Soldiers find secret recipe at son of Saddam's bombed estate
By Sean D. Naylor
Times staff writer
WEST OF BAGHDAD, Iraq ? U.S. troops have not yet cooked Saddam Hussein?s goose, but they?ve eaten a lot of his son?s chicken.
The opportunity for the unexpected feast, all the more welcome for exhausted soldiers who have eaten little but MREs for the last two weeks, came April 4 when soldiers from 3rd Infantry Division (Mechanized)?s 3rd Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment happened upon an estate owned by Hussein?s eldest son, Uday. The troops were trying to locate the source of a mortar that had shelled the squadron?s tactical operations center about 9 miles southwest of Baghdad. Locals told them that a nearby estate belonged to Uday, a man with an international reputation for combining a playboy lifestyle with thuggish brutality.
When the troops entered the estate, which included two villas, a pool and a yacht on a trailer, they found U.S. jets had already paid a visit. One of the villas had trees and security floodlights around it. Capt. Brett Bair described it as ?a pretty nice-looking villa, until a JDAM hit it right in the center.? The other home had met with a similar fate, said Bair, a battle captain in the squadron tactical operations center.
There were no Iraqi troops or weapons on the estate, which covered hundreds of acres, but there was much to hold the cavalrymen?s interest. Part of the property was given over to a chicken farm, one of Uday Hussein?s numerous commercial interests. The soldiers found hundreds of pounds of frozen chicken in one building, and proceeded to cook as much of it as possible over an open fire. ?We ate the hell out of some chicken,? said Staff Sgt. Rodney Trotter, a 26-year-old operations non-commissioned officer from Gadsden, Ala.
The soldiers also noticed an enormous light blue tractor-trailer hidden in a warehouse. Their first thought, Bair said, was that it might be a mobile chemical weapons laboratory. But when they opened it, they found it probably served a more prosaic purpose. ?We realized it was his pimp mobile, his shaggin? wagon,? Bair said.
The 100-foot long, 30-foot wide trailer looked ?nothing special? from the outside, according to Bair. ?Then you went inside, and it was lavish.?
The mobile home ? ?Four times bigger than any mobile home I?ve ever seen,? Bair said ? included two luxurious bedrooms, a fully equipped kitchen and bathroom, tiled floors and large living room with picture windows, the soldiers said. ?A family of six could live in there comfortably,? Bair said.
A local who had gone into the trailer first emerged with a photo album that included pictures of Uday in some sort of party.
Uday is the founder of the Saddam Fedayeen, the ruthless fighters who have been the most persistent in attacking coalition forces. But he?s wildly unpopular among his own people. Having used his father?s position to enrich himself, Uday barely survived an assassination attempt. In the photos turned over to U.S. troops, Uday is using the crutches he has needed since the attempt on his life.
The low regard with which the son of Saddam is held in his own country was quickly demonstrated to the U.S. troops who entered the compound. Within an hour, the locals who went in with them had ransacked the mobile home and the rest of the compound, taking everything of value. ?You?ve heard the term, ?If it?s not bolted down, they?ll take it,?? said Capt. Adam Beard, the squadron?s plans officer. ?These dudes, if it wasn?t concreted into the ground, they?d take it. They redefined looting.?
?They took curtains, beds, cushions, every (expletive) thing,? said Sgt. 1st Class Lonnie Shumate, 36, of Shelby, N.C., the squadron?s assistant operations NCO. ?That place looks like it?s been abandoned for 50 years now.?
Indeed, the locals were too quick for Bair, who ? only half in jest ? describes his failure to secure the trailer as his ?biggest mistake of the war.?
?I truly regret not driving the thing off right then,? he said. ?We could fit the whole [tactical operations center] right in it.?