Selling Saddam


Credit: Deli Direct

Have you tried Bad Day at Baghdad yet? It's one of several competing hot sauces that associate Saddam Hussein with heartburn. (That's its label above.) "Try this one," promises Internet retailer Calido Chile Traders, "and kiss your camel goodbye!" A five-ounce bottle goes for $8.95.

You can dine on Saddam while sporting an Iraq War T-shirt; among the most popular are those featuring Mohammed Sayeed Al-Sahhaf, the information minister notorious for his flights of fantasy. "Baghdad Bob" is a war paraphernalia favorite: There's a mug, a talking doll, even a British-produced dance track sampling some of his most beloved denials.

After shuffling to Al-Sahhaf, you can settle in for a night of cards, dealing the "Iraqi Most Wanted Deck" ($5.95). The original deck was of course created by the Pentagon; commercial copies soon appeared on the market. "We can barely keep them in stock!" boast innumerable spams. "Buy them for poker night or to hand out to your friends and family!"

State propaganda usually enlarges the enemy as a perpetrator of atrocity and a bestial threat to civilization. The contemporary market, by contrast, has shrunk him. Enemy Ba'thists and Islamists are commodified as mere clowns. Soldiers have always lampooned the enemy, so it's notable that in an age of incipient terror, civilians too are happily buying the punch line that what really hangs in the balance is heartburn.