Does anyone still remember ‘Comical Ali’, Saddam’s information minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, who, in his daily press conferences, heroically stuck to the Iraqi line in the face of the most glaring evidence? (He was still claiming that TV footage of US tanks on the streets of Baghdad were just Hollywood special effects when the tanks were only a few hundred yards from his office.) He didn’t always fail to make sense, however. Confronted with claims that the US army was already in control of parts of Baghdad, he snapped back: ‘They are not in control of anything – they don’t even control themselves!’ I was reminded of that when news of the weird goings-on in the Abu Ghraib prison broke a few weeks ago.
[Extract. Appeared in London Review of Books on June 3rd 2004.]