For over a month now Saddam Hussein has been the most important man in the world. And still we don't know what to make of him. He promises one thing, but does another. He says one thing, but means another. Those crazy convoluted expressions of his -- If they attack us, they'll find they have swallowed a humongous fiery lump. We haven't heard lines like that since "Beowulf." The only promise Saddam has made good on is, he'll give the hostages milk and cornflakes.
And so I'm going to Baghdad. Me and the missus plan to I-raq the night away.
For one thing, the women are hot.
Of course, the men are hot too.
It's okay. It's dry heat so when it reaches 140, it only feels like 123.
Look what we've packed.
Sunblock? Check. I'm bringing that new Arabian Gulf gel, SPF 451; it keeps you protected right up to the time you ignite.
Golf clubs? Check. One week playing out of that sand will cut six to eight strokes off my score. That's something I don't understand about President Bush staying in Kennebunkport. I mean, if you're going to play golf, play the hard courses.
Drapes? Check. Well, what do you suggest we wear?
Camcorder? Check. I'm planning on interviewing Saddam. For a while there Saddam wasn't talking. But now you can't shut him up. He shows up everywhere chatting up Westerners. I get a special feeling when he pats the heads of the little blond children -- a part of my spine gets cold enough to chill a six-pack on it. Speaking of six-packs, who does a guy have to know to get a cold one in Baghdad, or is all they have on tap Pennzoil?
I want to stand in one of those group shots with Saddam; in more ways than one they remind me ofthe closing shot of "This Is Your Life." Saddam's really latched on to the power of TV, hasn't he? It wouldn't surprise me if Saddam got his own talk show on Fox. First of all, he'll have his ambassador, Mohammed "Bad Hair" Mashat, as his Ed McMahon, to laugh at all his jokes. Of course he'll laugh. The cabinet ministers who don't laugh get reassigned as human shields. Saddam could do Carson's "Karnak" bit; wearing a turban is old hat to him. He gives the answer "2 Live Crude," then opens the envelope and asks, "What's dirty and can't get through the Straits of Hormuz?"
I keep thinking that one of these nights, as the blockade wears on, we'll see Saddam holding a liquidation sale on the Iraqi Home Shopping Network.
"We're selling to the bare walls. You like rugs? We took this one off the ayatollah's floor in the Iran war. For you? Thirty bucks. Come on folks, make me an offer. Everything must go. Except our guests, of course."
Now that our news correspondents can get into Baghdad, there's no need to broadcast from Saudi Arabia -- I'm sorry, I meant from an unknown location in an unknown country in an unknown but UNBELIEVABLY HOT part of the world. How hot? The M&Ms melt in the package. First thing Bryant Gumbel said every morning was, "Oy, am I shvitzing out here."
Have you noticed the difference in the correspondents' clothing since Baghdad opened up? Dan "I Know We Looked Chummy, Saddy and Me, Strolling Along the Palace Hall Together, but I Wasn't Really Smiling, That Was My Feral Grin" Rather wore a dress suit when he interviewed Saddam. Of course, Saddam's suit was much nicer, but you could buy a swell suit too if you were carrying the entire Kuwaiti treasury in your front pocket. (Excuse me, did I say Kuwait? I meant South Iraq.)
When it was Network Anchors Away to Saudi Arabia they all wore those bush jackets with 10,000 pockets. ("Sam, Roone called. He wants you in the Gulf by morning. He arranged it with the State Department and a tailor at Banana Republic.") What do you think they need so many pockets for? I thought a Filofax took care of everything. Sam, for example -- what would he carry besides a can of Desert Wind Hair Pomade, that voodoo doll of Diane and a handwritten note in Arabic that says, "I am Canadian, not American. Canadian. We have sent only unarmed fishing trawlers. Signed, Peter Jennings."
Anyway, I'm off. You coming with me?
We'll wear buttons that say "I Can Check Out Any Time I Want but I Can Never Leave."
We'll get a discount at Saddam's new theme park, Gasland. You can ride the Thermonuclear Twister, where they strap you onto a warhead and hold you there until further notice.
If we all went as Saddam's guests, we could choke the streets of Iraq. We'd be an invincible foreign legion of guests, more guests than any host could handle. There'd be too many of us to round up, too many to guard. We'd use up all of Saddam's towels and his soap and his shoe mitts.
Now, here's my secret plan to end the war before it begins.
We will all declare ourselves hostages. And demand our cornflakes and milk!
He promised. The world was his witness.
So maybe someone else will give him the milk. But where's he gonna get the cornflakes? Yemen?
Without the cornflakes, the world will see there isn't a kernel of truth in the man. He won't last a week.
He wants a battle? We'll give him Battle Creek.