ABU GHURAYB PRESIDENTIAL SITE WEST OF BAGHDAD, REPUBLIC OF IRAQ August 2000
The five-story sandstone palace sat shimmering under the desert sun—five stories downward, that is. Not upward. Sixty feet below ground level, in the vast and ornate Iraqi military command center, the twenty most trusted personnel in the country awaited the arrival of the Lion of Babylon.
Sipping hot, sweet tea beneath an enormous glittering chandelier and surrounded by walls edged in marble and gilded gold lettering, all twenty wore military uniform but no sidearms. Only the Lion himself exercised that privilege, presumably in readiness to shoot a wayward advisor between the eyes, a course of statesmanship not entirely new to him.
It was a vast and lavish ...