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Playing for the Devil

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Ismail Hussain was an Iraqi pop star – Uday Hussein made him an offer he couldn’t refuse:

    In the 1990’s, you were a pop star in Iraq, and you were known as Uday Hussein’s favorite performer. How did you get involved with Saddam’s oldest son, who is known for his violence, womanizing and erratic moods?

    I’d been singing for a while. I was pretty famous. When I was in the Iraqi Army in 1991, I was known through a lot of tapes of mine that had been circulating. When Uday heard them, he sent his security officer to bring me over to his home. I was happy that the president’s son wanted to have me perform. At the same time I had some apprehension. We had all heard a lot of stories about him.

    ….The guards took us in, and an hour later Uday came. This was in 1993. He said, ”I want to hear this song and that song,” and I played them. I was afraid that he may have liked me on tape, but might not in person. But thank God, we got over that hump.

    ….Uday didn’t need an occasion to have a party. While many people in Iraq were starving, he’d bring out tables and tables of food and drink. Uday liked barbecues and Hennessy and rum; Hennessy was his favorite drink. Once he had a cake for his birthday 20 meters wide. He’d get drunk and dance — he was a good dancer too. Later, he’d bring out the machine guns and start shooting them off. He’d point the guns right over my head, and the bullets would spray all over the place.

    ….There was no friendship between us. And thank God for that. Because he killed his friends. I never saw it for myself. But you knew it happened. It was common knowledge. What we would hear is that someone drank too much or hit their head or fell off a bridge or something happened. They just disappeared. And nobody asked questions. [NY Times magazine]

Don’t shoot me, I’m only the oud player. This is a small example of what a self-indulgent and violent nature can become when unchecked by any bounds of social normality: collecting and disgarding humans as if they were fast food, outrageous indulgence, contempt for human life.

Sure, nothing to fear here: Uday with weapons of mass destruction? Much better to ignore it, right? Or keep right on inspecting. Funny how inspections missed the missiles loaded with nerve gas found this morning. THE INSPECTIONS ARE WORKING.

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About Eric Olsen