Saturday, August 31, 2002

What does this headline tell you?
Saddam's dark star rising

Or this:
On the streets of Baghdad, the people are defiant, resilient and, writes Paul McGeough, ready to stand up to George W. Bush.

Or the front page teaser
Why The Iraqis StillBack The Dictator

Herald writer Paul McGeogh tools around Baghdad to gauge popular support for Saddam Hussein, and reports that the Iraqis are ready to resist the invaders. Who is there to back up this interesting claim? We get some words from a backstreet mechanic, a millionaire importer, and a former Ambassador that even McGeogh defines as “almost a spokesman for the regime”.
The mechanic, Hisham Ahmed Mohammed, spends his time cannabilising car parts to keep the remaining civilian cars on the road. How does he feel about the coming war?
Mohammed was indifferent: "Another war is normal for us; there is always another war, but we will just work through it - people will need their cars fixed." And Hassan the radiator man was pragmatic: "We have been in these circumstances before, so we are used to it. And we now have four factories that produce radiator parts, so it will not affect my business

Damn! These Iraqis are a patriotic bunch. Sounds like Hisham there is ready to enlist tomorrow!
On to the next happy camper, “Faris El-Hadi, a wealthy importer of home appliances”
"The Americans don't care about me - they just want our oil and our minerals. I tell you as an Iraqi citizen who is not a party member that I can disagree with the Government on how it deals with agriculture or education or the economy, but I will defend myself and my country against any foreigner."

I can tell you, as an Iraqi citizen who has made a shitload of money running the sanctions blockade, and safe in the knowledge that the extensive security apparatus will never trace my words back to me, that I can disagree if I want to, but I happen to fully support anything the Glorious Leader does.

In an interesting take on human mortality, perhaps explaining the propensity for purges shown in the Iraqi command structure, we have this from Dr A.K. Al-Hashimi, a former Iraqi ambassador
The US will have to pay for the war itself and few other countries will give them soldiers to be send to die before the Americans. Maybe the British? Perhaps Australia?
"But they need to know that every Iraqi hopes to stand before these soldiers. Think of the hate that has built up over 12 years - the Iraqis will kill them three times each."

You know. Like they did last time.

McGeogh’s evidence for the gathering strength in the Iraqi economy is even more specious.
A BMW or a Mercedes-Benz? On Tuesday night, the Herald counted 45 of them in 10 minutes on the ritzy shopping strip on Arasat Street, where many of the imported cars kept their engines idling and air-conditioning running as waiters raced out from ice-cream parlours and restaurants to get their take-away orders.
Scotch or Irish whiskey? Saddam has been tightening up on Muslim observance, but his faith campaign is not being allowed to get in the way of a good drink. Cuban cigars? Which cigarettes - Benson & Hedges, Marlboro or Kent? These smugglers and scam merchants will get you the computer parts the United Nations has banned or that bolt of cloth that doesn't qualify as a humanitarian need.

Because El-Hadi the importer says
"The Iraqi Government also is importing Mercedes-Benzes for government officials and senior military officers.”

So the dirt-poor Iraqis watch the Government and Military elite tool around in new luxury cars, live in purpose-built gated cities, treat their children in restricted hospitals, and eat all they like. They don’t mind this, because
For the elites and those who serve them, defeating the sanctions is almost a national sport. Those who suffer by them are so consumed by the struggle of their existence that they are grateful to Saddam for their monthly food ration. They have neither the energy nor the brain space to think about a different life.

Not only that, they appreciate efforts by their leader to use their starvation as a bargaining chip:
they watch with admiration as Saddam and his ministers engage in what they see as Iraq's use of sanctions against the world, such as its threat to cut wheat imports from Australia and Baghdad's month-long boycott on oil sales to the US earlier this year as a protest against Washington's Middle East policy.

When we tried to reach the Iraqi people for their reaction, they were unavailable. However, a Government spokesman insisted the Iraqi man in the street was prepared to fight to the last man to protect Saddam’s many necessary pleasure palaces.

So what do we have? A sub-editor with a barrow to push, who drops in a headline that reflects nothing of the article, in fact misrepresents the bulk of the text. McGeogh interviews a mechanic, a smuggler and a mouthpiece, and gee whiz, two out of three support the death machine on which their lives and well-being depend. The other one is “indifferent”.

McGeogh better hope he’s out of town by the time the Iraqis wave the Americans in. Or they might want a sharp word with him.

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