Remember when, during the early days of the invasion of Iraq, the Pentagon developed and handed out to our troops sets of playing cards to help identify and capture (or kill) the 55 most-wanted members of Saddam Hussein’s regime—including Saddam himself?
Each card of this set of “personality identification playing cards” was printed with the name of the wanted person, a picture of the person or a silhouette when a picture was not available, and the title of the individual.
Of course, Saddam Hussein was the ace of spades. Other aces and kings were reserved for the most wanted of the most wanted. Saddam’s sons, Qusay and Uday, were the ace of clubs and the ace of hearts, respectively.
At this point, the card sharks among us may be wondering: 55 most-wanted, yet a traditional deck of cards only has 52 cards?
Well, here it is where it gets a little confusing.
There are also two jokers: one lists Arab titles, the other Iraqi military ranks. There are no cards for most-wanted #45 (was #26), Nayif Shindakh Thamir, #53 (was #34) Husayn al-Awadi, or #54 (was #35) Khamis Sirhan al-Muhammad, although knight cards could be used for this purpose, but in this case whole deck would be rearranged.
Now that we have cleared that one up, you may reasonably ask, what has happened to Iraq’s 55 most wanted?
There are some different accounts.
A Department of Defense web site (“Defend America”) displays the deck of cards with a red diagonal line drawn across each card where the individual has been captured, killed or executed. It shows eight individuals still “at large.” By clicking on a card, one can learn the fate of each individual.
Perhaps the best and most up-to-date status report can be found at McClatchy in a July 15, 2010, article.
Here we learn that in addition to the well-publicized deaths of Saddam Hussein and his two sons, “Others were released several years ago at the request of Iraqi authorities. Five convicted of crimes against humanity are on death row while at least seven of the wanted men are still at large.”
We also learn that the U.S has handed over “almost all of the prisoners it has held in custody for seven years,” and that, as of the date of the article:
At least 26 former regime officials have been transferred from U.S. to Iraqi custody over the past four days, bringing the total number transferred over the years to nearly five dozen. Iraq’s Deputy Justice Minister Busho Ibrahim singled out former Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, who became known as the international face of Iraq under Saddam, in announcing the transfers Wednesday.
Of course, this number includes “personalities” not on the original deck of cards.
The status and the possible fates of many of these prisoners and the legal, political and social machinations going on and to be faced down the road are detailed in “Iraqi ex-officials, once on most wanted list, languish in prison,” and make interesting reading on a lazy weekend.
It seems the Iraqi government has been left with a bucket of wormy cards. (Sorry)