As the war in Iraq trundled along after the fall of Saddam Hussein in summer 2003, the troops were restless. In an effort to keep them occupied, generals took a lucky few for some moments of luxury in one of the former dictator’s opulent palaces.
The party included Lt. Don Gomez, who is now publishing his adventures, and told Metro about the trip.
Metro: Was it like spring break? Where there any rules?
Gomez: We were restricted in that there were some no-go areas. It was a military building by then and you could tell if somewhere was off-limits, but there was a lot to explore.
It must have been popular?
The group was about 15 to 20 U.S. soldiers and it was full of everybody: Australian soldiers, international journalists, defense contractors, diplomats and lots of very attractive women. Some people stayed there for six months and rarely left.
Did everybody play nicely?
It was like a high-school mentality. Our morale had been low and then we had good food, air conditioning, a pool and movie theater. Some of us were purposefully obnoxious, splashing around, and I think some of the Australians got annoyed.
Were you all getting good souvenirs?
Not at this point, it was a base that had been captured and guarded since early in the war. Soldiers went into palaces that had been bombed and took what they wanted – even chandeliers! But at this place if you pulled something off the wall someone would stop you.
Did you go back?
Yes, two or three times but it was not the same and I don’t remember them so well. After a while they introduced trips to Qatar, and there was nothing as good as that in Baghdad.