Egged on by their BBC interviewers, a number of pundits and Iraqi exiles have been criticising the use of the American flag as an “execution hood” over the statute of Saddam. It was “inappropriate” and it “should not have been done”. Voiceover commentary on News 24, as I type this article, added “Better judgement prevailed and the flag was removed”.
To me, there seem to be three immediately obvious polite answers to such criticism:
- The Iraqi crowd cheered when the US flag was raised. Rageh Omah, BBC reporter on the spot, could not hear the sonorous commentary in the studio, and made the possibly career-limiting mistake of answering the question “How is the crowd reacting to the American flag?” with the simple truth. This answer has obviously not been repeated in evening bulletins.
- The U.S. flag was raised by an over-exuberant marine, and removed within minutes when seen by a commanding officer. This was no indicator of imperialist policy, quite the opposite. Conquering armies rape and pillage, the Americans leant the use of their M-88 Armored Recovery Vehicle to a celebrating crowd.
- The flag was not raised over a public building or other centre of power. It was attached to a symbol of the old regime that was about to be destroyed. If you insist on reading undue symbolism into this, then the message would be not “America rules the roost now” but “America delivered you from the tyrant whose statue you are destroying”.
But the overwhelmingly obvious response is not so polite: I’m just glad the Iraqi people in the street aren’t such ungrateful SOBs!