Saturday, 24 April 2010

Iraq's symbolic return to the skies

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Ever since 2003, when Saddam Hussein's statue was smothered in an American flag, torn to the ground, and set upon by shoe-wielding Baghdadis, symbolism in Iraq has been dominated by strife and degradation.

The image of an Iraqi man, hooded, standing with arms outstretched as he awaits electrocution in Abu Ghraib. The mugshot of a dishevelled, heavily bearded former tyrant still adapting to sunlight after being rooted out of his bunker in Tikrit. The crumbled dome of Samarra's al-Askari mosque, one of the holiest sites in Shia Islam, smouldering from explosives laid by Sunni insurgents.

It is a testament to the power of symbolism that each of these events, imprinted in the minds of millions around the world, simultaneously caused no injuries and yet precipitated waves of bloodletting that killed hundreds.

But no less powerful is the symbolism of unity...