WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Have you seen the April 7 issue of Time magazine? It appears that last week the Coalition of the Willing lost the war -- and to Iraq, not to the Red Army, not to the Wehrmacht, not Napoleon's Grand Army, but to Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard.
After a more careful reading of the magazine's coverage of the war, it appears that our forces had not by the end of the week completely lost the war, but they had come very close. Consider these headlines from Time. "BEST-LAID PLANS The Iraqi army has been neither shocked nor awed. What the allies missed and how they missed it." "GLOBAL AGENDA: Guerrilla warfare is a part of America's past -- and its future." And I especially like this headline, "DIFFERENT EYES Arab networks like al-Jazeera are giving their viewers a look at the war that American TV doesn't show." At least that headline is accurate.
How are we to explain Time's defeatism just a few days after the mightiest army on earth, having traveled half way around the world, began decimating a force roughly equivalent to Mussolini's with some upgrades for the modern era? My conclusion is that Time's editors and reporters had suffered from too much exposure to Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf.
Surely you know who I mean. Al-Sahhaf is the bespectacled Iraqi minister of information who, clad in a green military uniform and wearing a black military beret, tirelessly appears before the Western press corps to assure its members that Saddam has everything well in hand.
The coalition was in complete control of the skies. Its soldiers, as the phrase has it, "owned the night." Its armor was rushing at top speed toward Baghdad. Yet, said the imperturbable al-Sahhaf, "The infidels are committing suicide by the hundreds on the gates of Baghdad." A few days after Time had just about given up on our fancy army with its "Shock and Awe" bluster, the coalition was announcing the capture of the Baghdad airport, but al-Sahhaf said not to worry. Iraq, he cooed, had taken the airport back with "a very innovative way of war."
If my memory serves me well, it was the same "way of war" that Saddam used in 1991, namely the Bull's-Eye Strategy. According to the Bull's-Eye Strategy, Iraq's army is to present itself as a bull's eye to invaders until the invaders give up from sheer boredom or from having no more Iraqi targets to destroy.
Lately, Western viewers of al-Sahhaf's press briefings have begun to wonder about his grasp on reality. As American forces sped on from the well-secured airport and into the streets of Baghdad, the pompous know-it-all under the black beret was insisting, "We have defeated them, in fact we have crushed them in the place of Saddam International Airport," which by then was no longer even known as Saddam International Airport.
And I do admire the sheer poetry of this line, "As our leader Saddam Hussein said, ‘God is grilling their stomachs in hell.'" Stomach might well be an Iraqi adoption of one of Jacques Chirac's haute cuisine dishes.
Obviously, al-Sahhaf is an intense partisan. His partisanship drives him into fantasy, making him somewhat the joke figure. By now, even the editors of Time must be laughing. As I listened to his poetizing this past week, I thought to myself of who might be the American equivalents of such a man? My candidate is Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D.
He has said things in public that reveal a certain detachment from terra firma. Just the other day, columnist Lloyd Grove described a Washington party given by Daschle for author David Brock and the paperback edition of his book, Blinded by the Right.
In the book, Brock admits to having lied about people and blackmailed some. Beyond admitting to being a liar, he has been accused of being one, of writing a mendacious book and of betraying confidences. Yet he is a propounder of the theory that a "conspiracy" has laid low the Democratic Party. Thus Daschle co-hosts Brock's party, and at it he said: "I really admire David Brock. ... His book was given to me by President Clinton. He gave me his own copy -- which was underlined, circled,and dog-eared."
Apparently, the Boy President told Daschle, "You have got to read this book." Added Daschle: "It was the best advice he's given me in at least a couple of years. We thank David for his contribution and hope to see more from him."
Equally important, "To any Republicans out there: If you are willing to disavow your past and change your ways, we'll throw a party for you as well." I would have thought that a joke, but the other co-host, Senate Minority Whip Harry Reid, D-Nev., chimed in emotively, "David, you've given us inspiration to fight -- and fighting we are. And I think you'll see a new Democratic Party in the future."
So maybe al-Sahhaf can skip a career change back to the United Nations or to Harvard and go directly to the Democratic National Committee, with the like-minded rhetorician Daschle and the aspiring Reid, whom I had once thought sane.
I have for decades wondered what might be the liberal equivalent of the John Birch Society. With Daschle's emotional efflorescence, I have now found it complete with martyred patriot and all-embracing conspiracy. The liberal equivalent of the John Birch Society is Daschle's national Democratic Party, devoted to the resuscitation of Bill Clinton and David Brock. In all of American history, there is no precedent to such lunacy within a national political party.