A man who was the prison guard at there prison where Saddam Hussein, former dictator of Iraq, spent his final days. The guard says the former leader had a sweet tooth for muffins, spent time gardening, riding a bike, and listening to Mary J. Blige.
The dictator was tried for killing his own people and opponents, and then placed in a locked prison to await his death sentence. While he was there, his cell was guarded by a group of US soldiers from the 551st Military Police Company who came to call themselves The Super Twelve.
The Daily Mail reports:
Among them was Will Bardenwerper, whose new book ‘The Prisoner in His Palace: Saddam Hussein, His American Guards, and What History Leaves Unsaid’ says that Saddam was unfailing polite, in a jarring contrast to his murderous past.
The former dictator also surprised the guards by liking simple pleasures and seemed content spending time in his cell.
A man who once had gold plated toilets in his palaces loved to just sit outside on a patio chair or write at his desk under an Iraqi flag his guards had hung on the wall.
Saddam liked to smoke Cohiba cigars, which he stored in an empty box of wet wipes. Years earlier Fidel Castro had taught him how to smoke them.
He always listened to the radio and would ‘always stop tuning if he stumbled across a Mary J Blige song’, the book says.
Mr Bardenwerper writes that Saddam loved the scrubby prison garden and was ‘treating them more like beautiful flowers than the ugly growths they were’.
Saddam’s fondness for sweets was disarming and the book says that he could ‘yield to the siren call of a sugary muffin the way anyone else might’.
Mr Bardenwerper writes that Saddam was meticulous about his food, too. He ate his breakfast in sections, first an omelet, then a muffin, followed by fresh fruit. If the omelet was ‘torn’ he would reject it.
Over time Saddam developed a friendship of sorts with his guards, who swapped stories about their families.
While the Americans talked about their children having their first day at school Saddam’s equivalent was the time Uday made a ‘terrible mistake’ that left his father ‘very angry’.
Uday – who was known for psychotic outbursts – had shot up a party, killing several people and wounding several more including Saddam’s half-brother.
Saddam told his guards: ‘I was very angry with him so I burned all his cars’, referring to his son’s vast collection of Rolls-Royces, Ferraris and Porsches.
The book says: ‘Laughing wildly, the former dictator recalled how he gleefully watched the inferno’.
Mr Bardenwerper says that it reminded one guard of ‘a Jerry Springer episode on steroids’.