BAGHDAD -- From an article by Donald Kirk in National Review (Dec. 17):
The ministry of information and culture, in a drab concrete block set among other equally featureless buildings, has one distinction that may make it unique among government propaganda mills. It is really an adjunct of the secret police, and the people responsible for feeding those ''We want peace, but we are ready to fight'' quotes to the reporters trooping through one-week or 10-day visas are police agents.
A visitor on one of those short-term visas gets his first taste of the ministry's pervasive influence when he arrives at the airport. When the immigration official examining the visitor's passport discovers he is a journalist, he tells him to wait. In a few minutes a polite young man from the ministry arrives, welcomes the visitor to Iraq and whisks him right through immigration and customs with no further questions, not even a cursory look at his bags. The information-ministry man then escorts the visitor to a waiting taxi and takes him to the Al Rashid Hotel, which happens to be a government-run facility only a few minutes' ride from the ministry itself.
On one side of the Al Rashid's lobby is a desk manned by half a dozen more information officials; facing it across the lobby is another desk manned by ''peace and reconciliation'' officials. There is no doubt they all work for the same organization, the secret police. The desk on the right is for the journalists. ... The desk on the left is for members of international peace groups. ... The visitors, correspondents and peace-seekers . . . are all welcome here. They all serve the same purpose, in the Iraqi view: the purpose of deflecting allied will, of postponing and finally putting off all thought of attack by the forces massed in the Saudi desert.