Dear Saddam

April 17, 1991

A blunder somewhere in the international postal system resulted in MAGGIE EMMETT receiving a letter that wasn't addressed to her. She decided to share it with our readers.

Dear Saddam,

How are you and yours? We're trying to get back to normal here, but the whole infrastructure of the country has been removed. Everywhere you look, the buildings are flattened or black, bomb craters, shell holes, missile mayhem. I guess you've got a pretty fair idea of what I'm talking about.

As we slide into political ruin, with talk of democracy on every mobile phone, I had cause to remember the past year and wish we'd managed an Arab agreement of one sort or another. You demanded more than a year ago at that summit meeting of the Arab Council that the US Navy withdraw from the Gulf. Remembering Korea, I don't think they'll be gone for a long time now.

You also spoke about disinvestment in the US. What a joke now! We're probably going to be in the same boat as King Fahd: we'll have to borrow money from the infidels.

The Israel problem looks as if it will be much the same, if not worse. The Israelis reject a peace conference, they won't talk to the PLO, they won't focus on "intractable problems", and they won't cede territory. I keep asking Baker, What are they going to talk about, and with whom? Their talk about "personal limited autonomy" perhaps means Palestinians can choose their own brand of deodorant or tampons. Bush seems to have excluded territorial autonomy, even in the New World Order. We may all come to understand why the Scuds were cheered.

As you know, oil is a bit of a problem. I'm not getting at you about the fires. Your boys did overdo the pyrotechnics as they left, but it was only natural some mess would be left after a war (I'm just glad we bought shares in that Red Adair company).

But you warned us about overproduction, and of course we're really in the shit now. You proposed a price of $24 a barrel and got the Americans to agree in that chat with April Glaspie. I wish we'd accepted that too. We're down to $15, and it may go as low as $10. I've got to try to understand this supply and demand stuff much better.

When I look at the balance sheet, we should have paid you the $2.4 billion from Rumailia and not been so petty about that debt from the war with Iran. After all, you supplied the bodies, and the least we could have done was paid the cash. We did for the Americans and their mates; and I can tell you their war cost a lot more.

And of course they'll bleed us dry with all these reconstruction plans. Our only hope is that we can get a cheaper price from the o desperate they'd promise anything. You know, they were so stupid they didn't even have to be bought by the Americans: apparently a few of the high-ups in the country are CIA, so Georgie just phoned and they agreed to come.

At least Hosni did well out of the whole exercise, getting all that cheap grain, and his debts written off. Typical of cunning old Assad to get himself taken off the baddies' list. Still, we Arabs all seem to get a turn at that.

I've gone back over it all, and I can't see how we let ourselves get into this. Sometime I feel like the Americans are pulling the strings. Tariq's letter to the secretary of the Arab League always upset me because I was never aware that we were "implementing an imperialist-Zionist plan" (I had trouble working out what that meant); but with hindsight I do wonder.

Anyway, looks like we're all in for a bit of a bumpy ride for the next few years.

Happy Ramadan fasting. Allah be praised. May the assassins' bullets be wide.
Your old friend, the one you love to hate,
Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad al-Sabah
(Jaber the Emir)

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