Iraq war artifact added to British war collection

The Imperial War Museum now includes a car destroyed in a Baghdad suicide bombing during the Iraq war alongside artifacts, symbolizing civilian death tolls and devastation of Iraqi history.

Frederick Deknatel
A salvaged car from a suicide bombing in Baghdad.

• A local, slice-of-life story from a Monitor correspondent.

A car salvaged from a suicide bombing in Baghdad in 2007 now sits in the atrium of the Imperial War Museum, alongside military machinery from the world wars. Its title, “Baghdad, 5 March 2007,” reflects the day it was destroyed when an IED devastated Iraq’s celebrated book market on Mutanabi Street, the capital’s intellectual hub. Nobody claimed responsibility for the attack that killed 38, wounded more than 100, and demolished Ottoman-era buildings.

The surge of American troops into Baghdad had begun three weeks before the attack.

The area has been a center of literary trade since the time of the Abbasids, nearly a thousand years ago. The rebuilt market reopened in 2008, but without cars and with fewer bookstalls.

In London, beside polished German tanks and Allied airplanes, the flattened, rust-colored chassis is a jarring artifact of contemporary war. At the start of the 20th century, a placard reads, 10 percent of war casualties were civilians. Today the figure is 90 percent. At the time of the attack, 90 Iraqi civilians were being killed daily.

Jeremy Deller, the artist who installed it, previously traveled America with the car on the back of a trailer in an exhibit called “It Is What It Is,” intended to spark dialogue about the war. A Dutch curator took the car out of Iraq in 2007 for an antiwar event in the Netherlands.

Mr. Deller insists the car is not a work of art but an exhibit meant to signify the massive increase in the targeting of civilians in combat. The car also represents the war’s toll on Iraq’s literary culture. Twenty-five percent of the books in the National Library have either been stolen or burned, according to a placard. Sixty percent of the Library’s archives are now gone.

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