Guernica did have a certain reputation, as a town, before it was immortalized by Pablo Picasso. It was the historic capital of the Basques of Spain, and its famous oak tree was the spot where Spanish monarchs took an oath to protect Basque liberties. Its destruction from the air by German aircraft allied with Gen. Franco was considered not just an atrocity in itself, but a warning of a future Nazi blitzkrieg against Europe, and this is the potency that the painting still possesses, even if you agree with the Marxist and Third-Worldist art critic John Berger, in his The Success and Failure of Picasso, that it was one of the master's crudest works.
Abu Ghraib was by no means celebrated as an ancestral civic and cultural center before the year 2004. To the Iraqis, it was a name to be mentioned in whispers, if at all, as "the house of the end." It was a Dachau. Numberless people were consigned there and were never heard of again. Its execution shed worked overtime, as did its torturers, and we are still trying to discover how many Iraqis and Kurds died in its precincts. At one point, when it suffered even more than usual from chronic overcrowding, Saddam and his sons decided to execute a proportion of the inmates at random, just to cull the population. The warders then fanned out at night to visit the families of the prisoners, asking how much it would be worth to keep their son or brother or father off the list. The hands of prisoners were cut off, and the proceedings recorded on video for the delight of others. I myself became certain that Saddam had reached his fin de régime, or his Ceauşescu moment, when he celebrated his 100-percent win in the "referendum" of 2003 by releasing all the nonpolitical prisoners (the rapists and thieves and murderers who were his natural constituency) from Abu Ghraib. This sudden flood of ex-cons was a large factor in the horrific looting and mayhem that accompanied the fall of Baghdad.
Excellent reading. Link from Roger Simon.