by Gary North
"Baghdad Bob" 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.
He became 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.
"Americans are now in disarray."
"Until now they have refused to do battle with us. They are just going places."
"One can describe them as a boa: when it feels threatened, it runs to somewhere else."
"The Cruise 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.
Then, overnight, 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 the desert.
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.)
PRESIDENT 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.
The 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)
We're also 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. (Ibid.)
The terrorists 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.)
The terrorists 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)
As Iraq's 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 role. (Ibid.)
America is 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)
Whatever 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)
BOB'S OTHER ASSESSMENTS
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:
"Iraqi forces are still in control of the city, and they are engaging in an attrition war with the enemy."
"They try to engage the world as much as they can and we will continue until they leave our land."
"They will try to enter Baghdad, and I think this is where their graveyard will be."
"We will see how the issue will turn out when they come to Baghdad."
"Iraq will spread them even more and chop them up."
"How can you lay siege to a whole country? Who is really under siege now?"
"They are achieving nothing, they are suffering from casualties. Those casualties are increasing, not decreasing."
"Fight them everywhere. Don't give them a chance to breathe until they withdraw and retreat."
"Let's go and do jihad."
These statements 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.
There 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 Arab Emirates.
November 8, 2006
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