March 19, 2013 marks the 10th anniversary of the U.S. war against Iraq. To commemorate the somber occasion I am presenting fifteen separate articles pertaining to the Iraq war that I wrote for this web log from 2004 to 2009, starting with the earliest post and ending with the most recent. Each piece discusses individual or cooperative artistic responses to the imperial war… all writings express this artist’s disdain for the war and its instigators.
On March 19, 2003 the U.S. government, without a declaration of war, launched an unprovoked war and invasion against Iraq under the pretense that Iraq possessed “weapons of mass destruction”.
The battle started under the name of “Operation Iraqi Liberation” (OIL), until the campaign’s instructive name became an embarrassment and was quickly changed to “Operation Iraqi Freedom”. International opposition to the war was overwhelming from the start.
Just prior to the then-looming war, upwards of thirty million people in sixty different countries staged massive coordinated demonstrations on February 15, 2003. Anti-war rallies took place in at least 225 U.S. cities and towns. In my own city of Los Angeles, some 100,000 people marched down Hollywood Boulevard in protest of the imminent war.
And what was the price paid for this imperial hubris? Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians were killed or wounded, and various reports say the dead could number as low as 150,000 or as high as million. Certainly the nation of Iraq has been completely devastated and its people remain overwhelmed by daily bombings, assassinations, repression, sectarian violence and ethnic cleansing. As of this writing over 32,000 U.S. soldiers have been wounded in the war, and almost 5,000 have been killed. A study released on March 14, 2013 by the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University, placed the financial cost of the war at $2.2 trillion. The human and monetary costs of the Iraq war are incalculable, and they will no doubt haunt U.S. society for decades to come.
Where Have All The Flowers Gone? - November 27, 2004
“The TV news shows the grieving family of the fallen hero at graveside, beside themselves with sorrow. The mother is screaming and wailing in Spanish. Later the brothers and sister of the deceased soldier are shown sitting on the couch in their tiny living room… silent and brokenhearted.”
Apolitical Artists: “War? What War?” - January 4, 2005
“In Artnet Magazine’s year end report, The 2004 Revue, editor Walter Robinson unconsciously laid bare everything that’s wrong with the art world.”
Mesopotamia Endangered - February 4, 2005
“When the US Army captured Iraq’s capital of Baghdad in April of 2003, people around the world were shocked by the whirlwind of looting that followed in the wake of ‘liberation.’ Quick to seize and guard Iraq’s Oil Ministry, US forces left other government buildings unprotected and open to pillage by throngs of impoverished Iraqis. The country’s art and history museums were ransacked by looters, who stripped the institutions of their treasures and destroyed what could not be carried off.”
Fernando Botero Paints Abu Ghraib - April 13, 2005
“(….) a suite of 50 large oil paintings depicting the horrors perpetrated by Americans at Iraq’s infamous Abu Ghraib prison.”
A Nightmare Hall of Mirrors - June 14, 2005
“The artwork asked a question that no one could answer - ‘for how long does the war grind on and how many will be sacrificed?’”
An Abstract Expression of Horror - February 16, 2006
“No doubt Pollock would be appalled by the new school of ‘Action Painting’ founded at Abu Ghraib prison, and while Pollock had to suffer being called ‘Jack the Dripper’ by a hostile press - that was the only torment he was subjected to. Today’s anonymous American ‘Dripper’ working at the infamous Iraqi prison, left us a magnum opus installation piece composed of found objects, human body fluids and blood - materials not unfamiliar to some postmodern conceptual artists.”
An Iraqi artist paints Donald Rumsfeld - June 8, 2006
“The Iraqi surrealist painter, Muayad Muhsin, has painted a rather unflattering portrait of U.S. Defense Secretary, Donald H. Rumsfeld. Muhsin’s surrealism is not informed by dreams and the unconsciousness mind, but by the horrors and barbarity of war.”
The General’s war a work of art - November 4, 2006
“Major General William Caldwell, a senior commander of U.S. forces in occupied Iraq, compared the war in that country to a work of art in progress. At a weekly briefing in Baghdad, Caldwell addressed the violence now spiraling out of control, which includes the rising U.S. casualties (2,828 dead at the time of this writing), by saying, ‘Every great work of art goes through messy phases while it is in transition. A lump of clay can become a sculpture, blobs of paint become paintings which inspire.’”
SHAMS: Rock the Casbah - February 7, 2007
“Shams (Arabic for ‘Sun’) is a popular female Kuwaiti singer who has just released a controversial song titled, Ahlan Ezayak (or ‘Hi! How are you!’) Accompanied by a slick MTV-like video that lambastes George W. Bush and his occupation of Iraq, the song has become all the rage in the Middle East.”
Bringing the War Home: House Beautiful - February 14, 2007
“Who is the enemy? Who is innocent? Who shall be absolved of guilt and responsibility in times of war?”
LA vs. War - April 6, 2008
“In the words of the organizers, the show will be ‘an unprecedented gathering of artists united to deliver a message of peace, and offering resistance and opposition to war and violence.’”
Modern Painters: Art & War - April 22, 2008
(….) devoted to ‘the politically driven art made in response to war and its critical reception.’”
War & Empire Opening in San Francisco - September 13, 2008
“A group exhibition that has as its theme the state of democracy in the U.S. - as well as the continuing military occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.”
More Art Less War! - February 19, 2009
Ah yes, the Noble Peace Prize winning antiwar president.
LACMA & BP’s Iraqi Oil Fields - July 2, 2009
“With BP now in charge of exploiting Iraq’s largest oil field, LACMA’s rationalizing taking money from a company committed ‘to sustainable energy’ is as threadbare as the reasons behind the continuing U.S. military occupation of Iraq.”