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February 03, 2003

Unspun "The people of Iraq


"The people of Iraq wish to express their deepest sorrow and solidarity with the families of the victims and with the American, Indian and Israeli people on this day of tragedy. I wish to offer my personal condolences to the families of the brave perished. They were among the best and brightest the world had to offer, and their loss diminishes us all.

If this time of sorrow teaches us anything, it is that human life is a precious thing, and taking of it not something to be considered lightly. In the name of the innocent and peaceful the world over, Iraq begs the United States to cease its unilateral march to war and work through the United Nations towards a resolution of the issues between us. Iraq continues to work with United Nations personnel in the hope that our differences may be resolved amicably, and entreats the United States to let the inspectors finish their task."

Statement of Saddam Hussein on the Explosion of the Space Shuttle Columbia, Sunday, February 2nd, as read by an Iraqi spokesman.

As you probably know, there's no such statement. Saddam missed a chance to impede the Bush administration's plans for Iraq on Sunday by not saying something along those lines. Instead he committed essentially the same mistake the Palestinians did on 9/11 when they danced and shouted out in celebration of the attacks.

In the year and a half since they ululated in joy over an American tragedy, the Palestinians have been taught a bitter lesson. The American attitude towards Palestinian state hood before 9/11 was one of benign neglect. The American attitude afterward was "Screw the Palestinians" and it's no coincidence that Israeli has had a more or less free hand to act since then. What little sympathy/support there was in the American population for the Palestinians ended long before the 30 seconds of celebratory tape did. Yes, the tape probably wasn't representative of the Palestinian population as a whole, but by the time more sympathetic scenes were shown, it was too late. The dream of a Palestinian state is dead for the indefinite future, killed off as much by that tape as by the suicide bombings.

Now suppose for a moment that Saddam had issued the statement above. Yes, it would have been a tissue of lies. No one would have thought otherwise. But it's something that could be used by the factions opposed to war in the U.N. and the U.S. "Saddam wants peace," they could say. It's not about truth, it's about spin.

Regardless of the actual substance behind the messages, it would have found some resonance in the great mass of Americans who don't care one way or another about Iraq, and pushed some into anti-war camp. It probably wouldn't have had any effect in the long run, but issuing no statement at all would have been better than what was actually said.

''We are happy that it broke up,'' government employee Abdul Jabbar al-Quraishi said. ''God wants to show that his might is greater than the Americans. They have encroached on our country. God is avenging us.''

This is the closest to an official Iraqi reaction on shuttle disaster as we're likely to get. I imagine most Iraqi government employees would hesitate to say anything at all unless it came down form on high.

The statement "God is avenging us," isn't going to play in the halls where the decision to attack will be made, and it won't do diddly to help Saddam with the American public. Just as with the Palestinians, their first response is going to be negative, and may even stop the drop in support in the polls for an attack.

American disasters cause the American public to rally 'round the flag. Unsavory types celebrating American disasters is apt to keep them there.

The Belligerent Bunny says much the same thing.

Posted by Bigwig at February 3, 2003 04:21 PM | TrackBack
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