Since I’ve gotten to Iraq, I’ve been living on an area called the Victory Base Complex. This is a group of several Army “camps” with various patriotic sounding names such as Victory and Liberty, along with several others named after either individual soldiers, or units that served with distinction. Camp Slayer is one of those, and has got to be the prettiest area over here that I’ve seen to date.
The camp is made up of various buildings commandeered for housing, administration, and other mundane stuff, but the centerpiece is a huge man-made lake containing the ruins of several of Saddam Hussein’s old palaces. According to our military tour guide, this entire complex besides being the permanent home of Uday Hussein was also the equivalent of the US President’s Camp David retreat. The tour guides seemed pretty well trained, but there was definitely a feeling that the history they were relating was a very one sided version, with lots of tales designed to really reassure the audience that Saddam was a really, super evil dude, and that the US did the right thing by invading. It got to be so over the top at times that I almost expected to hear the guide tell us that “This next room is where Saddam and his sons would kill and dismember kittens before dinner every night just for fun!”
We went on a tour of several buildings starting out with an exterior view of the Perfume Palace, which was supposedly where Saddam and his sons kept their various concubines before they were ready to use them. It’s used for upper level officer staff offices now, so we weren’t allowed in, but it is apparently decorated way over the top with lots of marble, expensive tile, gold fittings, all paid for by the oil for food program. Next we moved onto Uday’s house where I was impressed with the results that happen when the US military decides that its time to perform an eviction with extreme prejudice. Seriously, we don’t mess around. A couple of JDAMs (look it up) will really make a mess of the place, and destroy the resale value.
After that we drove around the lake and headed to the Victory over Iran and America palaces..these are two buildings that are very well constructed, and completely over the top decorated. Its interesting to see how the really impressive finish construction hides the fact that the actual support construction was extremely shoddy; instead of proper plaster, the workers would stuff the walls with anything they had on hand such as empty paint cans, soda bottles, even a little actual plaster in places. The buildings weren’t finished yet when we attacked, but they still held up very well to our bombings. It won’t surprise me to see them cleaned up and eventually finished once we’re out of here by the Iraqis.
The final stop on our tour was what our guide called the B’aath Party House. This was another fantastically decorated palace where the higher level government officials came to work and play. This was complete with a movie theater, ballroom, and swimming pool (in which our tour guide made sure to point out bloodstains from executions). The palace was pretty much intact (except that all the bathroom fittings had been stolen), except for one room which was where the first Tomahawk missile of the war was fired into…apparently we missed Saddam by about 45 minutes here.