Saddam: ruthless dictator or delicate blossom?

Nikola Solic-Pool/Getty Images Saddam Hussein may have been A-okay exterminating thousands of Iraqi Kurds and destroying the oil economy of an entire country, but apparently life in prison was a little more than his hard shell could handle.   The pan-Arab paper Al-Hayat (English version of its news site here) has printed excerpts from the ...

595146_080507_hussein_728644942.jpg
595146_080507_hussein_728644942.jpg

Nikola Solic-Pool/Getty Images

Saddam Hussein may have been A-okay exterminating thousands of Iraqi Kurds and destroying the oil economy of an entire country, but apparently life in prison was a little more than his hard shell could handle.  


Nikola Solic-Pool/Getty Images

Saddam Hussein may have been A-okay exterminating thousands of Iraqi Kurds and destroying the oil economy of an entire country, but apparently life in prison was a little more than his hard shell could handle.  

The pan-Arab paper Al-Hayat (English version of its news site here) has printed excerpts from the prison diaries of Iraq’s prolific former dictator, written during his stint in custody between 2003 and 2006. In his prison time writings, Saddam describes the hardships he faced, including the personal struggle of asking for things — like the time he asked for a flower. “It was a serious sacrifice from me to ask for the first time in my life,” he wrote.

Also, while he probably should have been more concerned about his impending execution, Saddam’s main worry was actually contracting an STD . . . from his clothesline. Upon learning that his laundry was hung on the same line as the clothes of his U.S. military guards, he wrote:

I explained to them that they are young and they could have young people’s diseases…  My main concern was to not catch a venereal disease, an HIV disease, in this place… What can the Americans and other invaders… bring to an (invaded) country apart from dangerous diseases?”

I knew the man was backward, but how early ’90s -– if you can’t get AIDS from a toilet seat, you surely can’t get AIDS from a clothesline.

Lucy Moore is a researcher at Foreign Policy.

More from Foreign Policy

An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.
An illustration shows George Kennan, the father of Cold War containment strategy.

Is Cold War Inevitable?

A new biography of George Kennan, the father of containment, raises questions about whether the old Cold War—and the emerging one with China—could have been avoided.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks on the DISCLOSE Act.

So You Want to Buy an Ambassadorship

The United States is the only Western government that routinely rewards mega-donors with top diplomatic posts.

Chinese President Xi jinping  toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.
Chinese President Xi jinping toasts the guests during a banquet marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China on September 30, 2019 in Beijing, China.

Can China Pull Off Its Charm Offensive?

Why Beijing’s foreign-policy reset will—or won’t—work out.

Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar chairs a meeting in Ankara, Turkey on Nov. 21, 2022.

Turkey’s Problem Isn’t Sweden. It’s the United States.

Erdogan has focused on Stockholm’s stance toward Kurdish exile groups, but Ankara’s real demand is the end of U.S. support for Kurds in Syria.