Palace of Saddam’s son reveals love of fast life
April 15, 2003
BAGHDAD, Iraq — His personal zoo has lions, cheetahs and a bear. His storehouse has $1 million in fine wines, liquor and heroin. His house has Cuban cigars, cases of champagne and downloaded pictures of prostitutes.
While most Iraqis suffered under the U.N. sanctions that drove their country into poverty, Saddam Hussein’s eldest son Odai lived a life of fast cars, expensive liquor and easy women, a tour through his bombed house showed Monday.
The walls of a gym were plastered with photographs of women downloaded from the Internet — “the biggest collection of naked women I’d ever seen,” said Army Capt. Ed Ballanco, of Montville, N.J. “It looked like something at the Playboy Mansion.”
Among the photos were those of Jenna and Barbara Bush, President Bush’s 21-year-old daughters, “dressed up very nice in evening clothes,” Ballanco said, adding that soldiers took them “to protect the president.”
Odai Hussein’s compound is in a back corner of the Presidential Palace compound, a small city that boasts six-lane avenues, traffic lights and a hospital. U.S. soldiers who now occupy the grounds say they believe Odai’s portion included a house, a warehouse, a gym, a gaudy house for women and a zoo.
Scattered among the debris from a bomb that tore through Odai’s house and exploded in a bunker below lay stationery with Odai’s name in gold lettering, photographs of Odai and dozens of copies of Odai’s doctoral dissertation, “The World After the Cold War.”
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The house also indicated Odai’s sybaritic side, something Iraqi dissenters have told of for decades: a hunger for alcohol, drugs and lots and lots of women.
There were bottles of Cuervo 1800 tequila, Danska vodka and Delamain cognac, as well as Chimay, Corona and Miller Genuine Draft beers.
There were bags and boxes of pills and medicines everywhere — ginseng sexual fortifiers, heartburn medication and Prozac — and an Accu-Rite HIV Antibodies Screening Test Kit in Odai’s office.
An e-mail dated Dec. 22, 2000, and signed by a Dr. Jean-Jacques Barrault, instructed “His Excellency” to undergo electrotherapy for a knee injury and to swim and ride horses for no more than 40 minutes a day. It prescribed a regimen of daily exercise.
In 1996, gunmen sprayed bullets at Odai’s Porsche, leaving him with a bullet in his spine that forced him to walk with a cane.
The house was filled with boxes from handguns and piles of magazines, including “Guns and Ammo” and “Guns,” as well as Spanish car magazines and catalogs of JetSkis.
Soldiers said they found receipts for sports cars signed by Odai. The underground parking garage and indoor swimming pool were destroyed by bombing that gutted the center of the house.
In the next-door storehouse, were roomfuls of alcohol, tobacco and firearms. Ballanco estimated the alcohol’s worth at $1 million.
There were “Dom Perignon, French wines — all appellation controlee, some 30-40 years old — a lot of very good brandy, a lot of good whiskey,” Ballanco said. “There were boxes of Cuban cigars that said ‘Odai Saddam Hussein’ on them, hundreds of them. My guys smoked them.”
He said there were also six bags of heroin. He didn’t know how much they held.
“There are UNICEF boxes in there with kids’ school supplies meant for the children of Iraq, yet these jerks took it,” said Maj. Kent Rideout, 39, of San Antonio, Texas.
Odai’s obsession with sex was evident everywhere. The house was adorned with paintings of naked women, as well as bundles of Internet printouts of what appeared to be prostitutes, complete with handwritten ratings of each. One black book listed hundreds of women’s names and phone numbers.
One e-mail printout was a complaint from a woman that she was having a difficult time finding heterosexual men in Europe.
“Darling, babe, it’s not good timing to send me sexy attachment. OH BOY where am I going to get one guy?” it read in English.
Odai’s bed was painted in gold trim, and his bathroom featured a sink and tub fitted with fixtures in a swan motif.
One house apparently wasn’t big enough for Odai’s women. To one side, a gaudy house filled with bedrooms that is now a camp for U.S. soldiers appeared to once have housed women.
It had statuettes of couples in foreplay, and couches everywhere with fluffy pillows. And it boasted another swimming pool, with a bar.
“The pink and the cheesiness suggest it was a concubines’ house,” Ballanco said.
Behind the house was a pen holding two cheetahs, five lion cubs and a young bear.
Three German shepherds who guarded the compound have been adopted by soldiers, who feed them military rations. For the wilder animals, soldiers have been throwing in sheep from a nearby pen, said Spc. Pete Adams, of Lexington, Va.
A feeding on Sunday, he said, “looked like something from the National Geographic Channel.”
EDITOR’S NOTE — Niko Price is correspondent at large for The Associated Press.