A prison of his own making
The building with its roof damaged and askew sat silent and vacant -- only it wasn’t.
December 3rd, 2011
12:01 PM ET

A prison of his own making

The sprawling Victory Base Complex was America’s largest in Iraq, located near the Baghdad Airport.

It was essentially an American city, at one time home to more than 40,000 troops. 

Now as the United States ends its military mission and troops head home, the base has been turned over to the Iraqis.

There are nine of Saddam Hussein’s palaces here.

The grandest are the four that stand on an artificial lake.

Hussein was so impressed with the ones at Versailles, the story goes, he decided to build his own. 

And one of the four held a secret.

It’s the one the U.S. bombed when the war began.

Despite the hustle and bustle of the American-made city that flourished all around it, this building with its roof damaged and askew sat silent and vacant - only it wasn’t.

The outside was a ruse.

Contractors had secretly gone into the palace and replaced the interior with a maximum security prison built to hold three people.

It actually would only house two - Saddam Hussein and his cousin Ali Hassan al-Majeed, aka Chemical Ali.

The U.S. military believed the phony ruins and the secret they held would prevent sympathizers from attempting to spring Hussein.

Apparently it worked.

Inside, instead of an ornate gilded bed, Hussein slept on cement. The toilet and steel door to his cell have been removed and shipped back to a museum in the states.

Here he would spend 23 hours of every day. He got one hour to recreate, which in his case meant tending to the small garden he and his cousin tilled in a courtyard.

Everything in it has since died. Once all of Iraq’s soil was his, but in his final days he controlled only a square meter.

There is the irony I’m sure not lost on his U.S. captors.

Saddam Hussein who built the palaces and filled them with his ego and his excess would end up a prisoner inside one of them.

And then there's this analogy too good to pass up.

As they left, U.S. forces handed the Iraqis hundreds of keys carried on two rings. 

They are the keys to Victory. The question now is what will Iraq do with them?

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Filed under: Iraq • Military • World
soundoff (29 Responses)
  1. saywhat

    @gung ho

    So we suddenly fell in love with Iraqis to the extent that we decided to send thousands of our young to their deaths & squander national treasure to "save" Iraqis from the ' Butcher of Baghdad' and get tens of tousands of Iraqis killed in the process. Leaving a country shattered and split open for terrorism to breed.
    Is that why we had invaded Iraq. Is that what you are saying?
    I can again shake my head in remorse at our misinformed & ill informed general public.

    December 3, 2011 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
  2. gung hoe

    @saywhat look at sadam and hitler and tell me the difference other than nationalities!

    December 3, 2011 at 5:48 pm | Report abuse |
  3. gung hoe

    Also saywhat when I took the oath and went in the infantry I knew what I had enlisted for and that before my tour of duty was over there was a good chance that I may be hurt or killed.Anybody that
    dont understand that are as you like to put misinformed and naive.It is not for the soldier to question what he is told to do just do it to the best of your ability .

    December 3, 2011 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |
  4. saywhat

    @ gung ho
    Oh, for Goodness sake. Comparing Saddam with Hitler is absurd. One, the architect of WW11, a megolomaniac, dreaming & working to create a superior race to rule the worldMesmerising entire nations with his mad demagoguery.The Nazi Juggernaut crunching & conquering the world. The advancement in weaponry, a grandiose agenda.
    The other an ignorant, petty fool who never stepped out of his country, unaware of what the world was about. Would have been booted out or killed by his own people.

    We had no business to invade Iraq & divert focus from pursuing AL-Qaeda in Afghanistan. One of the greatest follies in tghis nation's history. In fact a crime gainst America & humanity.

    December 3, 2011 at 6:16 pm | Report abuse |
  5. saywhat

    @ gung ho

    Its the soldiers who went there and paid the ultimate price when they got their marching orders who are heroes. Not those ignorant political thugs who issued the marching orders.
    its us the American public who is gullible & nive and is easily bamboozled into believing what these politicos and propaganda machines want us to believe.

    December 3, 2011 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse |
  6. saywhat

    Good day all & have a nice weekend.
    God Bless America.

    December 3, 2011 at 6:29 pm | Report abuse |
  7. michaelfury


    December 3, 2011 at 7:27 pm | Report abuse |
  8. michaelfury


    December 3, 2011 at 7:30 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Portland tonyi

    Only history will judge our incursion into Iraq!

    December 3, 2011 at 8:32 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Suggestion

    A person can educate other people with out being pompous and condescending. Just a suggestion. Don't talk down to people. It's an unattractive trait. Thank you.

    December 3, 2011 at 9:44 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Roadsniper

    That did it for me gung hoe i will not pick on you any more i now know you better so thank you for what you have done for this country and the people of the world , and the courage that you have demonstrated for all to see, once again thank you !!!!

    December 4, 2011 at 3:55 am | Report abuse |
  12. @Portly Tony

    "Only history will record our incursion..." you say? Iraq has been occupied for nearly a decade. History has already recorded what happened and why. Get a clue, in other words. And as if the history of other nations whose natural resources are plundered has not already been written. Where does Africa's natural resources go as their people starve, for example. History has spoken in these cases as well as the case in Iraq. Know your history before open mouth/insert foot.

    December 4, 2011 at 8:21 am | Report abuse |
  13. banasy©

    Why go after Portland Tony by a) making fun of his name, and b) bringing in another continent completely?
    One sentence makes you go off the deep end?
    Get a clue yourself.
    It was and observation, and not really cause for a bloody lecture.

    December 4, 2011 at 11:52 am | Report abuse |
  14. hadley snyder

    if we would leave them alone , they would leave us alone... n there is a little bit of difference between hitler and saddam. i dont know why people fight on here.. it really makes you look weak. grow up.

    December 4, 2011 at 9:56 pm | Report abuse |
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