Voice from the Commonwealth
Commentary, World Views and Occasional Rants from a small 'l' libertarian in Massachussetts

"If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest for freedom, go home and leave us in peace. We seek not your council nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen." - Samuel Adams

Friday, April 11, 2003

Inside the palaces.

Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, the public voice of the Iraqi regime, is fond of ballroom dancing with his wife, as the many snapshots tucked along the frame of his bedroom mirror suggest.
Someone in Saddam Hussein's family is a fan of Britney Spears. Or so it seems, based on the magazine clippings of the American pop star taped to the wall in one of the Iraqi president's palaces.

When Iraq's top leaders vanished in the face of a U.S. invasion, they left behind palaces and homes that are being searched by U.S. forces. A walk through the ransacked remains of two such compounds is a window into the lives of two men who dominated life in Iraq for a generation.

Saddam, for one, seems to prefer Italian suits, double-breasted, by Canali and Luca's. He favors silk ties in solids or subtle patterns.

He brushes with Colgate.

Thursday was a day of revelations for the armored crews and commanders camped at the palace -- one of dozens built by Saddam, who is known for changing his location almost nightly -- as the battle for Baghdad wore on. They discovered a pen of emaciated lions, cheetahs and bears on the palace grounds, and a stroll through the rose gardens revealed the rotting corpses of Iraqi soldiers blown from sandy bunkers by the crews' tank rounds.

Scouts from the U.S. Army's 3rd Infantry Division found a live sheep and fed it to a cheetah, which was joined in the feast by three lions.

Across the pen, a thin brown bear cub bound through the grass, dragging the entrails of a sheep provided earlier by the same scouts.

The palace was so large deCamp had his men count the rooms and write the numbers on an index card: 142 offices, 64 bathrooms, 19 meeting rooms, 22 kitchens, countless bedrooms, one movie theater, five "huge ballrooms" and one "football-field sized monster ballroom."

A cursory tour took hours, through mirrored hallways, across marble floors, beneath intricately tile-domed entryways.

In Saddam's bedroom, deCamp thumbed through a Newsweek magazine on a nightstand. The cover story was "Inside America's new way of war," an examination of high-tech U.S. weaponry.

"Guess he was trying to get ready for us," said deCamp, who commands the 4th Battalion in the 3rd Infantry Division's 2nd Brigade -- the brigade that took central Baghdad.

Inside were vast supplies of TV sets, Moet champagne, Russian vodka, imported American cigarettes, 150 Persian carpets, Parker pen sets, French wines and Lladro figurines. These, according to the colonel, were gratuities handed out by Saddam's functionaries to favored members of the ruling Baath Party.

The Aziz home, in contrast with Saddam's austerely formal palaces, had the look of a suburban trophy house, tucked behind a sculptured hedge in a nice neighborhood on Baghdad's east side.

The heavy, carved-wood double doors opened onto a dining room with cases of fine tea sets and silverware. On the dining room table, as if set aside for hanging, were two large photographs of Aziz and his wife dancing cheek to cheek.

Fresh stacks of carefully set-aside Vanity Fair magazines, with Sean Penn, Jude Law and other stars on the covers. Old issues of Foreign Affairs, the journal of New York's Council on Foreign Relations, dating back to 1981.

He had volumes by statesmen -- Henry Kissinger on diplomacy -- and by dictators -- Mao Tse-tung on revolution. He had a well-turned copy of Bob Woodward's "Veil," an investigation of the CIA, and a seemingly new edition of Judith Miller's book on militant Islam, "God has Ninety-Nine Names."

His taste in movies was equally eclectic, with hundreds of DVDs ranging from "Josie and the Pussycats" to the "Godfather" series.

And the Iraqi people starved and lived in fear. Years more of inspectionas and sanctions would have meant years more of this opulance for Saddam's regime while the people of Iraq suffered only to wait for Saddam to die and one of his sons to take his place.

< email | 4/11/2003 11:08:00 AM | link

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