Saddam's lost life on the French Riviera.

Saddams lost life on the Riviera
Matthew Campbell, Grasse
The Sunday Times

AMERICAN troops have made themselves at home in his Baghdad palaces, but in the south of France skinhead squatters are the new masters of Saddam Hussein’s abandoned property.

It has emerged that the former Iraqi dictator, who is about to go on trial, had two sumptuous homes in southern France. Instead of retreating into the rat hole in Iraq where American soldiers caught him, he may have been planning to retire in comfort to the Riviera like other discredited despots.

Saddam never visited either property but one, a white-walled, 12-bedroomed villa on a hill overlooking Cannes, was occasionally used for parties by Uday, his son, according to an Iraqi embassy spokesman in Paris. He said the government in Baghdad would keep the house, valued at £8.5m, as a “splendid investment”.

The other house, worth £4m, is perched in the hills above Grasse, capital of the French perfume industry. Neighbours said a group of about four or five skinheads regularly visited and had spray-painted the walls in psychedelic shades and set fire to the cupboards.

Like the dictator’s Baghdad palaces, his French properties, acquired in 1982, were looted during the war when former Iraqi intelligence agents looking after them carted off all the furnishings. But with a little care — and refurbishment — either property could make an extremely desirable residence.

France’s strict privacy laws combined with the Côte d’Azur’s comfortable climate have made it the bolthole of choice for dictators in retirement. Residents have included Mobutu Sese Seko, the Zairean dictator, and Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier of Haiti.

Had Saddam chosen a life of exile on the Corniche du Paradis Terrestre — literally the “Corniche of Earthly Paradise” — his neighbours would have included various Arab potentates, notably the Emir of Qatar.

On the same road, behind high walls topped by video surveillance cameras, is a house owned by the sister of the late King Fahd of Saudi Arabia. One of Osama Bin Laden’s brothers also owns a house on this so-called “billionaire’s hill” overlooking the bay.

If Saddam had tired of the Arab ambience, he could have rubbed shoulders with the international jet set — singers Tina Turner and Bono have homes on the Riviera — and the presence of the “butcher of Baghdad” would no doubt have given a special frisson to parties during the Cannes film festival.

The olive groves outside Grasse might have appealed more to Saddam’s peasant origins, however, even if the eight-bedroom house on the hill, unlike the one in Cannes, is badly in need of renovation. Last week the iron gates swung open, allowing easy access to the potholed drive.

Shards of glass crunched underfoot and an old oven lay on the front lawn together with dozens of empty bottles and an old television. Vegetation clogged the pond and the garden was a tangle of weeds. At the sound of approaching footsteps, frogs hopped into the filthy, dark water at the deep end of the swimming pool.

Scattered about on one of the patios were unused cardboard sheets for use in pistol target practice, depicting the outline of a figure holding a gun: according to an Iraqi embassy spokesman, the former guardians of the house were members of the Mukhabarat intelligence service who may have whiled away some of the time with shooting practice.

Upstairs, filthy mattresses lay on bedroom floors littered with used condoms. There was scarcely a wall not used as a canvas by spray can artists. Some of the graffiti were suggestive of devil-worship.

“We dread to think what goes on up there,” said Valerie Uytters of the Grasse town hall, adding that local authorities were concerned about “neglect” of the property. She went on:

“The grounds have become a big fire hazard. But we don’t see why Grasse and its taxpayers should foot the bill for the clean-up.”

The Iraqi spokesman said the new government would soon be restoring the building. This will please Edmond Barbero, a retired chest physician who lives with his wife in a farm house next door. “Anything would be better than watching that splendid old house falling apart like this,” he said.
The houses were purchased for the Iraqi government in 1982 by Kalef Ebdoulahi, one of Saddam’s cronies.

The dictator’s interest in the property probably dates from a visit he made to Provence in 1975, with President Jacques Chirac, then French prime minister. Saddam reciprocated by offering Chirac a banquet of barbecued Iraqi carp.

The visit resulted in a bonanza for French business, including a deal worth £3 billion to supply Iraq with a nuclear reactor. It ended up being destroyed in a bombing raid by the Israelis in 1986.

More recently, Saddam, who faces the death penalty if found guilty of crimes against humanity, has had plenty of time in captivity to regret not fleeing Iraq before the war. In exchange for his departure, the Americans would no doubt have let him live out his retirement in comfort.

Whether his other, numerous enemies would have left him alone on the Riviera is far from certain and Saddam, no doubt, would have needed the best surveillance cameras on the block.
Those photos of him in the cubby hole were staged by the US Army,just another way to discredit him.
GL Schmitt
Hussein’s bloodstained past was too well known, and of too recent a vintage, to ever be allowed to retire to a high-priced Valhalla.

Nor is there any merit in recycling gossip about bands of skinheads in one of his houses.

If true, and not the fabrication of some wannabe news source, it is most likely that they visited Hussain’s house for the same reason they would enter any vacant house. The parts about setting fire to the cupboards (if true) tend to confirm this reading more than any other.

Saddam Hussein was not a skinhead nor a Neo Nazi, not an al-Qaeda operative or sympathiser, not even a devout Islamic.

The only known connection between Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein is through American, who backed both with weapons and financial aid, to enable them to fight against American enemies.

Saddam was a would-be Stalinist who used America’s difficulties with Iran to build up his arsenal of weapons.

He would never have voluntarily retired to any home on the Riviera. Hussein could only feel safe in the middle of Iraq, with his hands on the controls and weapons of state.

In that respect, Saddam Hussein was as much of a prisoner before March 20, 2003 as he was after July 22, 2003.

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