- By Peter Sullivan<p> Peter Sullivan is an editorial researcher at Foreign Policy. </p>
The rifle above belonged to a brutal dictator who gassed to death thousands of his own citizens and had the gall to erect a giant arch modeled after his own fists. Now it can be yours for an estimated $7,500 to $15,000.
The Rock Island Auction Company is auctioning off Saddam Hussein’s personal Ruger M77 bolt-action rifle, which has changed hands several times since the days when Hussein allegedly held the gun aloft during rallies (the Illinois-based firearms auction house is also selling a pocket pistol "attributed to Adolf Hitler," if you’re in the market). According to an affidavit posted on the company’s website, a Sufi militia group found the rifle in the rubble of the presidential palace in Baghdad soon after the beginning of the American invasion in 2003. The group then "turned over" the rifle to the CIA in 2004. When the Baghdad station chief at the time retired from the agency in 2012, the CIA gave him the rifle. He is now putting it up for auction, as he explains in signed documents on Rock Island’s site.
Whoever wrote the language hawking the item apparently didn’t think this history spoke for itself, choosing instead to describe Hussein rather like a wrestler about to enter the ring. "This brutal dictator needs NO introduction to the American people, as he is one of the most despised and hated Middle East leaders of the 20/21st Century," the description observes. After noting that the rifle "was the one used ceremoniously in numerous worldwide newsreels shown on national TV," the pitch finishes strong, promising an "impeccably well documented historic rifle that once belonged to one of the most known bad guys of recent times, the late Saddam Hussein!"
Saddam Hussein-related artifacts have been circulating around the world for quite some time now. In 2009, the U.S. Army returned to the Iraqi government a chrome-plated AK-47 that was part of a collection of chrome- and gold-plated weaponry that Hussein gave out as gifts. Former president George W. Bush kept in his private study the pistol found when Hussein was captured, and proudly showed it to visitors.
Among the more bizarre items in the genre is a bronze buttock from iconic Saddam statue in Baghdad, recovered when Marines and Iraqis symbolically toppled the monument in 2003. The section, which Iraq later argued was part of its "historical and cultural heritage," was auctioned in Britain in 2011 but failed to sell when bidding stopped at £21,000, short of the six-figure minimum price.
Compared to that asking price, Saddam’s bolt-action rifle is a steal.
(h/t: Borzou Daragahi)