Tuesdays In The Brig With Saddam

Following the announcement that former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein will soon be brought to trial on multiple charges, GQ magazine sheds new light on the man and his life since being captured and imprisoned. Hussein longs for the days when Ronald Reagan was president, says that he never dealt with Osama bin Laden, and is absolutely certain that he will return to power, according to an account of his captivity detailed for the first time in the July issue of GQ magazine.

In her story, “Tuesdays with Saddam” (on newsstands nationwide June 28), GQ correspondent Lisa DePaulo interviews five U.S. soldiers who guarded and got to know Saddam Hussein for 298 days. The five soldiers are from the Pennsylvania National Guard, and they ranged in age from 19 to 25. All five are now back in the United States, having completed their tours of duty in Iraq.

“This is a very patriotic story about five ordinary Americans who, unexpectedly, were assigned to stand guard over one of the most notorious dictators of our time,” says DePaulo. “They became witnesses to history, and as part of their duties they found themselves struggling to come to terms with the older man they grew to know and the reality of his infamous past as a ruthless dictator.”

“This is the opposite of Abu Ghraib,” says Andy Ward, GQ’s executive editor. “These young men showed Hussein a respect and courtesy that made possible an unusual bond between captors and captive. And because of this, they were able to see a very different side of one of the most controversial figures in modern history.”

It turns out Saddam may suffer from a bit of a obsessive compulsive disorder (ODC), as he the soldiers describe him as a “clean freak,” afraid of germs, obsessively washing his hands and carefully wiping his plate and utensils before eating.

Among the other revelations in the article:

  • He loves Doritos chips and Raisin Bran Crunch cereal … but he won’t touch Froot Loops.

  • In the bathroom, which soldiers had to watch as well since Saddam could never be out of their sight, toilet paper was never used. Saddam wiped with his left hand and had a hose next to the toilet that he used to wash himself.

  • Saddam actually kept one of the soldiers from electrocuting himself on a shorted powerline in the rec yard prompting him to tell anyone who would listen, “I saved O’Shea’s life!”

  • Saddam had an opinion on everyone, including his old pal Dan Rather whom he referred to as a “a good guy.”

  • Saddam’s advice on women handling women, “You gotta find a good woman. Not too smart, not too dumb. Not too old, not too young. In the middle. One that can cook and clean. Then you thank her, and you go-‘ ” And Saddam smiled and made the gesture of bending a woman over and spanking her, as if to say: This is how you keep her in line.

  • The one prison luxury Saddam really wanted (but didn’t get) was a Ping-Pong table.

  • While having little positive to say about either President George W. Bush or his father, George H. W. Bush, he expresses a desire to be “friends” with them.

  • He also expresses a longing for the days when Ronald Reagan was still president and funding his war with Iran.

  • Hussein says that he is still president of Iraq and is absolutely certain that he will someday return to power.

GQ subscribers can read the full story online.

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