Article Overview:   Is laughing about war bad or good?   Do we need to find ways to remember not to forget, even at what may seem to be black humor?  Find out what the Iraqi Information Minister has to say about it all.


Saturday--April 19, 2003—Ground Zero Plus 584
The Toys Of Terrorism

Cliff McKenzie
   Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News

GROUND ZERO, New York City, Apr. 19--Black humor has wormed its way into the war on Iraq.   The key "action figure" being sold these days is the "Iraqi Dis-informaiton Minister Action Figure Doll," a replica of Iraq's wartime spokesperson Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf.

 "Iraqi Dis-information Minister action figure Doll" Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf aka Baghdad Bob

      For around $30 you can purchase the doll that spouts different sayings attributed to al-Sahaf, including his most famous comment as American tanks rolled into the heart of Baghdad: "There are no Americans infidels in Baghdad, never. Our initial assessment is that they will all die. I am not scared and neither should you be. They're not even within 100 miles of Baghdad."

Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf reporting in Baghdad

       Daily, the information minister issued reports from the Palestine Hotel to the world press promoting the defeat of American troops.   He has become a legend of "disinformation," and recent reports suggest he hanged himself.
       I hope not.
       In a world of madness, often defined by Complacency and wishy-washy viewpoints that rattle one's mind, Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf stood out as a man of utter conviction.  Even the reality of American bombs dropping in the background and the zinging of bullet overhead didn't deter his laser focus on supporting his boss.
      If there ever was a flag-waver worthy of history's notation, it is without question, Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf.
      And, he's not gone unnoticed.
      A company,, has manufactured a doll that sings out some of the information minister's most famous quotes (see above photo of doll).   In the aftermath of the war, web sites such as , have sprouted up, carrying a host of his sayings.   When the site was launched it received more than 4,000 hits per hour.

                                                         Selected Baghdad Bob Quotes

"There are no American infidels in Baghdad. Never!"

"My feelings - as usual - we will slaughter them all"

"Our initial assessment is that they will all die"

"I blame Al-Jazeera - they are marketing for the Americans!"

"God will roast their stomachs in hell at the hands of Iraqis."

"They're coming to surrender or be burned in their tanks."

"No I am not scared, and neither should you be!"

"Be assured. Baghdad is safe, protected"

"Who are in control, they are not in control of anything - they don't even control themselves!"

"We are not afraid of the Americans.  Allah has condemned them.  They are stupid.  They are stupid" (dramatic pause) "and they are condemned." 

"The Americans, they always depend on a method what I call ... stupid, silly. All I ask is check yourself. Do not in fact repeat their lies."

"I can say, and I am responsible for what I am saying, that they have
started to commit suicide under the walls of Baghdad. We
will encourage them to commit more suicides quickly."

"I can assure you that those villains will recognize, will discover in appropriate time in the future how stupid they are and how they are pretending things which have never taken place."

"We have destroyed 2 tanks, fighter planes, 2 helicopters and their shovels - We have driven them back."

"The authority of the civil defense ... issued a warning to the civilian population not to pick up any of those pencils because they are booby traps," he said, adding that the British and American forces were "immoral mercenaries" and "war criminals" for such behavior.
"I am not talking about the American people and the British people," he said. "I am talking about those mercenaries. ... They have started throwing those pencils, but they are not pencils, they are booby traps to kill the children."

"We have them surrounded in their tanks"

"The American press is all about lies! All they tell is lies, lies and more lies!"

"Lying is forbidden in Iraq. President Saddam Hussein will tolerate nothing but truthfulness as he is a man of great honor and integrity. Everyone is encouraged to speak freely of the truths evidenced in their eyes and hearts."

"Now even the American command is under siege. We are hitting it from the north, east, south and west. We chase them here and they chase us there. But at the end we are the people who are laying siege to them. And it is not them who are besieging us."



      Photo buffs have carved his image into comical portraits, depicting the irony of his statements.  One such site, bursts with retouched images of the information minister, Saddam Hussein, George Bush and a cast of other characters, recalling in visual humor the insanity of war itself.

Saddam humor

      Below are listed some of the photos and more fascinating comments from the information minister.
       But how does humor, especially black humor, play a role in healing the wounds of war?  How can a doll salve the blisters of thousands of dead caught in the holocaust that bombs and bullets brings not only to a country, but to a world.

       War splatters its blood on all, even the most distant.
       A child watching a television news scene of bombs blowing up receives the fallout of war, for there is, by mere association, a responsibility to justify or oppose war to the child who watches violence as the cure to human ills.
       Sometimes, the only sane thing left for a society is to laugh at the insanity of it all.
       That's where black humor comes to play.

"I repeat.  There is no evidence of U.S. presence in Baghdad"


       Human emotions are not unlike a pressure cooker.  Along the line, as the water boils, it must escape.   Laughter is one of the key vents to releasing the pressure.

