June 12, 2004

Saddam's Secret Bunker tour

Okay, so I thought Uday's Palace on the Tigres was something to behold -- until I took a tour of Saddam's secret bunker yesterday.

In a building in Baghdad, with an administration building as a fašade (complete with some real offices in the floors above ground) three stories underground, and another three stories deep, Saddam build a secret bunker. A lot of Soviet design techniques were employed, it was fitted with Scandinavian air recirculatory systems, furniture, cooling systems, and other stuff, and it wasn't even discovered until we had troops on the ground.

Side note: I've got a soft spot for Scandinavia but it looks like Sweden and Finland were all too happy to sell him all the gear he wanted.

A guy from the State Department does an unofficial tour every Friday at 4pm. This wouldn't exactly pass OSHA standards as you're walking through a bombed out building, followed by a huge military bunker, in the dark -- I used my digital camera's LCD as a flashlight. I was wishing for something other than the shorts and tennis shoes I wore, shoes with a steel shank would have been nice but I walked gingerly.

Apparently we knew there was something important there, we dropped two 2,000lb bombs on it (see pictures), but the bunker was so well built it was left completely intact. After the power went out, and the backup generators ran out of fuel, the sump pumps stopped and the bottom two stories are flooded. I'm glad I'm taking my chlorquine becuase the mosquitos that breed there now were all too happy to see us.

There is a secret escape tunnel that leads out even deeper below the water table but it was designed to essentially be a water proof tube. We walked through it to the circular staircase on the other side.

Our tour guide was in charge of interviewing people about the bunker and he reconstructed their SOP's. Most of the doors in the building are fake. If you do open the right door you are faced with a small alcove you step into. Once the door behind you closes you have the opportunity to present your credentials for the next door to open. No credentials and you don't leave alive. Next you take off all of your clothes and leave them behind, take a mandatory shower, and put on clothes that are issued to you on the other side. This way no listening devices or weapons could be snuck in.

On the inside you walk a circuitous route that takes you down three stories without really feeling it, it's an intentional illusion. There are several officer's quarters, furnished by Ikea, with some of the chemical suit equipment still left behind (yeah, he wasn't planning for chemical war or anything...). Locals keep breaking in at night and stealing stuff, so there are more things gone every week.

You can see Saddam's briefing room from where he issued statements for television release, you might remember this room from TV -- I did. There's a picture of me banging my fist on the table like I own the place at the link below. It's crazy to be there after seeing it on TV so many times and just be allowed to wander around.

When you come back up out of the bunker, you come out of one of six doors (five are fake), and into a bombed out section of the building. Walk about 30 yards to the other side, however, and you are in what used to be a very large domed entertainment room. There is a hole at the top right by the chandeler where a 2000lb bomb entered. The entire dome interior is one flattened wasteland now ... and we got to walk right through it. 2000lbs is a lot of boom.

It leaves you speechless.

Of course, I will now trip every chemical sniffer at every airport on the way home for bomb residue, but it was completely worth it. Look at the pictures, it is surreal -- even for this place. I'm still kinda stunned.

Saddam's Secret Bunker pics

Posted by rick at June 12, 2004 07:16 AM