FROM: Mr. Kurt Luchs, Special Consultant to Iraq
TO: Mr. Kofi Annan, UN Secretary General
cc: UN Security Council, all UN members, Mr. Muhammad Said Al-Sahaf, Iraqi Foreign Minister
RE: Explanation of apparent anomalies

My Dear Kofi,

As you may know, the forward-looking folks in the current Iraqi regime have hired my firm, Pronto PR, to give their public image a facelift and help smooth over some of the difficulties on their way to their rejoining the cherished family of nations. Among my many pleasant duties is the welcoming of official delegations from the United Nations. Following is my report on the most recent such encounter. As you will see, no matter how thorny the issue, my Iraqi clients and I speak with one voice.

I would be most remiss, not only in my own eyes but in the eyes of the world, if I did not take this opportunity to clear up some of the trivial misunderstandings resulting from the recent visit by the official UN weapons inspection team. It is always a pleasure to welcome these fine individuals to this humble land, and let me start by apologizing for the unfortunate mishap with their jeep. The facts remain a little unclear, but it would seem that a grain of sand in the fuel line led to an unusually large engine backfire and the vaporization of the rear half of the vehicle. I can’t tell you how relieved we are that the driver and passengers were thrown clear into a nearby sand dune and suffered only minor loss of consciousness and vertebrae.

Perhaps it was the slight disorientation of that incident that caused them to believe they had spotted weapons-grade uranium at their first inspection site, the Baghdad Children’s Radiology and Missile Control Center. Their confusion is completely understandable, and let me be the first to admit that weapons-grade uranium does indeed look an awful lot like the toy-grade uranium employed at this world-class pediatric institute. But try using the kid’s stuff in a man-sized nuclear device and you’ll see the difference. Believe me! I know.

Similarly, I can see how the inspectors’ relative unfamiliarity with Iraqi conditions might cloud their perceptions of the insecticide factory they visited on the outskirts of the capital the next day. But honestly, the products of this modern facility are “weapons of mass destruction” only for the “masses” of locusts, sand flies and cockroaches that continually threaten the security of Iraq’s borders. True, they are making an industrial-strength pesticide that you wouldn’t want to sprinkle on your breakfast cereal. But you should see the size of those roaches—seven inches, some of them! And the Iraqi scientists who still have their tongues assure me that this compound is safe for general use if all neighboring populations can be gently herded into some of the deeper underground salt caverns for several years.

As to the cache of ground-to-ground tactical nuclear missiles uncovered in a visit to the Ali Baba Orchid Nursery, I was at a loss to account for their presence until General Hussein himself explained the situation to me. This was supposed to be a surprise, but now the whole world will know that the supreme commander plans a revival of West Side Story—and not merely a revival but a complete update to bring this classic American musical into the new millennium. Where the Jets were once armed with bicycle chains, baseball bats and flick knives, they will now possess rocket launchers. Surely anyone who appreciates Stanislavsky’s Method will grasp why these launchers must be armed and fully functional. General Hussein feels authenticity is key, and I must say I agree with him. If it would in any way help to ease international tensions, Iraq would be only too happy to provide a certain number of front-row opening night passes to our friends in the UN.

On one or two other occasions the inevitable language barriers prevented a fuller comprehension on the part of the inspectors—for example, when a lab worker at the Veiled Insult Cosmetics Research Institute snatched a sealed beaker away from a member of the UN team and screamed what sounded like “Anthrax!” How could the inspector know he meant “Ant tracks”? I’ve already mentioned the country’s insect problem. The fact is the little buggers were marching into the building in force and trying to carry out tubes of a top-secret new form of cold creme, God knows why. The “lab worker” that was later seen smoldering over a bonfire was in fact a life-sized replica intended for educational purposes only.

That covers most of the points raised in the inspectors’ official report. However, I would also like to deal with some of the unofficial business. Let it never be said that the Iraqi government is not a good host! Take the so-called food poisoning incident, for instance. Admittedly, marinated deep-fried furry jackal bits are not to every taste, and perhaps one of us should have alerted the inspectors to what was on their plates before it crossed their palates. Our smiles were smiles of heartfelt sympathy, I assure you.

And to be fair, the old scorpion-in-the-sheets gag, while known and loved by every Iraqi, may strike Westerners as strange.

Then, too, I can readily understand the inspector who says she got almost no sleep in Iraq. Nights can be restless in the desert. I think we all know how it feels to be awakened in the middle of the night by the sound of agonized but unidentifiable screaming next door, and then to have the screams stop only with a sudden burst of gunfire.

Speaking of gunfire, please accept on my behalf this nation’s humblest apologies for the contretemps at the border as the inspectors were leaving friendly Iraqi soil. The bullets fired into their hats and taillights were not “an act of blatant aggression,” as alleged in the inspectors’ report, but rather a traditional Iraqi leave-taking. Ask anyone who has ever departed the country in a hurry.

Your pal,