We have been informed that, come January, the democratic people of Iraq are going to have elections.

A representative from Shrek, one of the Iraqi political parties, came to Washington to learn some pointers from the U.S. elections.

He met with an elections expert in Washington, who told him, "The first thing your candidate has to do is learn to lie."

"Iraqis never lie."

"You are going to have to learn. We would never hold an election if an American candidate didn't lie. Now, the wonderful thing about American politics is that, if you keep repeating the lie often enough, you'll start believing it yourself. And if the voters think you believe it, they'll believe it."

"I'm taking notes."

"You have to hit below the belt."

"Muslims don't have belts."

"Never mind. Say that if the people don't vote for your candidate, the other side will bring Saddam Hussein back to power and the terrorists will take over the country."

"Does my candidate have to apologize after he says it?"

"Of course not. The key to winning an election is to scare the hell out of the electorate."

"What about gun control? Should our candidate be for it or against it?"

"He must declare that under the Iraqi constitution everyone has a right to a gun."

"But we have no constitution."

"When you get one, you will have the right to bear arms. In the meantime, your boy will say every citizen has a duty to keep one under his pillow."

"That won't be an issue in Iraq."

"Where was your man during the first Gulf War?"

"He was with the Iraqi National Guard in Morocco."

"Your opposition is going to try to make that an issue."

"What should my man say?"

"He must say he served honorably and he has his dental records to prove it."

"What about television ads?"

"That's where you want to spend your money. Tell the people your opponent threw his medals into the Tigris."

"We don't have any money for TV."

"The CIA will give you all you want. After all, it's to the United States' advantage that you hold free elections."

"What are the big issues we should concentrate on?"

"Security is number one."

"But they are still fighting in Fallujah, Tikrit and Baghdad."

"Deny it. Always deny. After security, your people will be interested in jobs. Fifty percent of all Iraqis are out of work. Promise them that you will create 3,000 new jobs to rebuild the cities. Once again, the United States will supply the dollars and the jobs through Halliburton."

"Will you also pay for election bumper stickers?"

"Not only will we pay for them, we also will put them on our tanks."

"What about the news media?"

"The United States will provide you with enough spin to win the election."

"You have been very helpful, sir. May Allah bless you."

(c) 2004, Tribune Media Services