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THE CONFLICT IN IRAQ: HUSSEIN'S SECRETS

Hussein coped well in prison, nurse says

The dictator rarely complained, a U.S. master sergeant recalls.

January 01, 2007|From the Associated Press

ST. LOUIS — A military nurse who cared for Saddam Hussein in jail said the deposed dictator saved bread crusts to feed to birds and seldom complained to his captors.

Master Sgt. Robert Ellis cared for Hussein from January 2004 until August 2005 at Camp Cropper near Baghdad.

Ellis, 56, an operating room nurse in the St. Louis suburb of St. Charles, said he was ordered to do whatever was needed to keep Hussein alive.

"That was my job: to keep him alive and healthy, so they could kill him at a later date," he told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for an article published Sunday. Hussein was executed Saturday.

Ellis checked on the ousted leader twice a day and wrote a daily report on his physical and emotional condition.

Hussein told Ellis that cigars and coffee kept his blood pressure down, and would insist that Ellis smoke with him.

Ellis said Hussein did not complain much, and, when he did, his complaint was usually legitimate.

"He had very good coping skills," Ellis said.

Hussein shared with Ellis memories of happier times when his children were young.

When he was allowed short visits outside, he would feed the birds crusts of bread saved from his meals.

Hussein also watered a dusty plot of weeds.

"He said he was a farmer when he was young," Ellis said.

Hussein never discussed dying and expressed no regrets about his rule.

"He said everything he did was for Iraq," Ellis said.

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