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Prison Stands as Testament to Saddam's Evil

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

FORWARD OPERATING BASE LOYALTY, Iraq, Dec. 17, 2005 – Saddam Hussein, sitting in a defendant's chair, looks harmless and slightly ridiculous. But his deserted facilities at this base are testament to his evil.

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The inside of Saddam Hussein's Directorate of Internal Security, where "high-interest" enemies were imprisoned, provides a chilling reminder of what life was like under the former dictator. Photo by Jim Garamone
  

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The Americans moved onto the grounds of what was Saddam's Directorate of Internal Security. At its center is a prison that could comfortably hold 500. At times, it had 3,000 people jammed into it.

The prison had no name and is surrounded by the high-rise quarters that once housed the torturers and their families. One corner of the prison - the area with the guard's offices - was hit by a precision-guided bomb.

Now the area is the headquarters of the 2nd Brigade Combat Team of the 3rd Infantry Division. The Marne Division soldiers use cells as storage areas and arms rooms.

"We have local nationals who still won't walk near it," said Army Capt. Melissa Ringhisen, a military intelligence officer who is the "mayor" of this base. "People would disappear from the streets and end up here. There is a whole system of tunnels under the base leading from the prison to the hospital to the headquarters. Once the prisoners went in, they didn't see the sun again."

Saddam built a house just over the wall from the prison and could watch as guards tortured high-interest prisoners. Many were tortured to death. "The soldiers here before us said there was a wood chipper in the prison to dispose of the bodies," Ringhisen said.

The cells themselves are little more than closets into which four or five people would be jammed. Prisoners hooked up rags and buckets to try and catch moisture from the cooling vents. Many prisoners wrote verses from the Koran on the walls or scratched their names into the paint along with a date so that someone, somehow could learn their fates.

Other cells had bunks for eight, but typically the guards would jam in 20 people.

The 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment - the U.S. unit that first occupied the forward operating base - once offered tours of the prison for Iraqis, but stopped the practice because of the force protection situation.

Ringhisen said she doesn't know if it would be better to raze the structure or preserve it as a museum and a remembrance of those who died there.

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Click photo for screen-resolution imageThe damaged grounds of Saddam Hussein's Directorate of Internal Security, where his dissenters were once tortured and imprisoned, stands as a testament to the former dictator's ruthlessness. Photo by Jim Garamone  
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