Why we love the Iraqi information minister

During the conflict in Iraq, both sides of the war were prone to, well … exaggerate the truth for propaganda purposes. None of it was effective for more than a day or so though as in today’s world of media over-saturation, it’s hard to distort the truth when any person with access to a computer is a potential journalist. But that didn’t stop either side from trying. The United States slightly exaggerated the plight of Jessica Lynch to make her look more heroic than she actually was, thus sparing the writers of her NBC made-for-TV movie that laboring task. The Iraqis, however, seemed to make lying about the war an art form.

Perhaps the best example of this is former Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf. While as of my writing, this obscenely optimistic official had completely disappeared.

However, his memory remains on the Internet in the form of a Web site launched last Tuesday: http://www.welovetheiraqiinformationminister.com/. At first glance, the domain name might imply it was a pro-Iraq Web site. It’s not.

To quote the Web site, “This site is a coalition effort of bloodthirsty hawks and ineffectual doves united in admiration for Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, Iraqi Minister of Information (currently on administrative leave).”

In case you have been sick of watching the war and have no idea who this man is or why we care about him, here’s a quick summary; as our troops began to lay siege to Baghdad, with the sounds of missiles exploding in the background, he claimed, among other things, that, “They fled. The American louts fled.

Indeed, concerning the fighting waged by the heroes of the Arab Socialist Baath Party yesterday, one amazing thing really is the cowardice of the American soldiers. We had not anticipated this.” Americans (as well as other people around the world, including Iraqi supporters) responded by asking themselves and others, “What war is he talking about?” This Web site is a collection of his more outrageous quotes, including one where he claimed the coalition was placing bombs shaped like pencils in Iraq. It also features some humorous doctored photographs and other made up quotes about his other victories through out history, from his victory with Napoleon at Waterloo, to his victory at the Death Star where he claims “The Death Star is secure. There is no rebel attack. Truly I can say there are, in fact, no rebels anywhere. The Emperor, praise Allah, will rule a thousand years. Also — they are committing suicide, if there were rebels which there are not. Lies!” One of the catch phrases that has been floating around lately is “Shock and Awe,” and Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf was more than happy to provide us with it. Shocked that he’d make such outrageous claims as, “Iraq will not be defeated. Iraq has now already achieved victory — apart from some technicalities” or “There are no American infidels in Baghdad. Never!” and awe that this man could have such convictions in such absurd statements. For an Information Minister, his quotes sound more like a story from TheOnion.com or DailyProbe.com than a serious government official. Al-Sahaf instills awe in another way as well. His unwavering stance on his beliefs that he is right while unintentionally amusing is, dare I say, admirable. I guess I’m not the only one who thinks so because as of Friday http://www.welovetheiraqiinformationminister.com/ had been knocked offline because of so much traffic. Don’t worry, it’s back now so you can still buy your “God will roast their stomachs in hell” BBQ apron. His grand exaggerations and unwillingness to budge in the face of the opposition is a quality that’s … well, downright American. If stubbornness isn’t a truly American trait, I don’t know what is. So maybe we haven’t won the hearts of all Iraqis, but it looks like we won the heart of at least this one.