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Matthew Reid: Embarrassing Your Nation

Embarrassing Your Nation

By Matthew Reid

The Iraqi people have a long and celebrated history. Mesopotamia, the Cradle of Civilization, has been subjugated by the most uncivil of regimes. Saddam Hussein and, to borrow a favorite phrase of the Iraqi Minister of Information, his criminal gang have left a shameful stain on the Iraqi name.

If the US Constitution didn’t prohibit those born abroad from running for president, Saddam could probably get elected here. Despite his inherent evil, “genius” is an apt description of his PR skills. The guy makes world-class manipulator of public opinion, former president Bill Clinton look inept by comparison.

Last week, the world got a good taste of Saddam’s supposed benevolence when, in what he called a “gesture of good will,” he released a wave of prisoners of war (POWs). Now, before you let that warm and fuzzy feeling settle in, I should mention—these POWs were from a war that ended 15 years ago. The newly freed Iranians, no doubt, have first-hand insights into living under Saddam, but will the media inquire?

UN and humanitarian organizations estimate some 600 Kuwaiti POWs are still being held to this day—12 years after the end of the first Persian Gulf War. Speculation regarding the fate of at least one American has grown after the State Department changed the status of Navy Capt. Michael Scott Speicher from presumed dead to missing/captured last October.

Saddam’s non-compliance with the norms of POW treatment provides a window into his legendary brutality. But the respect he garners at gunpoint should not be mistaken for courage. The legend is more of a myth.

The truth is, Saddam continues to embarrass his nation. His troops aren’t any better, but at least they have an excuse in most cases—afraid of being killed if they don’t fight for him.

His loyal fighters are another story.

Like the suicide bombers and their gutless but deadly sucker punches, “Saddam’s martyrs” fight “like girls.” Seriously. We’ve witness the battlefield equivalent of biting, scratching and pulling hair over the past few days. They’ve waved white flags and pretended to surrender only to pull out guns and attack the coalition. They’ve pretended to be civilians, waved at the troops, and then attacked from the rear. And somehow, they mustered the courage to pass on engagement with the US Marines, and opt instead to achieve their mission—the procurement of POWs for propaganda purposes—by ambushing and capturing a barely armed maintenance crew.

And look at the drama that unfolded along the banks of the Tigris River yesterday. The Iraqi Ministry of Misinformation spread word that an American pilot had parachuted out of his plane—right in front of the hotel where all the journalists were staying. What luck! Soon the Republican Guard was searching the river and eventually, the cameras beamed images of Iraqi soldiers shooting into the shallow water where they claimed to believe the pilot to be hiding. As a television commentator said during the episode, “the Iraqi method of search and rescue leaves much to be desired.”

One might suggest that all’s fair in war, but these are the desperate and cowardly actions of a cornered cabal. These moves can only increase future risks for civilians or those trying to surrender. This is not only despicable; it’s a disgrace to the Arab warrior’s long-standing tradition of fighting with honor.

In contrast to Saddam’s trickery, the coalition of the willing has followed-through on it’s promise to go after the regime, not the Iraqi people. Despite the most intensive aerial bombing campaign in history, the lights are still on in Baghdad, the water is still flowing and according to the International Committee of the Red Cross/Crescent (ICRC), one civilian has been killed and 32 injured. More coalition forces have been killed and wounded than Iraqi civilians.

In fact, I just watched a White House press briefing where a CNN reporter asked White House Spokesman, Ari Fleischer, if Americans are being put at risk because of excessive concern about Iraqi civilians and infrastructure. Amazing. Bomb indiscriminately and they say you don’t care about civilians. Take steps to protect civilians and infrastructure and they accuse you of selling out the soldiers.

But, after witnessing Saddam’s Minister of Information in action, I can’t complain too loudly about the American press. (And on a side note, I trust that Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn are adjusting their theories regarding what constitutes government propaganda.)

Years of deceit, destruction, and despotic rule by Saddam Hussein have terrorized the Iraqi people, and his despicable demeanor is on display once again—perhaps even posthumously. And soon, Saddam will stop embarrassing his nation for good, if he hasn’t already.


© 2003 Matthew Reid - All Rights Reserved.

Matthew Reid is an internationally syndicated radio host and freelance journalist based in San Francisco, CA. He's broadcast in Philadelphia, Seattle, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., as well as hundreds of cities across the globe on the SupeRadio Network. He is also the editor of Mr. Reid can be reached via email at

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