Monday, September 3, 2007

Saddam a Pleasure Dome Decreed

Today I spent the morning running around the Victory Base Complex in a humvee for various errands. One thing I find very interesting here is the architecture of the Saddam-era military and government buildings. Many have Bath Party star motifs, or other politically symbolic ornamentation and facades. Coalition Forces have set up shop in many of these buildings, but from what I have observed, they have taken great care to not damage them in any way. Keep in mind, all troops must follow General Order No 1, which strictly prohibits looting or defacing any Iraqi buildings or stealing anything from Iraqi citizens. Violations could lead to jail time. We were briefed on this the very first day in theater.

Al Faw Palace is one of the most prominent palaces here. From what I've been told, Saddam built it as a personal hang-out. (I read in the Atlantic Monthly that Saddam built over 100 palaces during his dictatorship.) Hardly damaged at all in the fighting, it now serves as a Coalition headquarters of sorts. The philosophy seems to be to use the palace for office space, but protect it for return to the Iraqi people as a national treasure. I heard some of the rooms are inaccessible for this reason and most of the furnishings are in storage. Great care seems to have been taken to not permanently alter or damage the palace while it is being used.

The palace is not exactly historic -- it is only about 16 years old -- but it is exquisite. A cavernous front entryway leads to giant marble and intricately-carved wood rotunda with ginormous chandelier, now fitted with energy efficient bulbs. Picture three-story arching ceilings over numerous white and green marble corridors, marble spiral staircases, sweeping plaza-like balconies and broad outside causeways. It's surreal at first to see the temporary office cubicle walls poking out and around such grandeur. The palace sits on a lake, graced by other palatial structures and lake-front mansions. I guess it was kind of an evil paradise.

PS: No Iraqi chandeliers are used in US dining facilities...didn't mean to suggest that!
Outside my "home" at Camp Virginia, Kuwait

My group of Navy IAs getting ready to head off to Udari Range, Kuwait. It is blowing sand and hot!
Camel crossing during training at Udari Range

1 comment:

Why Worry Tom said...

Wow! Amazing pictures! We're thinking about you and are glad to hear things are going well. I look forward to these updates -- so interesting. The previous training summary made me laugh ("Unstated purpose: appreciation of Army discomfort) but it also sure made me appreciate what service members go through when they prepare to go into the field. Take care! We miss you! Tom & Michele