Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Anti-American Art: The Mother of All Battles

This stamp was issued in the waning days of Saddam Hussein's regime to mark the tenth anniversary of Umm Al Marik, "the Mother of All Battles," otherwise known as the First Gulf War or Operation Desert Storm, the U.S.-and-allies attack on Iraq in retaliation for its seizure of the Kuwait microstate. The poorly-printed stamp is filled with meaning: a falcon shreds the American flag against a green-shaded outline map of the Arab world; a huge Iraqi flag waves in the background, the one to which "God Is Great" was added, allegedly in Saddam's own handwriting during that first Gulf War. In the background a Palestinian flag waves from the top of the Mosque of Omar, one of the sacred Muslim sites in Jerusalem/Al Quds, generally a symbol for the liberation of Palestine.

Saddam had come to power with the secularist Arab Ba'ath (Renaissance) Socialist Party. When he was backed by the United States in his bloody war against Iran in the 1980s Saddam tried to identify himself with medieval Arab heros who held off Persian invasion. When he came into conflict with the U.S., he painted himself as a defender of the Muslim world began to use much more religious language.

Here's a blustery quote from Saddam on the 7th anniversary of Um al Marik in 1998: "But God, the Most High, is digging pits on the path of the Americans. These pits, covered and dark, may get deeper with the passing of the time when their nervousness and disappointment increase. The Americans will retreat and depart, day after day, from the peak which they think they have reached when they dared to attack the glorious city of Baghdad with their bombs and missiles but the city, nevertheless, has proved to be impregnable to foreign aggression. They should, therefore, re-examine and reconsider what they are doing so that the unjust sanctions imposed on Iraq come to an end. They should also not be misled again or mislead themselves into believing that they can achieve by military aggression what they were unable to achieve by their means of malice, deception and trickery. This is because they have already tested it on several occasions and have thought after or before it that deceit, political deception by means of imposing sanctions and plotting in the dark could lead to their desired aims. The Americans must realize, and this should not be construed as a threat, that as we fought against them and endured their aggression over the past eight years, we have come to know their force and their power for causing harm, in the same manner as we presume they have known the power of the great Iraq and God's protection of it." The whole speech is worth reading for a taste of those long-ago days.

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