So now we have the answer to the world’s most infrequently asked question about former Iraqi dictator Sadaam Hussein: briefs.
We always knew the British tabloid The Sun was panting to get scoops, but Britain’s biggest selling newspaper’s front page photo of Sadaam in his underpants takes it to a new level (Martha Stewart: be grateful you didn’t live in England):
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 imprisoned former Iraqi leader appeared on the front of the Sun, naked except for a pair of white briefs and holding a pair of trousers in his hand/
The Sun quoted U.S. military sources as saying they had handed over the pictures “in the hope of dealing a body blow to the resistance in Iraq.”
Other photographs showed Saddam, with short, dyed-black hair and a mustache, washing clothes by hand and asleep on his bed.
The photos later appeared in the New York Post. Both papers are owned by Australian media baron Rupert Murdoch.
From this point on no one can accuse The Sun, The Post or Murdoch of being slackers.
Here via Reuters is a photo of the photo the world has not been waiting to see:
And although this may seem a bit of madcap journalism sparking a lot of speculation (is this what could have befallen a captured Adolph Hitler?), a Godsend to standup comedians, and just-plain wishful thinking (right: the resistance in Iraq will surrender tomorrow because they just saw Sadaam in his underwear) there is indeed a serious side to it all. The BBC reports that the U.S. military is not guffawing:
The US said the photos appeared to breach Geneva Convention rules on the humane treatment of prisoners of war. The conventions say countries must protect prisoners of war in their custody from “public curiosity”…..
The Sun cited US military sources saying they handed over the pictures showing Saddam as “an ageing and humble old man” in the hope of dealing a blow to the resistance in Iraq.
“It’s important that the people of Iraq see him like that to destroy the myth,” the paper’s source was quoted as saying.
However, a spokesman for the multinational forces in Baghdad, Lieutenant-Colonel Steven Boylan, insisted “they were not released by the US military. So the claims in the Sun… are not correct”.
A statement from the US-led force said it was “disappointed at the possibility that someone responsible for the security, welfare, and detention of Saddam would take and provide these photos for public release”.
The statement added: “This lapse is being aggressively investigated to determine, if possible, who took the photos, and to ensure existing procedures and directives are complied with to prevent this from happening again.”
Col Boylan said: “As far as any breaches of the Geneva Convention, that’s something we are looking into. We did not officially release those photos, and so there’s a question on whether it is actually a breach or not.”
The Sun refused to say how it got hold of the pictures, or when they were taken, insisting it needed to protect its sources.
NOTE TO THE SUN: Please don’t run the photos of Sadaam on the toilet.
UPDATE: Sadaam plans to sue.
UPDATE II: BUSH TO PROBE SADAAM UNDERWEAR…I’ve waited all my LIFE to write a headline like that and the Reuters report does say that == although with a wimpier headline (at TMV our cup runneth over with catchy underwear headlines).
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.