It was almost a disappointment when Iraqi "Information Minister" Mohammed Saeed Al-Sahaf failed to show up for work last week. He, along with the rest of the Saddamite criminal conspiracy that called itself the Ba'ath Party, simply disappeared. In his final performances, Al-Sahaf's daily press briefings were becoming a Babylonian "Saturday Night Live."
"What American troops at the airport?" he scoffed. There are no Americans at the airport. "What American troops in Baghdad?" he demanded, as a tank made its way down the street a hundred yards away.
It seems funny to us, but of course this fantasy world is all too common among Arab countries reluctant to live with hard facts and truth. Following the crash of an Egyptian airliner in the United States that was caused by the suicide of one its pilots, the Egyptian media concocted a web of fantastic rumors suggesting that everyone from the Mossad to Jackie Mason had downed the plane. That the evidence pointed clearly to the Egyptian pilot was unacceptable.
After the atrocity of 9-11, many Arabs could not handle the reality that the terrorists involved were Arabs. The Arab press rattled with the disgusting rumor that thousands of New York Jews had not shown up for work at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.
During the Six Day War in 1967, the Egyptian and Syrian governments put out so much false information about the crushing defeat they were inflicting upon Israel that they found themselves in a very awkward spot when they pleaded with the United Nations to stop the fighting.
Similarly today, many Arabs are responding with disbelief and confusion to pictures of Iraqis gleefully greeting American soldiers and Marines. The BBC reports that in Saudi Arabia (where coverage of the war has, until now, consisted almost exclusively of wounded Iraqi civilians), some do not believe what they've seen on TV. Hakim al-Saghri, project manager at a banking and investment house, said, "I still do not think they (Americans) have the capital." Regarding the toppling of Saddam's statue, al-Saghri said: "I think it's all made up. ... I know they are not real Iraqis. I think they were brought in from the north to cheer." Ahmed Salem Batmira, an Omani "political analyst" (so The Associated Press labels him), couldn't make sense of the pictures he was seeing. "There must have been treason."