dead from the war.
An interesting fact is that all of the hands are right hands. The sculptor took impressions of Saddam's right hand and forearm, and cast them in bronze to use as the basis of the monument. When the original sculptor died, I read that his replacement also added an impression of Saddam's thumbprint onto the casts.
One thing that you can't see is just underneath the swords: there are a bunch of military helmets (now painted yellow) that are supposedly those of Iranian soldiers. Though this monument is just one of many representing the grotesque narcissism of Saddam Hussein, it's still a testament to Iraq's history - both of the Iran- Iraq war, and to the time of Saddam. The historian in me is glad that the 2007 efforts to dismantle the monument were unsuccessful, and that the swords remain a place that you can visit (sort of).