       In Joseph Heller's famous WWII satire, Catch 22, he turns the issue of war into a play of insanity.   His characters, bombing mission pilots, are all insane.   They are forced to deal with the brutality of death and its bloody impact on their lives and the lives of others, by acting like children.   The main character in the book climbs a tree and sits in the branches, contemplating life and death as a vulture or peace dove might, the reader never sure which viewpoint is his, only that both play a part.
      In the famous television series M.A.S.H., medical teams operating on the wounded in Korea, mix cocktails and humor with broken bodies and dying soldiers, trying to survive with some humanity left in tact as they try and save a warrior so he can go out and fight again.

Television show Mash cast

      The other evening on TBS Television, the movie Castle Keep was replayed for the zillionth time.   It is about a group of soldiers who try and protect a castle during World War II, but the cast of characters, headed by Burt Lancaster who wears an eye patch, are all numbed by the insanity of it all and struggle to preserve a few ounces of humanity while acting in the most inhumane of ways--the killing of others.

      Yesterday I sought some relief from all the war madness.   I went uptown to 21st Annual Pax Christi Metro New York Good Friday Way Of The Cross.  The group is comprised of peace advocates who move throughout the heart of New York City on Good Friday praying and offering peaceful protests against a variety of businesses and institutions.  

         Using the Stations of the Cross as the roadmap, the first station was the United Nations where at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza the group of about 200 recited the Prayer of St. Francis.  At the next station they prayed opposite the Nigerian Consulate, and then in front of Pfizer drug company headquarters, protesting the lack of medical support in underdeveloped countries.  They included in their various stations McDonald's, Starbucks, Walt Disney stores, the Armed Forces Recruiting Station in Times Square, promoting themes such as "Brother and Sisters Malnourished in the Midst of Plenty," "Brothers and Sisters Deprived of Educational Opportunities," "Brothers and Sisters Endangered by Racism," "Brothers and Sisters Exploited For Profit," "Brothers and Sisters Affected by Militarism."

          There was no black humor in their offerings.   The group walked in silent prayer, reciting various prayers at each station, seeking peace in a troubled world.
          The event helped me balance the insanity of black humor.
         Like so many, I want the war to be over and life to go on.
         I want Terrorism to go away.
         I want "life as usual."

        But, I am reminded by the reality of life, that Terrorism doesn't disappear.  The Pax Christi group works for peace 365 days a year, in good and bad times.   It recognizes the Beast of Terror may sleep but never dies.   At any moment the Beast can raise its head and breathe its fire and hate, igniting a world into violence.
        Currently, we sit atop another powder keg--North Korea --that is making nuclear bombs.
        In Modesto, California a husband was arrested yesterday for allegedly killing his wife who was eight months pregnant on Christmas Eve.   The Beast of Terror isn't international, he thrives in our neighborhoods, our lives.
         So, do we laugh or cry?
         Both, I think, are better than doing nothing.

         While on one side of the table might rest the hawks with all their thirsts for war and violence, and the other side is filled with doves fluttering in a tree screeching out the pain and anguish of war and violence, the vast majority of people hide in the middle.
         This is the unfortunate truth of the issue.   It is the insidiousness of Complacency.
         Complacency is ignoring the presence of the Beast of Terror--either from a pure peace and non-violent vista, or from a war hawk viewpoint.
         It is burying one's head in the sand.
         If all people were to realize that the Beast of Terror was ever-present, then the odds are we as a society would not let the Beast grow into such a size it could not be managed.  Pax Christi knows that, and tends daily to the business of promoting peace.  So do the hawks who sharpen their talons.

I'd like to think everyone is a Sentinel of Vigilance

         So, maybe the dolls and black humor rising out of the ashes of Iraq isn't so bad.  Maybe it is a palatable way to remind all those millions of ostriches that they can't keep their heads in the sand, they can't operate in a world of Terrorism without being Vigilant.
         Maybe just laughing at the insanity of it all is a way of maintaining consciousness, alertness, readiness to defend one's self, family, neighborhood, society, country and world from the future Wars of Terror.
          I'd like to think that everyone become a TerrorHunter if for no other reason than to assure they have their eyes and ears open, and take stands on issues, right or left, that would force resolutions before they turned in conflagrations.
         I'd like to think everyone is a Sentinel of Vigilance, and has taken the Pledge of Vigilance and lives by its standards.
        But, in the absence of perfection, perhaps black humor will remind us of war's insanity.  Perhaps laughing at ourselves will stir within us the desire to protect our children, and our Children's Children's Children from the Fear, Intimidation and Complacency that Terrorism seeks to infect us with.
         So maybe the doll of the information minister isn't so bad after all.
         Maybe it's a reminder to stand up for what you believe, no matter how unbelievable it is.
         Maybe Baghdad Bob's message isn't so funny after all.  Maybe his message is all about Conviction in the face of Terror, and that, ultimately, isn't a laughing matter.


Good Friday Way of the Cross - The Way to Peace - 21st Annual Pax Christi Metro New York


April 18--Death Of A Fat Terrorist

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