Saddam Hussein Once Burned His Son's Entire Exotic Car Collection
"Let that be a lesson not to murder people at dinner, Uday."
When the United States invaded Iraq in 2003 and deposed Saddam Hussein, it was hard not to be transfixed by the images of his family's once-ostentatious lifestyle in ruins. Among the ill-gotten treasures abandoned was the extensive exotic car collection of eldest son Uday Hussein, which featured dozens of rare cars like a Ferrari F40 and a Lamborghini LM002.
But thanks to a new account of Saddam Hussein's final days published in the New York Post, we now know that collection was once many times bigger—before the former dictator burned the whole damn thing to punish Uday for shooting and killing several people at a dinner party in the mid 1990s.
For more on that shooting, here's a contemporaneous account from the New York Times in 1995:
"A quarrel at family dinner that led to gunfire was the crisis that led President Saddam Hussein's daughters and their husbands to flee Iraq, according to Saudi newspaper accounts and reports from Iraqi opposition figures.
The dinner, on Aug. 7, was called to discuss the worsening economic and security situation of Iraq. It ended in shooting that left six bodyguards dead and a half-brother of President Hussein, Watban Ibrahim al-Tikriti, seriously injured, according to a front-page account today in Asharq al-Awsat, a Saudi newspaper...
The argument was vicious enough that President Hussein asked both his son and son-in-law to leave the dinner, which was held in Tikrit, a large luxurious village reserved for Iraq's ruling clan, while he talked with family elders. When Mr. Tikriti returned home, he and his bodyguards were confronted by armed members of Uday's staff, who attempted to arrest them, the newspaper said.
Shooting broke out, leaving at least six people dead and the President's half-brother seriously wounded, the reports said... Iraqi opposition figures have said that Uday Hussein personally participated in the shooting of his uncle, but that has not been confirmed."
Author Will Bardenwerper talked to several members of the military police squad assigned to guard Saddam in the years between his capture in late 2003 and his hanging in 2006 for his upcoming book, The Prisoner in His Palace: Saddam Hussein, His American Guards, and What History Leaves Unsaid. In it, he describes the quasi-friendship that developed between the guards and their charge in the unlikeliest of circumstances.
As both sides whiled away the hours by talking about their families, Saddam shared a story that's simultaneously relatable and completely incomprehensible to any parent out there.
As the oldest son, Uday Hussein was Iraq's heir apparent until his erratic, violent behavior—including murdering his father's personal valet in the middle of another dinner party in 1988—led Saddam to briefly sentence him to death before expelling him from the country for a few years. After the 1995 shooting that wounded Saddam's half-brother, the former tyrant concluded that his son hadn't learned his lesson and tried a different tactic—burning his entire car collection, as relayed by the Post:
"'I was very angry with him so I burned all his cars,' Saddam told the guards, referring to Uday’s obscenely large collection of luxury automobiles, including hundreds of Rolls-Royces, Ferraris and Porsches. 'Laughing wildly, the former dictator recalled how he gleefully watched the inferno,' writes Bardenwerper. It reminded one guard of 'a Jerry Springer episode on steroids.'"
Hey, if that doesn't get your kid's attention, nothing will.
For more weird details on Saddam's imprisonment, including his penchant for Cohiba cigars, breakfast requirements bordering on OCD, and secret love for Mary J. Blige, check out Bardenwerper's book when it's released next week.