Politics & Policy

Considering Exile

Saddam Hussein calls a colleague for advice.


Idi, it’s Saddam.

Hey man, how are you?

Pretty good. You?

Can’t complain.

Did you hear? I got reelected.

Yeah, unanimous vote. I never came close to that.

Right, but you never held elections.


Look, the reason I called is, they’re talking about sending me into exile.

Well no kidding. I’m getting more notes in the press now than any time in the last 20 years. “Saddam Hussein may go into exile, Just like Idi Amin.” My Nexis score is way up. Thanks for the buzz.

No problem, glad it’s working for you.

So you’ve been thinking about exile, huh?

Yes. I wanted to pick your brain. You’ve been at it for, what, 25 years?

Twenty-four, but who’s counting?

Ha ha. But seriously, how is it?

Not bad. I live in a luxury hotel, I don’t have a lot of responsibilities, I relax, go fishing, see my friends occasionally. I don’t get to travel all that much, but then neither do you.

I hear you.

There are definite advantages; no more worries about being assassinated, you can sleep two nights in the same bed if you want, you don’t have to deal with all the minutiae of maintaining a climate of fear, not to mention the hassles of running a country.

But don’t you miss that? Don’t you miss having absolute powers of life and death over millions of people? And the personality cult, the statues and paintings? You were “Lord of All the Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Sea and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa…”

I know, don’t remind me. Look, you get used to the slow lane. You find new distractions, take up hobbies. I play the accordion.

Hmmm, I could spend more time writing romance novels .… Hey, do you have cable?

Sure Cable, satellite. Network stinks in Saudi.

How’s the food?

Well, let’s just say I’ve had better.

Can I bring my family? I’d like to get my sons out, I’d hate for their futures to be derailed by war-crimes trials or being hunted down and killed.

Sure, the Americans don’t want them in Iraq anyway. Generally, the kids have fewer restrictions in exile. My son Ali even went back to Uganda. Can you believe it — he ran for mayor of some two-bit village and lost. That’s democracy for you. I’d have had the electorate shot.

And of course I can bring my wife.

Well, you have to watch out on that one. Remember “Baby Doc” Duvalier?

Oh, you mean Baskethead?

Man, I forgot we used to call him that! Yeah, well he packed up everything and went into exile with his wife near Cannes. But she got fed up with him — who can blame her? — and divorced him. She got most of his loot, the international community seized nearly all of the rest, and last I heard he was living in a cottage with his mother. I haven’t spoken to him since the phone company cut his service for unpaid bills. But it’s his own fault, he shouldn’t have accepted expatriation to a country where they have the rule of law. Word to the wise, Saddam.

Yeah, you made the right move going to Saudi. But I’m not so sure they’ll give me my choice. Anyway, I don’t really trust Bush, you know? This exile thing might be a trick.

It might be, you’re right. But you should do it through an intermediary like I did, someone you can trust. Call up Muammar, he did me a solid back in ‘79.

Good idea. Maybe he’ll help me out too. But you know, Khadaffi’s such a phony. “Line of Death” my butt, one bombing run and he caves. He hasn’t done squat against the Americans since Pan Am 103. He’s a minor leaguer and everyone knows it, that’s why he didn’t make the Axis of Evil.

Hey, all I know is he’s been in power a long time and it looks like he’s going to stay there, so give him some credit. And did you hear he’s suing Uganda for tens of millions in back interest on money he fronted me back in the Seventies? Dude, I’m still living off that loan! Now that takes guts.

O.K., sorry, just venting. I’m sure he’ll assist. Besides, if you knew what I know about some of the things he’s done for me over the years…

In on it, is he?

Let’s just say what the U.N. doesn’t know won’t hurt me.

O.K., so you can let him broker the deal. And you know, it’s not out of the question that you could return to Iraq someday. Things happen. Who would have thought King Zahir Shah would be back in Afghanistan? I was thinking about repatriation myself back in 2001. I wanted to go back to my hometown, build a modest house, live out my days there, quietly. I wanted to breathe the air of my homeland again, and be laid to rest in my native soil among my ancestors.

Really? … Oh, man, you almost had me!

Ha ha. Well, they didn’t bite either. Who knows, maybe after a few years off the scene, after the Americans get bored, go home, and whatever system they leave behind breaks down, the Iraqis will remember how good they had it under you. Heck, you might be able to go back and be elected for real. Wouldn’t the Americans just plotz?

These are all excellent points.

So you going to go for it? Exile I mean?

I’m debating. I could; or I might go the WMD route. Chemical warheads on Tel Aviv, bio attacks in the U.S. — it’s all ready to go. I could wreak some major mischief.

But won’t the U.S. retaliate in kind? You know Sharon will.

Yeah, it would probably be suicidal. But I’m being philosophical about the whole thing. You know, when I was a kid I used to steal animals in the village — whenever they caught me I’d kill the animals rather than give them back, just strangle them to keep the guys who caught me from having the satisfaction. I’d just as soon leave corpses. That sums me up. When you get right down to it, scorched earth is my style. When the Allies cross the border everything is going up, oil wells, refineries, anything they can use. Then I am giving the word, I’ll use everything I have. Let ‘em nuke Baghdad, I won’t even be there.

I can relate. Well old buddy, think it over, it would be cool to have you down here in Jeddah, we could have some serious good times. But you’d better get off the phone, it’s dangerous to stay on too long. You don’t want to wind up like Dudayev with a guided missile down your… hello? Saddam? You still there?

James S. Robbins is a national-security analyst & NRO contributor.