An Unathorized Look at Saddam Hussein

ByABC News via logo
November 21, 2002, 6:54 PM

Nov. 22 -- He is the dictator at the center of U.S. foreign policy. He is known to have used poison gas against villages in his own country. And he is suspected of having his own brother-in-law killed and ordering the deaths of his two sons-in-law.

But who is the man behind the name Saddam Hussein?

Saddam has not spoken to an American reporter in the 10 years since the Gulf War, but French filmmaker Joel Soler recently captured some of the dictator's personal reflections by spending two months in Iraq claiming to be making a film on local architecture. Instead, the one-hour film, Uncle Saddam, which airs November 26 at 7pm on Cinemax, reveals a man who seems to be preoccupied with cleanliness.

A Sweet or Stinky Smell

"It is not appropriate for someone to attend a gathering or to be with his children with his body odor trailing behind him, emitting a sweet or stinky smell mixed with perspiration," Saddam is shown saying to a village mayor.

"It's preferable to bathe twice a day, but at least once a day. And when the male bathes once a day, the female should bathe twice a day. The reason is that the female is more delicate and the smell of a woman is more noticeable than the male," the Iraqi president continues. "If a woman can't afford to brush her teeth with toothpaste and a toothbrush, she should use her finger."

Soler says Saddam's emphasis on cleanliness is based on fear of being contaminated by germs and an obsession with security.

"If you want to meet with Saddam Hussein, there are many protocols," says Al Attia, a former Iraqi government minister. "You have to be clean, to wash, because Saddam is scared to be contaminated by people."

For 15 years, Abbas Al Janabi was the personal secretary to Saddam's son. He says every time he met Saddam on official business, he went through the same routine.

"They take you to a shower," says Al Janabi, who fled Iraq two years ago. "You have to take a shower in front of the people who are responsible for his safety."