The Al Faw Palace

 On Thursday last week, we had a big tour of the Al Faw Palace. The palace was built by Saddam Hussein to commemorate a victory in the Al Faw peninsula over the Iranians in the Iran/Iraq war back in 1988.

It has a grand atrium:

al-faw1

It has ornate marble staircases:

af-stair

It has painted plasterworks on the ceilings:

plaster-ceiling

On the roof, there are great views of the surrounding palaces and artificial lakes, although when you get higher up you notice how the palace is crumbling in several places:

af-roof

Currently, the Al Faw Palace is used as the headquarters for US and Coalition forces in Iraq. There are several generals who work in the building, and security is the tightest I’ve seen anywhere in Iraq. This is the one place where I’ve seen armed, American guards standing watch. Normally there are Ugandan guards at most facilities. The palace has Saddam Hussein’s initials all over the place, at the top of most every column, as well as Arabic writings praising Saddam and describing his brilliant victories. The building itself, while impressive, is poorly constructed, and there are several places where the marble has come loose, and you see chickenwire and plaster underneath. It’s really a very tacky building when you look at it up close. The tour guide made sure to tell us grisly tales of all the people murdered by Saddam during his reign right there in the vicinity of the palace.

 

The palace has a very interesting chair, which was donated to Saddam Hussein by Yasser Arafat of the Palestinians. It shows the dome of the rock up by the headrest. It’s probably the most photographed chair in the world, with US soldiers constantly making their obligatory photo shoots in Saddam Hussein’s old palace chair. Here is my attempt to channel old Saddam Hussein:

brian-on-saddam-hussein-chair

 

After the tour, we had the first session of the claims conference. After that came one of the most memorable times that I’ve had here in Iraq. We had a big JAG party on the deck of the palace hotel, right by the lake that overlooks the Al Faw palace. A good portion of the JAG attorneys in Iraq stopped by to meet and mingle. The SJA and deputy for MNC-I were there, Vice President Joe Biden’s son was there, and also present were a few good friends of mine who are based in Baghdad, most of whom I hadn’t seen in a year. We had a bit of dinner and non-alcoholic drinks, and then someone broke out the cigars. A fire was lit in the fireplace, producing a warm glow. It was a very pleasant scene:

evening-party

That’s enough for today. I’ll describe my trip to the Green Zone tomorrow.

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