Al-Thawra (the revolution), Al-Jumhuriya (the republic) and Babel were the main dailies I grew up with. The first two have been around since the Baath party took power in Iraq. The third is actually Saddam’s son little project. He was the editor-in-chief and all-round overseer. But it was the only one that had very little original content. I can’t remember now what the point of Babel was. There were already two government mouthpieces. Maybe having a paper on the side which published content from wire services and articles stolen from international papers? I don’t know.
Anyway, below are scans of the above-the-fold front pages on the 1st of April 2003. These issues must be one of the last issues printed of the three major Iraqi newspapers as in 8 days chaos would reign over the city and no papers were printed for quite some time.
Al-thawra, whose masthead reads ‘the newspaper of the Arabic Socialist Baath Party’ says that “The Leader” has awarded heroes of the ‘Hawasim’ Battle medals – Al-Hawasim is Saddam’s name for Bush’s Desert Storm, in Arabic it means The Defining Battle.. was it ever!
Main headline reads “Republican Guard, Saddam Fedayeen, the armed forces and The Army of al-Quds continue their heroic Jihad’
In red: “The Leader Saddam Hussein meets a number of officials’. This refers to the photograph below the headline. In it you can see Saddam and his two suns with the minister of Defense and two more commanders. In short it’s a full house plus an 8 of hearts and a Queen on the side. You remember the deck of 52.. check them out for yourself if you’re interested.
The strapline under the photo announces: “13 tanks and 19 armoured personnel carriers, 4 helicopters, one unmanned flying drone and 4 vehicles were destroyed”
A Central Iraqi Military Command confirms this in a communiqué that’s too long to translate published just below the fold. But by Allah, the coalition forces were infiltrated and ready to crumble! .. The communiqué also announces that the American administration is:
“a gang of monopolist oil company representatives (Hello, Mr Bush) who want to control Iraq’s oil and steal it.. they are the liars and we are the truth tellers.. they are the murdering criminals and we are the noble men fighting in the name of Allah”
… yeah.. they had a knack for meaningless rhetoric.
The editorial on the left titled ‘The Imperialist Invading Forces And Their War Crimes” is written by the editor-in-chief and lays into the British forces as Basra was just seeing the brunt of the war and he’s having a ball comparing this to their past endeavours in Iraq.
Inside, within the meagre four pages printed, the former minister of foreign affairs says “the invading forces have only two choices, surrender or withdraw”. The minister of information, “Comical Ali”, goes to town with the figures his ministry published about how many army vehicles were destroyed. And most worryingly the head of Muslim Scholars in Iraq at the time – no doubt Sunni – says that martyr operations in Iraq and Palestine are the most glorious martyr operations.
Al-Jumhuriya, has unsurprisingly the same little news content. Same photograph, same headlines. The front page editorial is a hysteric rant which I’m not even going to bother with translating as it sounds like the talk of a madman.. I wonder where Hani Wahib the editor-in-chief of this paper is now.. he should take a look at what he wrote. He sounds like a man on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
Inside, again only four pages printed, the fatwas on martyrdom are reprinted. A presidential decree to award officers various medals for bravery is printed verbatim. On the last page a comment of Saddam’s message on the 25th of March says that the message was “a crowning to power and victory”.. yeah, whatever.. and finally there is a little column explaining the origins of a word the minister of Information has been using to describe the coalition forces since the start of the war. “Uluj”.. a term which had us all digging for those old Arabic dictionaries was used from day one of the war by Al-Sahaf.. I am until today not sure what it means. Thankfully, this six year old article enlightens. Uluj has two meanings according to this column. One, it’s a particularly insulting term for ‘infidel’ and the second is ‘a wild donkey’.. Huh! Who would have thought al-Sahaf had it in him! Comical indeed!.
Babel.. honestly it isn’t worth going into. Being the one with the most money it still got full 16 (small) pages printed. Mostly it’s a collection of anti-war demonstrations news from the wires. But on page two it breaks from the other two papers in not mentioning number or deaths on the coalition’s side and announces “HUNDREDS of US troops dead and THOUSANDS injured”. Source? Iraqi military spokesman. Yeah, they were always so reliable.