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Saddam insists he's president, new novel out soon

- Agencies, Sify

(Friday, June 24, 2005)

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“He’d always tell us he was still the president. That’s what he thinks, 100 per cent,” said Spc Jesse Dawson, 25, of Berwick.

Saddam Hussein loves Doritos, hates Froot Loops, admires former president Ronald Reagan, thinks Bill Clinton was “OK” and considers both Presidents Bush “no good.” He 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 US 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 US-run compound where Saddam was an HDV, or “high value detainee,” awaiting trial by Iraqi authorities for mass killings and other crimes.

However, 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 per cent,” said Spc Jesse Dawson, 25, of Berwick. 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, Pennsylvania, quoted Saddam as saying. Dawson quoted Saddam as saying: “He knows I have nothing, no mass weapons. He knows he’ll never find them.”

The soldiers also said Saddam was a “clean freak” who washed after shaking hands and used diaper wipes to clean meal trays, utensils and table before eating. “He had germophobia or whatever you call it,” Dawson said.

The article said Saddam preferred Raisin Bran Crunch for breakfast. He ate fish and chicken but refused beef. For a time his favorite snack was Cheetos, and when that ran out, Saddam would “get grumpy,” 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 US planes struck the palace he was trying to reach instead of the one he was in. “Then he started laughing,” recalled Reese. “He goes, “America, they dumb. They bomb wrong palace’.” The magazine said Saddam prayed five times a day and kept a Quran that he claimed to have found in rubble near his hideout.

New novel to be out soon

A novel said to have been penned by ousted Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein telling the story of an Arab warrior who saves a town from a plot to overthrow its ruler is to be published soon, a newspaper reported Thursday. Jordan's independent Al-Arab Al-Yawm newspaper carried a picture of the cover of the Arabic-language book "Ekhroj minha ya mal'un" whose title could be translated into "Damned one, get out of here".

The book is expected to be published in Jordan and other Arab countries within a week, the newspaper said. It relates the story of a man named Haskeel who plots to overthrow the ruler of a town but is eventually defeated by an Arab warrior and the ruler's daughter, according to the newspaper. The book carries a message from Saddam's eldest daughter Raghad praising her father, who is now in US custody in Iraq after his toppling in the US-led war in 2003.

Saddam family lawyer Ziad Najdawi told AFP the book had been on sale in Iraq since the US-led war of March 2003, where it was released as a novel "by its author" with no mention of Saddam. "The family of the Iraqi president did not authorise the publication of this work which is still a rough copy that has not been finalised," Najdawi said. But Najdawi said several Arab newspapers had published excerpts of this work soon after the US invasion of Iraq.

Two other books -- "Zabiba and the King" and "The Impregnable Fortress" -- have been attributed to Saddam although each was released as a novel written "by its author".

Published in 2001, "Zabiba and the King" is considered Saddam's first work of fiction. It tells of a love story between a simple girl and the king of ancient Mesopotamia which is seen as symbolising the relationship between Saddam and his people.

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