The Archaeology of a Regime

The fall of a dictator starts from his portraits

In the spring of 2003, while the Iraqi army was in flight and the US president George W. Bush was readying to declare victory, portraits of deposed leader Saddam Hussein, who had ruled for exactly 40 years, continued to gaze down over Baghdad and its inhabitants as well as every village from Basra to Kurdistan. On every street corner, in every square, on the façade of every public building – Saddam holding a rifle, Saddam riding a horse on parade, Saddam in the traditional costume of a Tikriti prince, Saddam at prayer, Saddam in military uniform.

These portraits of Saddam now had bullet holes shot into Saddam’s teeth, beards spray-painted onto them and even slippers nailed on to the image of the Saddam’s face. A few months later, the dictator that had dominated the country by wielding absolute power was captured; he was later executed in 2006. Today those portraits exist no more, these images are the last traces of a regime that has disappeared forever: an album of memories of an Iraq that no longer exists.

( 2003 )