Saddam Hussein Underpants Photos Circulated

Photos of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in his underpants appeared in a British tabloid, sparking an investigation by the U.S. military.

Hussein Underpants Photo Prompts U.S. Investigation (Bloomberg)

The U.S. military began an investigation after photos of Saddam Hussein appeared in a British tabloid newspaper, including one image of the ousted Iraqi dictator in his underpants in jail. News Corp.’s The Sun newspaper today features an image of the former dictator wearing only his underpants on its front cover, with the headline “Tyrant’s in His Pants,” and inside, three more images show Hussein sleeping, washing his socks while wearing a robe, and walking around his prison.

The photos appear to have been taken over a year ago, and were taken “in clear violation of Department of Defense directives and possibly Geneva Convention guidelines for the humane treatment of detained individuals,” the U.S. military said in an e-mailed statement. “We are investigating the incident very aggressively,” coalition spokesman U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander Gil Mendez said in a telephone interview from Baghdad. “We don’t know what the source of these photos is,” he said, adding that “every effort” is being put into the probe.

Prisoners of war “must at all times be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation and against insults and public curiosity,” according to Article 13 of the 1949 Geneva Convention on the treatment of prisoners of war. The treaty also says detainees are entitled to respect for their honor.

One wonders where the photos came from, to be sure, but this is hardly an aggregious insult to Hussein’s honor, such as it is. Presumably, some souvenir seeker snapped the photo. Compared to years of brutalizing his own people and invading his neighbors, this barely rates a mention:

Photo: Saddam Hussein in his underwear Sun tabloid
Pictures show Iraq’s Saddam in his underwear (Reuters)

This, however, is much more problematic:

Photo: Saddam Hussein in his underwear Sun tabloid

Tyrant’s in his pants (The Sun)

HE WAS once the world̢۪s most feared despot with the blood of innocent thousands on his murderous hands.

Now Saddam Hussein is reduced to shuffling around his prison compound in his underpants and washing his OWN dirty socks in a simple bowl.

The Sun newspaper’s world exclusive shots give a first fascinating insight into his pathetic life behind bars.

The fact that the man is wearing underwear and washing his socks isn’t troubling. That a photo of same is circulating in a tabloid is only slightly worrisome. If soldiers are posing him in odd positions to take amusing photos, that’s a problem. Of course, given the beard, this appears to be from the day he was captured and would be perfectly explainable.

Update (1230): Bush pledges probe into Saddam prison pictures (Reuters)

Washington promised an investigation on Friday into how pictures of Saddam Hussein in his underpants were splashed across the front-page of Britain’s biggest-selling daily newspaper. […] The White House said President Bush had been told of the pictures and “strongly supports the aggressive and thorough investigation that is already under way.”

Update (1352): Bill at INDC emails a link to this related story: “I Punched Saddam in the Mouth” (Riverfront Times, April 13)

Photo: Samir, a St. Louis auto mechanic, was the first to grab hold of Hussein. In a south-city Saint Louis Bread Co., a young auto mechanic named Samir puts down his coffee long enough to carefully eye the other patrons. Assured no one is paying him any mind, he lowers his voice to a guttural whisper, fidgets with the zipper on his black tracksuit and rubs his grease-stained fingers along a finely manicured goatee. Then, in a syncopated rhythm of street slang and accented English, he transports himself back in time to a bitter-cold December night in Iraq.

It had to have been the most sublime moment of his life. Samir tells how he arrived in Tikrit as an Arabic interpreter for United States Special Forces in late 2003, how he peered into a hidden bunker and heard a voice begging for mercy, how he reached into the darkness and pulled out Saddam Hussein.

“I was so angry,” says Samir, who immigrated to St. Louis eleven years ago after fleeing Iraq. “I began cussing at him, calling him a motherfucker, a son-of-a-bitch — you name it. I told him I was Shiite from the south and was part of the revolution against him in 1991. I said he murdered my uncles and cousins. He imprisoned my father.

“All these years of anger, I couldn’t stop. I tried to say the worst things I could. I told him if he were a real man he would have killed himself. I asked him: ‘Why are you living in that dirty little hole, you bastard? You are a rat. Your father is a rat.'”

In Arabic, Saddam told Samir to shut up. And when Saddam called him a traitor, an enraged Samir silenced his prisoner with a flurry of quick jabs to the face.

“I punched Saddam in the mouth.”

Samir’s extravagant story is difficult to believe — until he pulls out his laptop computer and rifles through the dozens of photographs he shot that night. There’s the photo of Samir posed next to the bodyguard who will ultimately lead U.S. forces to Saddam. There’s the photo of Samir standing behind the stack of $12 million in U.S. currency seized near Saddam’s hideout. And there’s the most riveting image of all: Samir kneeling behind the bruised and bloodied dictator just minutes after his inglorious capture.

“I would die for this picture,” Samir says. “Without this photo, no one would believe me.”

It’s largely because of the photos that Samir insists his last name not be used for this article. He’s afraid that extremists loyal to Saddam, or opposed to the U.S. invasion, will retaliate against him or members of his family who continue to live in Iraq.

But more than that, Samir’s anonymity as a 34-year-old civilian contractor free from military censor enables him to openly discuss the spellbinding saga. His version is far more real-to-life than the “official” Pentagon account.

Whether the photos now circulating are from “Samir” is unclear. The guys in both photos look rather similar but they’re at different angles.

Update (1518): Courtney Knapp caught an amusing variation on the Reuters headline before it changed.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. LJD says:

    Undoubtedly another black eye for the military at the hands of the media. Clearly no Abu Ghraib here, but it certainly calls to question treatment of prisoners in the eyes of the Arab world. The headline says it all : “We have no shame” The Tyrant’s in his pants, sheesh. How sophomoric.

  2. LBJ says:

    Saddam should be naked and publicly flogged by the relatives of those he murdered

  3. MSA says:

    The only problem here is the idiot taking these pictures.

    Saddam should be treated like the animal that he is, in some deep dark black cell with no cameras and no one to hear him scream.

  4. Lt bell says:

    Bush should be naked and publicly flogged by the relatives of those he murdered——————

    and to think that even now those ungrateful Iraqi’ are protesting our “freedom” troops presence

  5. ld says:

    >Saddam should be naked and publicly flogged by the relatives of those he murdered
    Posted by: LBJ at May 20, 2005 11:06 Permalink

    Can we wish the same for our little tyrant Georgie and his crew of murdering thieves?

    oh let us hope that the day of reckoning comes soon!

  6. anon says:

    I think the tabloids are trying to expand their gay readership. Sort of like the Page 2 girl – I imagine lots of gay men think this picture is HOT.

  7. dave says:

    The scandal is that he hasn’t been tried, convicted and executed by now.

    Of course, this is a ‘moral outrage’ on the level of beheading hostages and blowing up innocent bystanders. What will the mean old U.S. do next? Flush his Koran?

  8. vaildog says:

    You should be murdered lt Bell

  9. LJD says:

    “I think the tabloids are trying to expand their gay readership”

    Like lt bell and ld, they seem fascinated with naked men…

  10. wavemaker says:

    Is that Lieutenant or Light?