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Post museum keeping huge bust of Hussein
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The sculpture used to be on The Palace of Four Heads in Baghdad. - photo by Photo by Jen Alexander McCall
You could call Fort Stewart’s possession of a massive metal sculpture of deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein a well-kept secret, but while Fort Stewart Museum staff continue to guide visitors to its outdoor storage space, it isn’t so much a secret as it is an artifact waiting for plans and funding to help speed it to a resting place.
The sculpture, formerly a massive bust of Hussein that once peered over the Green Zone in Iraq from one of four turrets on the “Palace of Four Heads” — officially known as the Republican Palace — was a gift to the 3rd Infantry Division from the Iraqi government and came to the post in pieces after Operation Iraqi Freedom 3 in 2006, according to Fort Stewart museum director Walter Meeks.
“From my understanding, the general idea was to reassemble it and put it on display. But the method of dissassembly [a hasty, harsh plasma-cutting episode] means the assembly would cost money,” Meeks said.
Also challenging is the fact that beneath the bronze patina of the sculpture’s face lies an infrastructure that was crafted from essentially scrap metal, making it likely difficult to work with should reconstruction be considered. Its bronze surface is stable, so it can stay where it is for the indeterminable future, Meeks said.
“As museum curator, my view is the face part is all you need [to preserve]. We could make it a very eloquent artiface in the context of the right exhibit,” he said. “The U.S. Army does not have an opinion on this. It’s waiting on funding and a coherent plan.”
Meeks explained that division leadership have not reached a decision on whether to reassemble it, or where and whether to display it at all. Because it is not officially museum property, curator of collections Scott Daubert said museum staff can only recommend what should be done with the piece; the final decision rests with 3rd ID leaders. “We’re just the caretakers,” Daubert said.
The cultural impact of such a piece could likely play a significant role in any decision regarding the sculpture’s display. Daubert recalled a group of visiting Iraqi officers who took to hitting the face with sticks when they saw it. “We don’t really want to highlight a deposed dictator,” he said.
Nonetheless, the sculpture’s removal is more proof of successful operations against Hussein and his Baath party in the early part of OIF, and Meeks said he believes it has some historical value and that displaying the face alone “speaks more eloquently than when intact.”
Meeks recounted the hundreds of effigies of the former dictator that were scattered throughout the country. “He used every kind of tin-can dictator prop,” he said. “This is indicative of the fact that we put deposed dictators out of business. The last thing dictators want to see is a cloud of dust at the edge of town with the 3rd ID under it.”
Though the final say is out of the hands of museum staff, promising news for the facility and the statue could be on the horizon. Meeks and Daubert say the Army is tracking a need for expanded, updated museum facilities, but “many other military museum projects are in the planning stages,” Meeks said. He and Daubert would also like to see a newer facility built closer to the main gate, to allow for more foot traffic from the public.
Should Fort Stewart receive the funds for a new, larger building, it could open the door to putting the Hussein sculpture on display there. “We’ve got to get a different address before we can address the Saddam statue,” Meeks said.
“There isn’t a museum out there that doesn’t need resources, but it doesn’t happen overnight. With long-term goals and long-term planning, you’ll see long-term results.”
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