Joe Conason's Journal

The Iraqi News Agency finally responds to Salon readers -- but did it get the right message?

Published March 4, 2003 5:15PM (EST)

Peace and love and spam
While I was vacationing, more or less, many readers reported that they had received responses from the Iraqi News Agency to their letters urging Baghdad to cooperate fully with inspections -- and warning the Iraqis not to misconstrue opposition to war as support for Saddam.

Quite a few readers had already sent along copies of those letters. I thank you for them all (as well as for the warm messages of support in response to those funny negative e-mails I published last week). Typical of the messages posted to Iraq's representatives in New York was this:

From: [Name withheld]
Sent: Saturday, February 22, 2003 7:56 PM
Subject: U.N. Inspections

I have read in the past couple of days that your government has begun to resist the U.N inspection regime, believing, falsely, that the recent antiwar demonstrations were in support of your government. Do not think for a minute that I, or most other antiwar people around the world, actually support your regime. At the end of the Gulf War, your country had agreed to eliminate all weapons of mass destruction. While there has been chicanery on the part of my government -- the U.S. -- your government has continually tried to evade the inspections. Recently, however, you have begun to cooperate more fully. I applaud that. Not only must you continue in that vein, you will have to become even more helpful to the inspections process. This is no time to change direction ...

At first the only answer was that the mailboxes of both the U.N. Mission and the government news agency were jammed and could accept no more messages. But a few days later, readers whose e-mails had gotten through heard from the "news agency," with multiple misspellings (and bizarrely, the wrong date):

To: [Name withheld]
Subject: Re: U.N. Inspections
Date: Tue, 25 Mar 2003 10:53:47 +0300

Thank you for your interest in peace and support the worldwide antiwar campaign.

As we have so much interest in your letter, we assure you that Iraq is peaceful country cares for peace in the region and the world specially he established the oldest civilizations.

Iraqi now tries hard to make the work of inspectors much easier and he opened all the industrial sites to prove for the world that there is no prohibited weapons or nothing to hide.

As you know America is the country which produces the most prohibited weapons on earth and also has the technology to produce these weapons.

The worldwide demonstrations surly [sic] is a call to stop the aggression on Iraq and also a complete refusal for American polices against our countries.

At the time we assure you our peaceful policy we renew our calls for all the peoples around the world to live in peace and love not in war and aggression.

A reader from Sweden who received this propagandistic answer feels it indicated that the Iraqis didn't "get" his message. But if Saddam's foreign intelligence service is nearly as competent as our own statesmen suggest, they did.

Check back in later today, when I will examine a neglected aspect of the Sami al-Arian affair.
[9:27 a.m. PST, March 4, 2003]

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By Salon Staff

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