[WP] lifestyles of the tyrants & suckups (Aziz's house)
rohit at ics.uci.edu
Fri Apr 11 15:54:01 PDT 2003
Not that the Post has been doing too shabbily in the color-reporting
race, mind you. This is a classic...
A Peek at a Leader's Life
Deputy Prime Minister Aziz Is Interested in Popular American Culture
By Jonathan Finer
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 10, 2003; 5:40 PM
BAGHDAD, April 10 -- A bulletin board in the kitchen of former Deputy
Prime Minister Tariq Aziz is plastered with snapshots that reveal a man
who led a rich and varied life. There he is ballroom dancing with his
wife. In another frame he poses surrounded by children in front of the
family Christmas tree. Naturally for the man who represented former
President Saddam Hussein for years, he is also depicted locked in a
warm embrace with the now-fallen Iraqi leader.
With his big-framed glasses and gray mustache, Aziz is widely
recognized abroad because of his career as foreign minister and
longtime defender of Hussein's rule. A fluent English speaker educated
at the University of Baghdad, he was the only Christian among the
senior leaders of the Baath Party. One rumor had him defecting last
month as the Bush administration gathered forces for war, but Aziz
popped up two days later on television to publicize his continued
loyalty. Since U.S. troops closed in on Baghdad, he has dropped out of
sight, along with Hussein and all the country's other top leaders.
Aziz, born Mikhail Yuhanna in 1936 near Mosul in northern Iraq, left
behind a riverfront home full of personal effects that shed light on
the grandeur and the normality of his everyday life. The contents
indicate that, with all his denunciations of the United States, he had
a vivid interest in American authors and popular culture, from
political memoirs to the personality profiles of Vanity Fair.
The four-story home sits on an oxbow of the Tigris River, near a
highway overpass. Outside the front door is a worn woven mat that reads
"welcome."Throughout the home are understated pieces of Christian
iconography: a small portrait of Christ, a Virgin Mary figurine in the
kitchen and a wallet-sized photo of an Eastern Orthodox priest attached
to a mirror in the bedroom.
Aziz's study is an airy room on the ground floor, its shelves heaving
with writings by and about his adversaries, such as Ayatollah Ruhollah
Khomeini and former president George H.W. Bush, as well as dozens of
volumes of works attributed to Hussein. He owns several histories of
the Iran-Iraq war and a collection of works on the Central Intelligence
Agency, including Bob Woodward's "Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA
1981-1987." He also owns several Western works on politics in the
region, including Judith Miller's "God Has Ninety-Nine Names: Reporting
From a Militant Middle East," and Daniel Yergin's "The Prize," about
the politics of oil.
True to his role as a former foreign minister, Aziz owns two major
works by former secretary of state Henry A. Kissinger: "Diplomacy" and
"White House Years." And tucked away on the top of one shelf is "The
Greatest Threat," by Richard Butler, who led a U.N. weapons inspection
team in Iraq in the 1990s.
His collection also includes an autobiography of former Israeli
Foreign Minister Moshe Dayan and several works on the subject of
Zionism. He owns "Saddam's War," an account of the 1991 Persian Gulf
War written by John Bullock and Harvey Morris, and "Hitler's War," by
David Irving, about the German dictator to whom the Iraqi leader has
sometimes been compared.
Alongside the his collection of books are dozens of Vanity Fair
magazines and a large glass cabinet overflowing with more than 50
American movies on DVD. The titles range from harsh dramas, such as The
Godfather series, to lighter fare such as Sleepless in Seattle and
action films like Dragon, the story of martial arts expert Bruce Lee.
As for Aziz's official reading, U.S. Marines blew open several safes
when they arrived at the abandoned house Wednesday night and removed
reams of documents to be analyzed by intelligence experts.
In a ground floor office are photographs of a 40-something man who
appears to be Aziz's son. The name Ziad Tariq Aziz was printed on white
business cards on a large oak desk. On the floor is a box of cigars, a
backgammon set and a bottle of Cartier cologne. Brochures advertising
Smith and Wesson and Remington firearms are scattered on the office
floor. A Princeton Review test preparation book, entitled Cracking the
GMAT, is marked with notes in the margins.
On the second floor of the house is a master bedroom with dressers
stacked high with unopened bottles of cologne: Drakkar Noir and
Obsession for men. The attached bathroom is filled with American
magazines: Vogue, Cosmopolitan and GQ, along with a few dog-eared
Danielle Steele novels.
Just a few blocks away on the same riverbank stands one of Hussein's
residences in Baghdad, a five-building compound that is larger and more
opulent that Aziz's home. It is unclear how much time Hussein spent at
the home, since he made a point of obscuring his whereabouts as a
Hussein's palace is covered in scaffolding. It apparently was still
under construction when it was struck by a 2,000-pound bomb less than
two weeks ago. Scattered throughout the now-shabby backyard that leads
all the way to the river are Roman-style statues of nude figures and
ceramic lions coated in gold leaf.
A tour through the grounds reveals many trappings of wealth: a swimming
pool, an empty four-car garage, big screen televisions, elaborate
flower gardens and inlaid cathedral ceilings. The vaulted ceiling in a
colonnaded mansion at the southern end of the compound is painted in a
style reminiscent of the Sistine Chapel, with dozens of cherubs
floating on clouds in a blue sky.
The mansions themselves are adorned with dozens of large mirrors and
images of the Iraqi leader. In the front yard of one building is a
sculpture of Hussein riding on a horse and carrying a sword and a
marble busts of his head. His profile is carved into the stone facade
of another. Alongside one marble staircase is a wall-sized mural of the
Hussein family in formal wear: Saddam and his wife and daughter, two
sons, and their wives.
Based on the contents of the rooms, it appears that this palace housed
mostly women and children. Inside are several walk-in closets full of
hundreds of dresses and pairs of women's dress shoes. Toys are strewn
all over the main living spaces, including at least three metal
A fully-equipped dentist's office occupies one room of a large stone
mansion with neo-classical columns. Nearby are a beauty salon, its
floors covered with fashion magazines, and a doctor's office, with an
eye chart on one wall. A cassette recording of the Sound of Music sits
by a tape player in an upstairs office. The master bathroom is stocked
with Christian Dior towels and in an adjoining exercise room stands a
treadmill and several workout videos.
Upstairs in a child's room with a small wooden bed is a cluttered
collection of American toys and pop-cultural trinkets: stuffed animals
and cartoon characters such as the Tazmanian Devil, Popeye and
Sylvester the cat. The walls are decorated with posters of Snoopy and
photographs of Disney World, along with photos of the pop singer
Britney Spears, apparently torn from magazines.
An advent calendar sits on a desk, next to a host of plastic action
figures: Spiderman, Batman and the dwarfs from Snow White.
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