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A soldier’s story
Visiting Saddam’s palace

Click here to see a complete listing of our soldier's adventures in Iraq.

Editor’s Note: These are the thoughts of a gay soldier — a North Carolina native — who has been deployed to Iraq. Because of the military’s ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy, he must remain anonymous.

Saddam’s palace was surrounded by the first nice grass I have seen in months. It was a fortress that reminded me of some upscale resort — but one that included armed guards. The furniture was elegant — most of us would die to have it in our homes if you like elegant pieces. The tapestries were as nice as the ones you would see in the Biltmore Estate. The ceilings were painted with the most ornamental themes. There was a theater and it had over two dozen plush leather chairs. I wonder what movies Saddam watched there?

The marble that was used in the palace could cover the entire football field of the Panthers Stadium, probably twice. It was like one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
The grandeur of the entire thing made me sick. I enjoyed seeing the palace but the plight of the average Iraqi kept that in check.

It was amazing; it was overwhelming. It made me cringe to think of the money it took to build these palaces, over 15 alone in Baghdad, for the former regime. I have visited three now. It’s especially galling when you think of the over one million Iraqi people displaced as a result of sectarian violence and because of the war.

Flying into the International Zone where the Palace is located, you can see trash everywhere. Bombed out buildings, animals roaming free — it’s primitive and yet new all at the same time. I saw the tomb of the Unknown Soldier here in Iraq and the famous crossed sabers. The Tigris and Euphrates rivers are both in sight.

With 30-some-odd years of seclusion from the technological world as we know it, the Iraqis are just now coming into the age of all the creature comforts we have taken for granted my entire life. It’s sad to see such devastation and the poverty that runs rampant all over. I pray for an Iraq where peace can occur and all people have the opportunity for a free and safe life.

It’s less than 100 days before I’m back with you all in Charlotte and you know I’m looking forward to being home. I hope that any of my fellow soldiers who read this know that I thank you from my heart for your selfless service. If you’re here, I pray for your safety. If you’re not, I pray that you may be spared the experience of life over here. See you all soon, my friends.

— Reporting from Iraq,
your friend and soldier from Charlotte

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