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On Point

What's going on inside Iraq's high command?

by Austin Bay
April 1, 2003 imagine (I repeat, imagine) the discovery of a handwritten letter, in a pile of Baghdad bunker rubble ... a letter that begins:

To the Supreme Council:

I have written the letter you ordered. The wily Tariq assures me it will be delivered to our historic leader. Praise to Saddam, grand Saddam, glorious Saddam, wherever he is, wherever he rests and his doubles sleep.

My letter informed the great, historic Saddam that the strategic situation is precisely as the great, historic reporter Peter Arnett observed on our TV. Our Republican Guard is defeating -- or at least interrupting -- America's 3rd Infantry Division and 1st Marine Division. Our fedayeen -- culled from the best of Baghdad's underworld gangs -- have so vexed supply lines that for two days the arrogant Marines ate a single meal, and that meal was one of those foul-tasting Meals Ready to Eat like the one we found in the Humanitarian Aid package we shared at our last council meeting. (I did not mention, however, that the Marines appeared to have plenty of ammunition.)

An army fights on its stomach, I told Saddam. For two days, we denied the Marines the minimum calorie requirements prescribed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. They griped with the belly growls of jackals. BBC reported this culinary victory as a dietician from San Francisco emphasized how deleterious skipping dinner is to the karma of young Marines.

In my letter, I told our leader the world is turning against Amerika and her British poodles. (When I worked for the chemical company in France, a woman I knew had a poodle -- an obnoxious, effete animal.) We have Britain's soldiers exactly where we want them, I wrote. We've cornered them on the Fao Peninsula, in Basra, in Umm Qasr, along the roads heading north, in dirty nowhere villages distributing food to civilians. Note, I told Saddam, there has been no mention of grog rations. We must be denying the Brits their grog.

Then I told him that the Bush administration, already despised by The New York Times (which I read via Internet, before an air attack destroyed my computer), is now openly criticized by American people. Can you imagine, a government openly criticized? Moreover, the world's intellectuals are with Saddam. Those who know -- people with degrees from great universities, like Oxford and the Saddam Hussein Academy for Advanced Martyrdom -- have concluded Amerika's war plans are awry. Each bitter morning the generals at CENTCOM blink before banks of TV cameras, like confused gazelles snared by hunters, like hares beneath the shadow of the desert falcon, as those who know, the press corps, confront them with their failures.

I added a summary of how we used the sandstorm (a Divine Wind, I called it) to move our Republican Guard Nebuchadnezzar Division from north of Baghdad to the south. I concluded with a comment that time and world opinion are on our side. Balanced analysts like Ramsey Clark, Noam Chomsky, the Dixie Chicks and Kim Jong Il support us.

I did as ordered. As always, I gave Saddam what he wants to hear.

But among us ... I know so little. Remember Khafji, Saudi Arabia? In February 1991, we sent brigades into Khafji, a desperate reconnaissance in force. We could not see the battlefield. Our men died in droves.

We are blind again. Oh, we see the 3rd Division, pinning our Republican Guards. We can move toward it but not away from it, at least not with our equipment. That's the Americans' trick. American smart bombs then turn our tanks to flame and slag.

Though our fedayeen still terrorize our Shias -- we let them know our cruelty has no limits -- we know the Shias' vengeance awaits us. We say we rely on the Arab street, but the Arab street is a pitiful alley where shouts die quickly and the strong man's banners tatter and burn once his bayonet is gone.

U.S. forces have lost fewer than 60 men in combat. As we scream "Vietnam," they reply with a curt "9/11." Gentlemen, the angry American street has arrived at the gates of Baghdad. They are not here to negotiate.

Alas. I have tried to phone my Swiss banker. Unfortunately, I can't get a dial tone.

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