|Nobody laughs at Baghdad Bob any more|
Saturday-Monday, August 2-4, 2008
When I began to work at Radio Netherlands in its English section in 1981 as a broadcaster/interviewer/news writer, I received training from a master, Hans Kramer. He quickly turned my American delivery into a more international style.
His tips on interviewing have lasted with me for almost three decades: never ask a question that can be answered by “yes,” or “no:” never make a statement, only ask questions: except for your first and last questions, never have any written down: and others.
When he discussed news writing, he stressed the virtues of brevity and accuracy. Then he stated, “And never use the word ‘terrorist.’ One man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter.”
At the time, I rarely wrote news that would border on this issue, but the statement remained with me. Today, however, the word “terrorist” is bandied about with frequency: mostly in the wrong context.
In Iraq, a resistance is in full swing. The resistance is being conducted against an occupying force, therefore, every time the word “terrorist” is used by U.S. administration officials, or by Iraqi stooges, the word is in error.
Some news agencies have softened the word by calling the resistance an “insurgency.” Again, this is false. An insurgency is an uprising against a legal entity. The current Iraqi government is illegal and those in the real government have been murdered or are in prison. Therefore, the resistance fighters in Iraq are definitely not part of an insurgency.
Let’s look at occupied France of World War II. The resistance was trying to make things difficult for the German occupiers. After the war, they were considered heroes by the U.S. who, to this day, have not failed to consistently remind France that it was American troops who helped liberate the country as well.
If we use the same logic, how can the U.S. be considered liberators of Iraq? In reality, they are the same occupiers as were the Germans of France in World War II. The only difference is that Germany did not destroy as much of France as the U.S. has in Iraq.
Therefore, the Iraqi resistance fighters are the heroes. They are trying to oust an occupying force.
The U.S. media have things backwards because they use the same terminology as the administration. They mention the “bad guys” when discussing the resistance and most U.S. citizens have fallen in line. A simple method of portraying the truth is by merely reversing the words of “bad guys” to “good guys.” This 180-degree change would then be indicative of a more truthful look at current Iraq.
Iraq has been resisting since 1991, but it was not until U.S. troops were on its soil that the resistance took on its current form. The first Gulf War killed about 250,000 Iraqis, but the killing did not stop with the 1991 cease-fire. From March 1991 to March 2003, about two million Iraqis were given a premature grave because of the illegal embargo placed on it.
Most people do not remember the bogus “no-fly zones” set up by the U.S. During the embargo years, about 850 Iraqis were killed by the antics of U.S. pilots flying over Iraq, with a few thousand more injured.
During the those years, a few proclamations were floated to the Iraqi government. One, in particular, said that if Saddam Hussein signed the document, the embargo would be lifted and he would be re-packaged by the U.S. as a man of peace, similar to the transition of Col. Ghadaffi from a terrorist to a “good Arab.”
The document called for Iraq to hand over its oil production to the U.S. and allow a few huge U.S. military bases to be constructed in the country. Saddam and associates refused to sign. In mentioning this approach to him, as well as other occurrences in Iraq at the time, Saddam Hussein stated, “Iraq has been put in a situation in which it has to choose between sacrifice and slavery.”
Today’s Iraq is in the same quandary. Some collaborators have chosen slavery. They do not realize that by cooperating with the U.S. occupier, the country’s fate has been sealed for decades.
The resistance has taken the sacrifice route. The members have sacrificed their own careers and family ties to ensure that Iraq does not fall into total slavery.
When Saddam Hussein stated that “the mother of all battles has begun” on January 17, 1991, he was ridiculed. He knew his military would not be able to fare well against the U.S., but it was a stance that someone had to take in fighting imperialism. He also knew that this was only the beginning of a long struggle that could last for years or decades.
From January 17, 1991, to April 9, 2003, Iraq resisted, but not in a way that was greatly visible. It lost many people with little loss of life for the opposition.
On April 8, 2003, the Iraqi Information Minister, Mohammed Sahaff was giving his daily report to the world. He was known as Baghdad Bob and held a worldwide audience because of his colorful statements in English and Arabic.
Sahaff was telling the audience how the U.S. troops were going to be bogged down in Iraq. One reporter shouted, “Look, the Americans are already in Baghdad.” Sahaff turned around to see a U.S. tank about 200 meters in the distance. He took the microphone and said:
Do not be hasty because your disappointments will be huge … You will reap nothing from this aggressive war, which you launched on Iraq, except for disgrace and defeat … We will embroil them, confuse them, and keep them in the quagmire … They cannot just enter a country of 26 million people and lay besiege to them. They are the ones who will find themselves under siege.
He walked away, never again to be seen in public.
For the next few months, websites sprung up laughing at Sahaff and his last statement in particular. T-shirts and coffee mugs were made mocking his statement.
Sahaff went to the U.S. authorities and they laughed at him, not taking him prisoner. This, in essence, was a statement meaning, “You’re not even worth capturing.”
A few months later, while being interviewed in the U.A.E., where he relocated, a reporter asked Sahaff about his last statement. At the time, the resistance was in its formative stages, but not as active as today. Sahaff refused to take back the statement and said, “Let history speak about this matter.”
Today, the resistance is solid and every day we read or hear about another plan to placate the Iraqis. Plans change, but the effectiveness of the resistance does not.
Today, when one looks back at Sahaff’s statement, nobody seems to be laughing anymore.