Published April 14, 2003
DOHA, Qatar – He bemused the West with his litany of claimed victories over coalition troops, and amused Arabs with his bottomless dictionary of insults. Iraq's information minister hasn't been seen for days, but he's hardly disappeared.
Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf is the star of a Web site whose creators poke admiring fun at his dogged defense of Saddam Hussin's regime and his skewerings of opponents from the standard "infidels" to the pop-culture-savvy "superpower of Al Capone."
The site — WeLoveTheIraqiInformationMinister.com — collects the most memorable insults al-Sahhaf used to castigate the United States and Britain. Operators had to shut it briefly Friday to switch to more powerful computers because of soaring visits to the site.
Wearing a constant smile and armed with fluent English and Arabic, al-Sahhaf held court daily in front of dozens of reporters as the Iraq crisis intensified.
He denied American and British claims that Saddam's regime possessed chemical and biological weapons or had any connection to terrorism. Once the war started, he disputed any advances for coalition forces.
Day after day, he burst forth with new anti-American and anti-British invective: "War criminals." "Louts of colonialism." "Intentional gang of villains." "Wild donkeys."
It was this sort of creativity that drew the attention of the Web site's creators, who refer to him affectionately as "MSS."
The site describes al-Sahhaf as "currently on administrative leave" — a gentle euphemism for his disappearance.
Al-Sahhaf last appeared Tuesday, a day before Baghdad fell. Showing up at the Palestine Hotel, where hundreds of foreign journalists were staying, he took a final verbal shot at coalition forces: "They are in a state of hysteria and haste. They imagine that by killing civilians, they'll win. These villains will not win."
His whereabouts are unknown, but his rhetoric lives on. The site takes particular delight in what it calls al-Sahhaf's "all-time greats," including
—"My feelings — as usual — we will slaughter them all."
—"God will roast their stomachs in hell at the hands of Iraqis."
—"We will welcome them with bullets and shoes."
—"We will push those crooks, those mercenaries back into the swamp."
—"We went into the airport and crushed them. We cleaned the whole place out. They were slaughtered."
—"They have started to commit suicide under the walls of Baghdad. We will encourage them to commit more suicides quickly."
—"They're not even [within] 100 miles [of Baghdad]."
The site expresses disappointment al-Sahhaf was omitted from the deck of cards issued Friday by the U.S. military depicting 55 regime figures sought by the coalition. "We are now stunned to hear that he was not fortunate enough to have been honored with the inclusion of his increasingly popular image in the 'Death Pack.'"
"People really loved watching him speak regardless of what he was saying," said Mai Hassan, an advertising consultant in Cairo, Egypt. The Web site, she said, proves al-Sahhaf "was quite successful in reaching the people."
For those who just can't get enough, the Web site offers a chance to take a little bit of al-Sahhaf home. T-shirts and coffee mugs are on sale, as well as $29.99 "roast their stomachs" barbecue apron.