- March 6, 2012 |
- 4:20 pm
- Illustration: Arikia MillikanPro tip for the military-antique set: Beware of anyone seeming to hawk one of Saddam Hussein’s swords.In January, an auction house in New Hampshire presented an extraordinary item for bid: a “massive, highly embellished sword” purportedly belonging to the deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. The 37-inch blade was embellished with the Iraqi state crest on its brass hilt and featured “Persian Gulf pearl cabochons … mounted on the rosettes between the panels.” Authentication came included: the sword, apparently captured by a military combat historian “after the city fell to allied forces in 2003,” came with a “DD Form 603-1,” the military’s form for declaring war trophies and souvenirs, dated “March 9, 2003.”The Amoskeag auction house in Manchester, N.H. said the sword represented “a unique opportunity to own a sword that once belonged to the ‘Butcher of Baghdad’ and one of the most important and controversial historical figures of the 21st century.” According to its website, someone paid $17,250 for the Butcher of Baghdad’s blade.It’s hardly the only piece of Saddamorabilia that’s hit the marketplace in the nine years since the U.S. began occupying Iraq. But caveat lector: This stuff is easily faked. Which makes it perfect fodder for Tinfoil Tuesday, our recurring feature about the planet’s loonier conspiracy theories.Start with the sword. Despite the purported documentation, it is in fact impossible to authenticate. The Army couldn’t perform a complete check without the specific authentication form, but it says it wouldn’t have simply allowed a soldier to take the sword home. “If this were an actual Saddam Hussein sword, it would be considered a museum piece and turned back over to the Iraqi government,” says Army Maj. Mary Ricks, a Kuwait-based spokeswoman for the Army’s forces in the Middle East.Additionally, the Iraq War didn’t start until March 19, 2003, 10 days after the date on the authentication form. Baghdad didn’t fall to U.S. troops until April 9, making it unlikely for the Army combat historian to have removed it “from Hussein’s well appointed personal office in the Iraqi military command complex in Baghdad … after the city fell to allied forces in 2003.” It’s also easy to print out the DD 603-1 template form and fill in the blanks.Given the odds, we’d take a bet that the auction house has been had. Amoskeag representatives didn’t return inquiries seeking comment.The sword is only an egregious example. But if you troll eBay, you can find all manner of Saddam swag, from pins featuring his grinning face (dated “earlies of 2000s”) to “rare” keychains to a shot glasssupposedly taken “From Hussein Palace In 2003.” Maybe that stuff’s real; maybe it’s not.In England last October, a cameraman who documented the 2003 fall of Baghdad auctioned off a piece of the famous statue of Saddam that U.S. troops brought down in Firdous Square. Specifically, a piece of the ersatz-Saddam’s butt.The BBC considered the steel Saddam buttock authentic. And the seller at least says he wants to use the proceeds to benefit wounded veterans of the Iraq War. Those vets probably won’t see any of the money from the Saddam swords they allegedly helped free up for the auction market.Spencer Ackerman is Danger Room's senior reporter, based out of Washington, D.C., covering weapons of doom and the strategies they're used to implement.
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