[WP] lifestyles of the tyrants & suckups (Aziz's house)

Rohit Khare 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 
security precaution.

  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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