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Iraq Journals

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Sunday, April 6

Soldiers enjoy a meal on Saddam's son

By Sean D. Naylor | Army Times

WEST OF BAGHDAD, Iraq - U.S. troops have not yet cooked Saddam Hussein's goose, but they've eaten a lot of his son's chicken.

The opportunity for the unexpected feast, all the more welcome for exhausted soldiers who have eaten little but prepackaged rations for the last two weeks, came Friday when soldiers from 3rd Infantry Division happened upon an estate owned by the Iraqi president's eldest son, Odai.

The troops were trying to locate the source of a mortar that had shelled the squadron's tactical operations center about 9 miles southwest of Baghdad. Locals told them that a nearby estate belonged to Odai, a man with an international reputation for combining a playboy lifestyle with thuggish brutality.

When the troops entered the estate, which included two villas, a pool and a yacht on a trailer, they found U.S. jets had already paid a visit. Capt. Brett Bair described it as ``a pretty nice-looking villa, until a JDAM (satellite-guided joint direct attack munition bomb) hit it right in the center.'' The other home had met with a similar fate, said Bair.

There were no Iraqi troops or weapons on the estate, which covered hundreds of acres, but there was much of interest. Part of the property was given over to a chicken farm, one of Odai Hussein's numerous commercial interests. The soldiers found hundreds of pounds of frozen chicken in one building, and proceeded to cook as much of it as possible over an open fire. ``We ate the hell out of some chicken,'' said Staff Sgt. Rodney Trotter, a 26-year-old operations noncommissioned officer from Gadsden, Ala.

The soldiers also noticed an enormous 100-foot-long, 30-foot-wide mobile home hidden in a warehouse. Their first thought, Bair said, was that it might be a mobile chemical weapons laboratory. But when they opened it, they found two luxurious bedrooms, a fully equipped kitchen and bathroom, tiled floors and large living room with picture windows.

``A family of six could live in there comfortably,'' Bair said.

A local who had gone into the trailer first emerged with a photo album that included pictures of Odai at a party.

Odai is the founder of the Fedayeen, the ruthless fighters who have been the most persistent in attacking coalition forces. He's extremely unpopular among his people, barely surviving a 1996 assassination attempt.

Within an hour, the locals who went in with the U.S. troops had ransacked the mobile home and the rest of the compound. ``You've heard the term, `If it's not bolted down, they'll take it,' '' said Capt. Adam Beard, the squadron's plans officer. ``These dudes, if it wasn't concreted into the ground, they'd take it.''