ONE of the pop heroes of the Iraq war was undoubtedly Muhammad Said al-Sahhaf, the unfortunate Iraqi information minister who, in his daily press conferences during the invasion, heroically denied even the most evident facts and stuck to the Iraqi line. Even with American tanks only a few hundred yards from his office, he continued to claim that the televised shots of tanks on the Baghdad streets were just Hollywood special effects.
In his very performance as an excessive caricature, Mr. Sahhaf thereby revealed the hidden truth of the “normal” reporting: there were no refined spins in his comments, just a plain denial. There was something refreshingly liberating about his interventions, which displayed a striving to be liberated from the hold of facts and thus of the need to spin away their unpleasant aspects: his stance was, “Whom do you believe, your eyes or my words?”
Furthermore, sometimes, he even struck a strange truth — when confronted with claims that Americans were in control of parts of Baghdad, he snapped back: “They are not in control of anything — they don’t even control themselves!”
[Extract. Appeared in The New York Times, on January 5th 2007. (link to full text).]