Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Come Back, Mr. Information Minister. We Need Laughs. ; the Guy in the Beret and Glasses Taught the World How to Take the Art of Spin over the Top

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Come Back, Mr. Information Minister. We Need Laughs. ; the Guy in the Beret and Glasses Taught the World How to Take the Art of Spin over the Top

Article excerpt

Memo to: Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf, former Iraqi information minister.

Where have you been this past month, Comical Ali? We need you.

Rumor has it you've been holed up in Baghdad, trying to surrender to uninterested US troops. But if the Pentagon is turning up its nose, bypassing you for the 55 "most wanted," you might be surprised at how many fans you have in some unexpected places.

Even President Bush, whom you labeled the "insane little dwarf," has called you "his man" and said he used to walk out of meetings just to hear you spout colorful diatribes about roasting stomachs, infidels, and, of course, that oh-so-confident assurance - "triple guaranteed" - that no American soldiers were in Baghdad.

But, really, what could you say? You had the world's worst public- relations job - not to mention a murderous boss. And, in an age of spin, you gave a graduate-level lesson to PR flacks everywhere, sticking to your story no matter how overwhelming the evidence against it - and throwing in lots of flair for good measure.

In your jaunty beret and glasses, before a sea of microphones, you fought a high-tech army with a torrent of phrases.

So, despite your role as spokesman for a brutal regime, is it any surprise that those phrases - and your face - are plastered on T- shirts, coffee mugs, and websites? Even a dance mix, featuring your catchphrases, is in the works.

Herobuilders.com offers Baghdad Bob action figures in two varieties: dumb and dumber. (The latter includes a voice chip that repeats your most beloved phrases.) Orders for both are backlogged at least four weeks. The company's founder has received so many he's lost count, but says it's in the tens of thousands.

That's nothing compared to your fans at the website, WeLoveTheIraqiInformation Minister.com. Fewer visit now than at the height of your misinformation spouting, it's true, but it still gets about 50,000 people a day - and the public hasn't even seen you for a month. …

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