BAGHDAD SIMON ROBINSON
It's not easy being the freeloading, oversexed, overlooked scion of an Iraqi dictator. Consider Uday Hussein, 39, who in 1990 wrote to an uncle, "It is difficult being in the family of Hussein. People want to kill us." That quite possibly includes the people who looted his lavish three-story riverside home down to its marble walls. The looters took everything they could, including fuses from the fuse boxes. But they left documents that, as I learned during a walk-through of the building late last week, paint a colorful portrait of the unhappy eldest son of Saddam, who hasn't been seen since reportedly entering the restaurant obliterated by U.S. bombs in the al-Mansur neighborhood.
The palace, in the tony Baghdad suburb of Karada, was not Uday's main residence but rather a safe house in which Uday could hide out, as well as, according to a neighbor, a "love nest" to which he would bring his many girlfriends. Snapshots found in the remains of a darkroom show him fishing with friends, riding a motorbike in a black leather jacket, posing with pet lions and hanging out in shorts and a cowboy hat.
Many of the writings Uday left behind are mundane, like a few cards from his handwritten video-collection catalog. The Ls include License to Kill (two copies), Like Father Like Son and Loose Cannons. But some are significant. An official letter signed by Uday and countersigned by seven witnesses, for example, says that well-known opposition Shi'ite leader Thafer Mohammed Jaber was captured on Sept. 3, 1995, and was being kept in one of Saddam's palaces. Jaber, say local Iraqis, has not been heard from since. In a 1990 letter, Uday reveals that his father plans to create a greater Iraq that includes Kuwait, Palestine and Arabstan, a region of Iran historically controlled by Baghdad. The note says Saddam is beginning with the easiest--Kuwait. And then there is Uday's university transcript from 1988, the year he was awarded a degree in civil engineering. "He ranked 1st in a class of 174 students," the transcript reads before detailing his grades: excellent in every subject, except Physical Training and First Aid, in which he was satisfactory, the highest grades offered for such courses.
Although shot in an ambush in 1996, an attack that left him walking with a cane, Uday loved fast cars and faster living. In 1989, documents show, he bought a red Lamborghini Countach from a Kuwaiti dealer and sent a letter asking about a Ferrari that turned up in Jordan. "Is it still there?" he wanted to know. Neighbors say looters carried away bottles of Scotch and wine, but they left receipts from Uday's 1989 New Year's party, which seem to confirm he liked a tipple. The revelers downed 12 bottles of gin and 11 cases of beer, plus vodka, champagne and Pepsi.
Uday's expensive tastes weren't confined to cars and booze. A 1980 certificate from a Swiss dealer indicates that Uday owned a solid-gold watch with "54 full-cut fine diamonds." Money apparently wasn't a problem: the charred corners of $100 and $50 bills litter the house. "He used to light cigars with them," says a neighbor.