BOB GARFIELD: We may have to start rewriting our own early drafts. Here's a commentary we broadcast the week Saddam's statue was pulled off of its pedestal. [TAPE PLAYS]
BROOKE GLADSTONE: The TV coverage of the war in Iraq has given us a rare chance to see how the first draft of history is edited.
WOMAN: We've been watching this now for over 50 minutes. They started throwing shoes at the statue and then brought in some of this other equipment in an attempt to, to take it down.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: For many, there was vindication in the toppling of the statue, even if it took some time and ultimately an American tank to finish the job.
WOMAN: Yeah, I was wondering how long it was going to take to get some help from a machine here, because these Iraqis have been trying to bring this statue down for almost an hour. [BOTH SPEAK AT ONCE]
MAN: Close to an hour.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: In the first draft, the square looked a bit less crowded; the people a little more tentative; the Marines a little too present for an entirely spontaneous, entirely Iraqi demonstration of liberation.
WOMAN: And again, here you have the Marine up there--what is he doing? Oh, there we got it. [BOTH SPEAK AT ONCE]
WOMAN: He's unfurling an American flag.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: But in the second draft, a drawn out affair has been accelerated -- focused tight on Iraqi celebration as Saddam's iron head is dragged through the street. The image plays endlessly on cable news channels at the end of segments and before the commercials.
MAN: The fall of that statue in Baghdad, the president said, marked the end of a nightmare for the Iraqi people and the start of a new day of freedom.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: It is now and probably forever the iconic image of Iraqi liberation, and not necessarily a false one. There were, after all, statues toppled without American help in other squares. There was rejoicing. Absent the messiness of the actual event, the edited version serves up America's best hopes for this war. It reminds me of the most-reproduced photograph in history -- that of the Marine hoisting the flag at Iwo Jima. That picture, we now know, was not of the original triumphant moment, but of the raising of a second, larger flag. And though photographer Joe Rosenthal never concealed the origins of that photo, later it was condemned as staged. Rosenthal's six Marines may not have been the first to raise the flag, but they were heroes too. Three of them never returned from the war. A staged event, it seems, can sometimes show a larger truth. But history must make that determination, so we may not know for years if the prettified version of the fallen statue now flashing before us presents an accurate reflection of the outcome of this war or a funhouse mirror image of what we only wish were true. [MUSIC]