Deceased Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is generally known as a dictator who led the Baʿth Party’s 1968 military coup and sparked both the 1991 Persian Gulf War and the 2003 Iraq War after being charged with a litany of war crimes. In his new book, The Prisoner in His Palace: Saddam Hussein, His American Guards, and What History Leaves Unsaid, Will Bardenwerper paints a decidedly different picture of Hussein.
Bardenwerper is a former Army officer who served in Iraq's Anbar Province, and he used interviews with members of the military police squad as well as official Army oral histories to chronicle Hussein’s captivity during the time leading up to Hussein’s execution.
While Bardenwerper includes obscure details like the deposed dictator’s appreciation of Cohiba cigars and watering and tending to weeds in his outdoor recreational area, one particular detail about Hussein’s musical tastes stands out.
“Saddam also listened to the radio,” notes Nick Poppy of the New York Post, quoting an excerpt from the book. “He’d always stop tuning if he stumbled across a Mary J. Blige song.”
Hussein was captured during Operation Red Dawn on December 13, 2003. His trial lasted from October 19, 2005 through November 5, 2006, and he was executed December 30, 2006. From 2003 through 2006, Mary J. Blige released the albums Love & Life and The Breakthrough. So it’s entirely possible one of the world’s most feared dictators was in his cell jamming to “Not Today,” “Take Me As I Am” or a throwback hit like “Family Affair.”