Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Saddam's Left Hand

I finally purchased the July issue of GQ (yes, the one with Jessica Simpson on the cover), featuring Lisa DePaulo's mesmerizing interview with the Pennsylvania National Guardsmen who supervised Saddam Hussein. Specialist Sean O'Shea summed it up best when he wrote in his diary, "Part of me wanted to punch him in the face. Another part wanted to know what was going on in his head." And while the former didn't happen, O'Shea and his fellow soldiers learned more than they ever imagined from this bloodthirsty, megalomaniacal dictator.

Some highlights:

"Never Froot Loops. Saddam loved Raisin Bran Crunch, but sometimes they'd run out. It was one of the few times Sean ever saw him defeated--when he'd bring him the wrong cereal. 'No Froot Loops!' Saddam would say."

"And his favorite food was ... Cheetos. He was nuts about Cheetos. One of the guardsmen turned him on to them, and before long he would get grumpy if they ran out.... Then one day they gave him Doritos instead, and Saddam never went back.... He'd eat a family-size bag of Doritos in ten minutes.... When they'd give him a bag, he'd smile, thank them profusely, and retreat to a corner of his cell. Then he'd sprinkle a few drops of water into the bag and eat."

"His English kept improving, and he liked to tell jokes. There was one about a sheep and three men. 'You couldn't always understand him,' says [Specialist] Jesse [Dawson], 'but he was laughing, so you'd start laughing, too."

"When Sean told him that Reagan had recently died after a long battle with Alzheimer's, Saddam got quiet for a minute, then said, 'Yes, this happens.'"

Saddam has been working on his memoirs as well as his poetry. But when he translated it from Arabic into English, it didn't always make sense. Said Corporal Jonathan Reese, "It would be like, 'There's a blender in the street.' And we'd be like, 'Beautiful!'"

But perhaps the most disturbing detail, which seems to go against Saddam's germaphobic tendencies, is that he apparently doesn't use toilet paper: "He wiped with his left hand and had a hose next to the toilet that he used to wash himself off."

Being in Saddam's presence--even as the men reminded themselves constantly of what he did to his people--it became hard to avoid a conversation with him. (Hermann Göring was supposedly the same way in prison.) According to the soldiers, Saddam still believes he is president of Iraq and is waiting to return to his palace. He's in for a rude awakening.


J Bowen said...

If my source is correct, that hand-wiping thing isn't a Saddam thing, it's a Muslim thing, in the manner directed by the Ayatollah Khomeini himself.

It went on to list other things like whether you could make love to sheep (yes, if you were a man), the sheep's offspring (no), or whether you could relieve yourself in the direction of Mecca (NO!)

IIRC this was a small sidebar in an old issue of Playboy from around 1979 or so. Which proves that I really did read the text, and gives you all an excuse to go hunting this down.

Rock Throwing Peasant said...

Saddam hates Fruit Loops?

Why isn't he on a 24/7 diet of it?

Anonymous said...

Ummm, serving Fruit Loops to someone who hates them isn't exactly torture. Then again, neither is Christina Aguilera's music (close, though) or cranking up the air conditioner.

Anonymous said...

Saddam's "kindly senile old man" bit that he's still waiting to go back to the palace reminds me of Vincent "The Chin" Gigante wandering around talking to himself...i.e., it's bullshit and a ploy to garner sympathy. Saddam rose to the top of the Baath party by deliberately murdering opponents.

Anonymous said...

I've heard the hand-wiping thing too. My understanding is that it is the common thing in the Arab world. As a result you're not supposed to use your left hand in a variety of social circumstances. It's supposedly quite an insult.

I saw a doumentary about Idi Amin (called DADA, I think) which had an anecdote about this.

Apparently one night Uganda's official news agency broadcast footage of him shaking hands with an Arab VIP with his left had.

Amin assumed he had made a mistake when he shook hands but was still very upset with the agency for broadcasting him doing this and threatened the segment's producer.

A European documentarian who happened to be there viewed the footage and told him, no, he hadn't made a mistake. Rather, the editor must have accidentally flipped the tape, making it appear as though Amin was using his left hand when he was actually using his right.

So, the European said, there was no reason to punish the producer.

What the European didn't know, he later said, was that Amin had already had the producer killed. By pointing out the real error he had ensured that editor would be killed too.

Aaron Hanscom said...

The banality of evil!

Jay D. Homnick said...

The beauty is that he walked into the blender.