Saturday, June 10, 2006

Rumsfeld in oil

I missed this! Donald Rumsfeld is the subject of an illuminating painting by Iraqi artist, Muayad Muhsin. In fact, the painting is expected to become the centerpiece of an art exhibition in Baghdad this coming Monday.

Muayad Muhsin was both inspired and enraged by a photo of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld slumped on an airplane seat with his army boots up in front of him.

“It symbolized America’s soulless might and arrogance,” said Muhsin, whose similar painting of Rumsfeld will be unveiled in an exhibition opening in Baghdad on Monday.

The painting, expected to be the show’s main attraction, and the rest of the exhibit illustrate the simmering anger of Iraqis with the United States as the country continues to endure violence, sectarian tensions and crime three years after Saddam Hussein’s ouster.

Muhsin’s Rumsfeld painting is not the first artistic expression by Iraqis of the perceived injustices by the United States in their country, but it’s the first to depict a top member of the Bush administration. After President Bush, most Iraqis see Rumsfeld as the man behind the invasion of their oil-rich country and the chief architect of U.S. military actions in Iraq.


The oil-on-canvas, 5-by-3-foot work shows Rumsfeld in a blue jacket, tie, khaki pants and army boots reading from briefing papers. His boots are resting on what appears to be an ancient stone.

While Rumsfeld’s image is true to life, he sits next to a partially damaged statue of a lion standing over a human — a traditional image of strength during the ancient Babylon civilization. The statue’s stone base is ripped open, revealing shelves from which white piece of papers are flying away, later turning into birds soaring high into an ominously gray sky.

Muhsin said the symbolism has to do with Washington’s repeated assertions in the months before the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq that Saddam’s regime had weapons of mass destruction, the cornerstone in the Bush administration’s argument for going to war.


“Rumsfeld’s boots deliver a message from America: ‘We rule the world,”’ Muhsin, 41, told The Associated Press in an interview. “It speaks of America’s total indifference to what the rest of the world thinks.”

Muhsin said he signed the painting in the middle, instead of the customary bottom corner, to avoid having it under Rumsfeld’s boots.


“Saddam took the best years of my life,” he lamented, speaking outside a store room where he keeps four of the 15 paintings scheduled for display.

The departure of Saddam’s regime did not improve things, he said.

“The Americans brought us rosy dreams but left us with nightmares, they came with a broad smile but gave us beheaded bodies and booby-trapped car.”
Somehow I think Rumsfeld had a different type of "oil" in mind when he and the Bush administration started the war in Iraq.

Image from AP.

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