In 2009, Time magazine looks back at the fall of Saddam Hussein’s statue the middle of Baghdad: “While the advisability of the U.S. invasion of Iraq will long be a matter of debate, the overthrow of one of the world’s most notorious dictators was inarguably a moment of jubilation for many Iraqis. On April 9, 2003, as U.S. troops moved into Baghdad, Iraqi citizens slipped a noose around the neck of a statue of Saddam Hussein in Firdos Square and dragged it from its plinth, with the assistance of a detachment of U.S. Marines and their armored vehicle. The towering statue subsequently beheaded and dragged through the streets. The effusive demonstration was a stunning symbol of the nation’s liberation from Saddam’s brutal regime.”
The magazine was partially wrong. A year after the events, amidst the allegations that the event was staged, U.S. Army confirmed that the toppling was stage-managed by American troops and not a spontaneous reaction by Iraqis. A Marine colonel first decided to topple the statue, and an Army psychological operations unit turned the event into a propaganda moment (see pictures taken of the entire proceeding). At one point, Marines draped the statue of Saddam Hussein with an American flag. When the crowd reacted negatively to that gesture, the US flag was replaced with a pre-1990 Iraqi flag, missing the words “God is Great”. Then, the Marines brought in cheering Iraqi children in order to make the scene appear authentic, the Army report said.
Above is the photo taken by Patrick Baz for AFP/Getty. However, Reuter’s aerial photos showed Fardus Square empty save for the U.S. Marines, the Press, and a handful of Iraqis. There were no more than 200 people in the square, which had been sealed off and guarded by tanks.