was one of the names given to the Iraqi Minister of Information
back in March, 2003, during the invasion of Iraq. His real name
is Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf. “Baghdad Bob” is a lot easier to remember.
a fixture of American television because of his optimistic assessments
of the war. There is a web page that
lists dozens of them. Here are some of the choicer examples.
are now in disarray.”
they have refused to do battle with us. They are just going places.”
describe them as a boa: when it feels threatened, it runs to somewhere
missiles do not frighten anyone. We are catching them like fish
in a river.”
No matter what
was taking place on the ground, his upbeat assessments never changed.
Reality did not intrude on him.
I can recall
seeing him interviewed while American tanks were surrounding the
city. He denied that this was taking place.
he disappeared, along with most other Ba’athist Party leaders. The
American public never heard from him again.
As it turned
out, he was arrested by American forces. He was then released. He
now lives in the United Arab Emirates.
He was amusing
at the time. He spoke for a government on the brink of collapse.
Soon, there would be no trace of him or his fellow Ba’athist leaders.
We all knew this was imminent, and we assumed that he knew this,
which made his press interviews so amusing. What would he say next?
What outlandish misrepresentation would he make of what satellite
TV cameras revealed regarding tanks moving toward the city? The
man was so far out of touch with reality that we could hardly believe
it. Every press conference with Western TV reporters was high comedy.
In fact, he
was just a government official doing his job, which was to lie about
events that made his government look bad. He did this more faithfully
than most government officials ever do. There was no verifiable
relationship between what he said and what was happening. Events
in no way affected his official analysis. He offered snow jobs in
In short, he
was not fundamentally different from a White House Press Secretary.
(The fact that President Bush should appoint a man named Snow as
his Press Secretary is something bordering on the bizarre, especially
since his second Secretary of the Treasury was also named Snow.)
BUSH ON IRAQ
I am reminded
of Baghdad Bob every time I see a video extract of one of President
Bush’s speeches on the war in Iraq. He has that same air of confident
determination that Bob had. He has that same willingness to dismiss
contradictory evidence. Here are some examples.
establishment of a democratic constitution is a critical step on
the path to Iraqi self-reliance. Iraqis are taking control of their
country, building a free nation that can govern itself, sustain
itself, and defend itself. And we’re helping Iraqis succeed. We’re
hunting down the terrorists and training the security forces of
a free Iraq so Iraqis can defend their own country. Our approach
can be summed up this way: As Iraqis stand up, we will stand down.
And when that mission of defeating the terrorists in Iraq is complete,
our troops will come home to a proud and grateful nation. (Radio address, Aug. 13, 2005)
spreading the hope of freedom across the broader Middle East,
because free societies are peaceful societies. By offering a hopeful
alternative to the terrorists’ ideology of hatred and fear, we
are laying the foundations of peace for our children and grandchildren.
cannot defeat us on the battlefield. The only way they can win
is if we lose our nerve. That will not happen on my watch. Withdrawing
our troops from Iraq prematurely would betray the Iraqi people,
and would cause others to question America’s commitment to spreading
freedom and winning the war on terror. So we will honor the fallen
by completing the mission for which they gave their lives, and
by doing so we will ensure that freedom and peace prevail. (Ibid.)
have made Iraq a central front in the war on terror. Because of
your service, because of your sacrifice, we are defeating them
there where they live, so we do not have to face them where we
live. (Hoo-ah!) Because of you, the people of Iraq no longer live
in fear of being executed and left in mass graves. Because of
you, freedom is taking root in Iraq. Our success in Iraq will
make America safer, for us and for future generations. (Speech at Ft. Hood, Texas, April 2005)
new government assumes increasing responsibility for the stability
of their country, security operations are entering a new phase.
Iraq security forces are becoming more self-reliant and taking
on greater responsibilities. And that means that America and its
coalition partners are increasingly playing more of a supporting
doing its part to help the Iraqis build a democracy. Our nation
can be proud of what our courageous men and women in uniform have
accomplished in the past three years. Since liberation, our forces
have captured or killed thousands of al Qaeda terrorists and other
enemy fighters; we’ve freed Fallujah and Tal Afar and other Iraqi
cities from the grip of the terrorists and the insurgents; we’ve
trained Iraqi security forces so they increasingly can take the
lead in the fight — and eventually assume responsibility
for the security of their country. (April 10, 2006)
we do will be based upon the conditions on the ground. And whatever
we do will be toward a strategy of victory. And so this is a process
of getting to know the — understand the Iraqi capabilities, particularly
the command and control structure, and what we need to do to help
them achieve victory. (June 12, 2006)
Yet when I
look back on Bob’s other statements regarding America’s mission
in Iraq, I detect a degree of prescience that has been ignored ever
since he disappeared from public view. For instance:
forces are still in control of the city, and they are engaging in
an attrition war with the enemy.”
to engage the world as much as they can and we will continue until
they leave our land.”
try to enter Baghdad, and I think this is where their graveyard
see how the issue will turn out when they come to Baghdad.”
spread them even more and chop them up.”
you lay siege to a whole country? Who is really under siege now?”
achieving nothing, they are suffering from casualties. Those casualties
are increasing, not decreasing.”
everywhere. Don’t give them a chance to breathe until they withdraw
and do jihad.”
seem to bear a much closer relation to today’s military realities
in Iraq than the recent and unchanging assessments by President
Bush concerning the spread of democracy in the Middle East under
the watchful eye of American troops.
is an old saying, “He who laughs last laughs loudest.”
I detect the
faint sound of a chuckle coming from what seems to be the United