Basement Files: Dear Saddam


In October, the fifth-grade Model United Nations from Des Moines' Anthony Wayne Elementary School began a class project of corresponding with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Aware that the real United Nations had been unable to coerce the brutal dictator into peaceful, verifiable disarmament, the fifth-graders took the unusual step of e-mailing the Iraqi leader with a direct plea on behalf of the world's children. Here is Hussein's unexpected response and the lively exchange of ideas that followed.


(October 17, 2002)

Dear Becky,

I'm gratified to see children as young as you and your classmates taking an active interest in world affairs. It bodes well for the future diplomatic relations between both of our countries. Please accept my best wishes.

Yours,

Saddam Hussein


(October 22, 2002)

Dear President Hussein,

Thank you for writing back, but you still didn't answer my question. Will you please dismantle your stockpile of weapons and start being nice to the Kurds?

Becky Myricks

President, Model United Nations


(October 26, 2002)

Dear Becky,

Okay, look, I've been a pretty good sport about all this. I'm glad you got your picture in the paper. I'm sure your parents were very proud. But I couldn't believe that mawkish, fawning story in the Des Moines Register ("Brave Little Girl Stands Up to Evil Madman"). I'm always amazed by the absurd civic boosterism of these small-town papers. "Those who know the headstrong 11-year-old say they wouldn't be one bit surprised if Becky Myricks ended up as America's first female president."

Please. Tell me, is the little article already framed and hanging in your cramped living room? Soon, its presence will taunt you as each passing year sees promise and reality recede like passing trains. Who can ever live up to such early and extravagant billing? Certainly not you, dear Becky, with your masculine arm hair and borderline lazy eye.

Yours,

Saddam Hussein


P.S. Is it me, or is Jason Simczak, that unfortunate boy with the leg braces, staring at you with moony-eyed longing these days?


(November 1, 2002)

Dear Sadman,

Okay, Jason showed me the note where I tell him I love him. How did you do that? It took me about an hour to prove that wasn't my handwriting. I don't make my Ys anything like that, Sadman. Oh, and nobody uses Lisa Frank notepads anymore. Duh! But I liked the sparkly gel pen. That was a nice touch. By the way, you'll be sorry you were mean to me.

Becky


(November 6, 2002)

Dear Becky,

Here's the thing about prank phone calls. The best ones require some knowledge of the victim's culture. Mohammed bin Dover? Does Dover strike you as a common surname in my country? The insult doesn't even translate directly into Arabic. And I won't even comment on the "Iraqi Ricardo" foolishness. Come on, you're better than this.

P.S. Sadman isn't funny. Try again.


(November 11, 2002)

Dear President Insane,

Yesterday, someone claiming to be the school nurse called my father at work and told him I'd suffered a T-4 spinal cord injury on the playground. He was instructed to rush immediately to Iowa Lutheran Hospital and sign some consent forms. What do you know about this?


(November 15, 2002)

Becky,

While I have no firsthand knowledge of the incident, I imagine that was one anxious and harrowing drive to the hospital. But do you take my meaning about a successful prank call? Some gnawing seed of doubt must be planted in the victim's mind. It's not enough to ask that a funny name be paged publicly. Do you see?

Best,

Saddam


(November 24, 2002)

Dear Saddamy,

Last Thursday, before school had even started, someone put up about eight giant posters saying the Model United Nations bake sale goods were tainted with E. coli, salmonella and other "icky things." No one showed up, we didn't make any money and I HATE YOUR GUTS. Are you happy now?

Becky


(November 26, 2002)

Becky,

How very curious. Perhaps we should all be careful about accusing our enemies of possessing chemical and biological agents that don't exist. There's a lesson there. Oh, and Saddamy isn't funny either.

Saddam


(December 4, 2002)

Becky,

I'm so very sorry to hear about the mix-up regarding invitations to Ashley's Crandall's birthday/slumber party. I can't imagine what might have happened to that Britney Spears envelope with the heart-shaped confetti inside. HA! To think that you were invited, after all. All that needless suffering. All those pitiful, tear-stained entries in your diary. And then, your vengeful miscalculation to snub Ashley in return. How that backfired. A once-strong friendship now in tatters. How very, very sad for you.

Yours,

Saddam


(December 8, 2002)

Dorkwad,

I don't care. I hate Ashley's guts. She thinks she's all grown up 'cause she's got breasts already. Big breasts. I should send you her picture from my pool party. Maybe I will. You'd probably drool all over it, pervert man.

Becky


(December 14, 2002)

Becky,

It might seem very funny to send an e-mail virus to a man's computer under the subject line "I Crave Iraqi Cock," but let me assure it's not funny at all. Because of your little prank, some launch codes, some VERY IMPORTANT LAUNCH CODES, were destroyed. That's taking things a bit too far.


(December 16, 2002)

Sad,

Whatever!


(December 20, 2002)

Becky,

Well, my first copy of the American gay magazine Mandate, again with the address label Saddamy Hussein, arrived in the palace mailbox yesterday. As you undoubtedly know, some acts of homosexuality are punishable by death in my country and I've been at great pains to explain the appearance of such filth amid my personal belongings. I bow to your wickedness, my friend, but this will not stop here.



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