Saddam Hussein loves Doritos, hates Froot Loops, admires President Reagan, thinks President Clinton was "OK" and holds dim views of both...
NEW YORK — Saddam Hussein loves Doritos, hates Froot Loops, admires President Reagan, thinks President Clinton was “OK” and holds dim views of both Presidents Bush. The former dictator talks a lot, worries about germs and insists he is still president of Iraq.
Those and other details of the deposed Iraqi leader’s life in U.S. military custody appear in the July issue of GQ magazine, based on interviews with five Pennsylvania National Guardsmen who went to Iraq in 2003 and were assigned to Saddam’s guard detail for nearly 10 months.
The magazine, which reached newsstands yesterday, said the GIs could not tell their families what they were doing and signed pledges not to reveal the location or other details of the U.S.-run compound where Saddam was an HVD, or “high-value detainee.”
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Iraqi authorities are gearing up to bring him to trial. He has been accused of the gassing of Kurds in northern Iraq in the 1980s; the massacres of Shiites and Kurds in 1991, when those communities rose up against Saddam at the end of the Gulf War; and the 1992 draining of southern marshes that drove many Shiites from their homes.
Saddam, who took power in 1979, was captured Dec. 13, 2003, while hiding in a “spider hole” behind a farmhouse near his ancestral hometown of Tikrit.
The five soldiers told GQ of their personal interactions with Saddam, saying he spoke with them in rough English, was interested in their lives and even invited them back to Iraq when he returns to power.
“He’d always tell us he was still the president. That’s what he thinks, 100 percent,” said Spc. Jesse Dawson, 25, of Berwick, Pa.
A Pentagon spokesman had no comment on the article.
The GIs recalled that Saddam had harsh words for the Bushes, each of whom went to war against him.
“The Bush father, son, no good,” Cpl. Jonathan “Paco” Reese, 22, of Millville, Pa., quoted Saddam as saying.
Spc. Sean O’Shea, then 19, of Minooka, Pa., said Saddam later mellowed. “Toward the end, he was saying that he doesn’t hold any hard feelings and he just wanted to talk to [George W.] Bush, to make friends with him,” he told the magazine.
Dawson quoted Saddam as saying: “He knows I have nothing, no mass weapons. He knows he’ll never find them.”
The guardsmen’s description of the man who once lived in palaces and now occupies a cell with no personal privacy matched recently published photos, apparently smuggled out of prison, showing Saddam in his underwear and a long robe. There was no indication whether the guardsmen were paid for the interviews.
The story said that once, when Saddam fell during his twice-a-week shower, “panic ensued. No one wanted him to be hurt while being guarded by Americans.” One GI had to help Saddam back to his cell, while another carried his underwear, the story said.
Saddam was friendly toward his guards and sometimes offered fatherly advice. When O’Shea told him he was not married, Saddam “started telling me what to do,” the soldier recalled. “He was like, ‘You gotta find a good woman. Not too smart, not too dumb. Not too old, not too young. One that can cook and clean.’ “
Saddam then smiled, made what O’Shea interpreted as a “spanking” gesture, laughed and went back to doing his laundry in the sink.
The soldiers also said Saddam was a “clean freak” who washed after shaking hands and used diaper wipes to clean meal trays and utensils before eating. “He had germophobia or whatever you call it,” Dawson said.
The article said Saddam preferred Raisin Bran Crunch for breakfast, telling O’Shea, “No Froot Loops.” He ate fish and chicken but refused beef.
His favorite snack for a time was Cheetos, and Saddam would “get grumpy” when that ran out, the story said. One day, guards substituted Doritos corn chips, and Saddam forgot about Cheetos. “He’d eat a family-size bag of Doritos in 10 minutes,” Dawson said.
The magazine said Saddam told his guards that when the Americans invaded Iraq in March 2003, he “tried to flee in a taxicab as the tanks were rolling in,” and U.S. planes struck the palace he was trying to reach instead of the one he was in.
“Then he started laughing,” Reese recalled. “He goes, ‘America, they dumb. They bomb wrong palace.’ “
Saddam also said his capture resulted from betrayal by the only man who knew where he was, and had been paid to keep the secret.
“He was really mad about that,” Dawson said. “He compared himself to Jesus, how Judas told on Jesus. He was like, ‘That’s how it was for me.’ If his Judas never said anything, nobody ever would have found him, he said.”
U.S. officials at the time said intelligence from several sources led to Saddam’s capture.
The magazine said Saddam prayed five times a day and kept a Quran that he claimed to have found in rubble near his hideout. “He proudly showed [it] to the boys because it was burned around the edges and had a bullet hole in it,” GQ said.
Background on Saddam’s capture and the charges facing him was provided by Seattle Times archives.