Clarissa's Middle East Diary: Friday, February 23

Photoessay: Clarissa's Travels

Friday, February 23, 12:11 p.m.

There’s a rumor going around that the Iraqi government is going to tear down the "Hands of Victory" monument that Saddam Hussein had built after the Iran/Iraq war.

It’s not the world’s prettiest monument by any stretch of the imagination, but it is certainly a landmark and a piece of Iraqi history. If they do tear it down, it is bound to rile a lot of Sunnis and former Baathists, and further contribute to sectarian tensions, which are already at a high.

I read an article on the possible demolition, from a U.S. soldier's point of view. He had a great response to the situation, quoting George Santayana’s famous line, "those who forget history are destined to repeat it." I was in the Green Zone this morning and stopped to take some pictures while the swords are still there.

Back at the bureau, we were issued gas masks and told what to do in case of a gas explosion. There have been three attacks in the last month involving the use of chlorine gas. In high concentrations, chlorine mixes with moisture in your eyeballs and respiratory tracts, and forms a pungent acid that then eats away at the tissue. Not a nice way to go. The first thing to do if you see a yellow/green cloud of gas, or if people around you are choking, is to stop breathing immediately and then run to your mask.

The masks are intensely claustrophobic and very fiddly to get on and off. I kept pulling chunks of my hair out and I never managed to hold my breath before the mask was secured. I am hoping that I will get better with some practice.

Clarissa Ward is a reporter based out of Beirut, Lebanon. She has reported for the FOX News Channel from Beirut and Baghdad, covering stories such as Saddam's execution and the current unrest in Lebanon.