Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Saddam's Sunset Sonata

A trivia question for Who Wants to be a Millionaire: Who is Saddam Hussein's first wife? Answer is Sajida Khairallah Telfah. She is reported to have fled to Syria. She bore Saddam two sons - the notorious Udai (Odai or Oday) and Qusai - and three daughters.

The story of Saddam's clan can rival the most violent chapter of the Godfather series. His two sons-in-laws were shot after they defected to the West and returned to Baghdad. Saddam also reportedly placed his first wife, Sajida under house arrest when she wanted him to punish the killers of her daughters' husbands.

Udai, the elder of the two sons was a notorious playboy and a ruthless killer. He was said to have kidnapped women he fancied from the streets and brutally raped them. He also murdered Saddam's favourite food-tester and shot Saddam's half-brother in the leg in an argument. Udai's enemies tried to kill him in 1996 in an assassination attempt. The bullet he took in the spine crippled him and forced him to walk with a cane for the rest of his life. He fell out of favour with Saddam and was even jailed by him for a while after a disagreement. The younger Qusai rose in prominence after that and was made head of the Iraqi secret police and the Republican Guard.

In letters discovered in Udai's residence after it was destroyed by American bombs, he expressed his bitterness towards his father. Udai wrote:

"My father wants to go down in history, but his heart is finished from any kindness. I have nothing in my heart toward my father, not any love or kindness. I don't know if he listens even to himself anymore. In the end I ask God to keep this house safe."

Among the debris, lip-print signed love letters from Udai's many girlfriends were found. One of them wrote:

"Remember me when you listen to Beethoven's `Moonlight Sonata,' which I heard for the first time with you,"

Poignant words indeed to be found amongst the ruins of Saddam's opulent palaces. Those moonlight days of romance were over the day the first wave American bombers streaked over the dark Iraqi sky, drowning the sonata with the pounding of Tomahawk missiles and the rattle of anti-aircraft fire. The saga of the Saddam clan has sadly come to an end.

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