Is It Cake Yet?
A man's home is his castle? Not if he's Saddam Hussein. Coalition forces have sauntered into Baghdad and taken control of two of Saddam Hussein's presidential palaces, Reuters reports. "I do believe this city is freakin' ours," the New York Post quotes Capt. Chris Carter of Watkinsville, Ga., as saying at one of the palaces. The Post notes that some American soldiers "said they planned to enjoy a shower in Saddam's palace." So much for the Baath Party.
Although "embedded" TV crews have provided extensive footage of the move on Baghdad, as well as last week's capture of Baghdad International Airport (né Saddam International), Iraq's "information minister," Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, in which CNN dryly calls "an apparent show of defiance," is insisting none of it is happening. The BBC has the transcript of one of his statements:
There are no American infidels in Baghdad. Never! . . . As President Saddam Hussein said: God will roast their stomachs in hell at the hands of Iraqis. . . . Their infidels are committing suicide in their hundreds under the walls of Baghdad. The battle was fierce and God granted his soldiers victory. He granted heroic Iraqis victory. The battle is continuing on the main fronts. Be reassured, Baghdad is safe, fortified and great.
He goes on to complain about the footage of a VIP lounge at the airport: "Instead of showing the tragedy of their soldiers, they speak about a lounge--does a lounge represent the dignity of a people?" Anti-American polemicist Robert Fisk echoes the claim that the coalition isn't at the airport.
Sahaf is starting to remind us of the Flat Earth Society, the folks who think the moon landing was a Hollywood hoax. Or maybe Scrappleface.com has it right. It "reports" that coalition troops "have discovered a massive cache of the chemical agent lysergic acid diethylamide." It "quotes" Sahaf as saying that using the chemical, also know as LSD, "helps him to see Abrams tanks as gentle lavender camels and Bradley fighting vehicles as enormous pansies and petunias."
Reuters quotes one Abdul-Aziz, "a Saudi writer who would not give his last name," as saying: "Sahaf is vulgar but he is a brave liar. . . . If the rest of the Iraqi government or army were this brave, they would inflict many more losses on U.S. and British forces."
Not everyone on the Arab street is as realistic. An Associated Press dispatch from Riyadh quotes a Saudi accounting instructor: "How can we know this is for real and not just coalition propaganda?" And in Cairo, "the news made some more determined to join the fight in a jihad, or holy war, alongside the Iraqis":
Another volunteer, Abdelfattah, 41, a worker in a regional city council, said the reports were "all lies."
"It is a psychological war," said Abdelfattah. "If it is true, then it is only a military strategy, to lure the American forces into a trap."
So it turns out denial is a river in Egypt after all.
Scenes From the Liberation
See if you can read this, from an Associated Press Nasiriyah dispatch, without choking up:
Lance Cpl. Brian Cole, 20, of Kansas City, Kan., was bowled over by the 7-year-old girl who handed him a Christmas card with this painstakingly written text: "Thank you for liberate us. And thank you for help us. You are a great army."
"That made my day, after sitting out in the heat all day. It made it seem worthwhile," said Cole.
The Guardian reports from Basra on another letter of liberation:
As one British tank approached the centre of the city, a young Iraqi handed a letter to the crew written in red ink on the pages of an exercise book. In broken English, it read: "I cannot describe how great and human the action you are achieving is. Since we are the inhabitants of this city, we may know better than you about the progress you have achieved."
And the Washington Post reports from Karbala:
A gathering of senior Army officers on Highway 9 in the city late this afternoon drew an upbeat crowd of more than 100, who alternated expressions of appreciation with petitions for help. Among the shouts from the crowd:
"Thank you very much, Mr. Boss."
"We love you United States."
"Night and day, no water."
"Hospital. No electricity, no food, no medicine."
"Very happy. I love you George Bush."
A horse-drawn cart rolled past. "Hi, boys," the driver called to heavily armed soldiers forming a loose defensive perimeter. Buses, taxis and smiling pedestrians passed the intersection, many carrying white flags made of tattered rice bags.
This just in, from Time magazine's Joe Klein: "As for the Iraqi people, it just isn't clear that they're particularly happy about all this."