The Marine whose flag was used to cover the face on the statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad’s Firdos Square before it was toppled at the beginning of the war with Iraq, has refused to lend the memento to the Marines on the 10th anniversary—to the day—of that televised event.
Former Lt. Tim McLaughlin told the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Quantico, Va., that he did not want the flag to be used in propaganda.
"Over the years, I've become more aware of the symbolism that attached to the flag," McLaughlin told Jordan Heller from Salon. "But for me, it doesn't have any of those things—and I don't want it to again."
As described by Salon, the flag was given to McLaughlin by Sen. Chuck Schumer’s office for his aid to victims on 9/11. He brought the flag to Iraq, thinking he'd take a photo of it overseas. Then, his commander asked to borrow it to drape over the head of the Iraqi dictator's statue.
“There was no big intention behind it,” the marine told Salon. “My commander said, ‘Hey, Mac, when you got a moment, we wanna get a picture of your flag with Saddam’s statue.’ As soon as it was done, I walked back to my tank and continued security for the rest of the day.”
The iconic image of the statue being pulled down in front of a crowd went viral—and became a symbol of the early, victorious days of the Iraq War—and later, with no weapons of mass destruction found in the country, a more ambiguous reminder.
For the 35-year-old lawyer, who provides free legal services to homeless and low-income veterans, victory is not what he remembers. “For me it was a period of death and killing people. I don’t like that it facilitated the media’s narrative of wars as neat and tidy things, so that’s why when I got back home I just put it away.”