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Saddam tended birds and plants in jail, nurse says (Associated Press; Guardian UK)
A military nurse who cared for Saddam Hussein said the former dictator saved bread crusts to feed birds and tended a small plot of weeds while in jail.Master Sergeant Robert Ellis was under orders to prevent the former Iraqi dictator from dying in US custody.
“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 after Saddam’s execution on Saturday.
“I knew all along what they were going to do. This went against my grain as a nurse, but as a soldier – well, that was my job,” Sgt Ellis said.
When he was allowed short visits outside, Saddam would feed the birds crusts of bread saved from his meals. He also watered a dusty plot of weeds, Sgt Ellis said.
“He said he was a farmer when he was young and he never forgot where he came from.” The nurse, who cared for Saddam from January 2004 until August 2005, checked on him twice a day and wrote a daily report on his physical and emotional condition.
Saddam insisted on smoking cigars and drinking coffee to keep his blood pressure down, Sgt Ellis told the paper. “He had very good coping skills.”
But he also revealed that Saddam came close to being killed when he was being transported. He was apparently shot at and once escaped a roadside bomb.
Saddam shared with his nurse memories of when his children were young, and how he would tell them bedtime stories.
When Sgt Ellis told Saddam he had to leave for America because his brother was dying, Saddam hugged him and said he would be Sgt Ellis’s brother.
“I was there to help him, and he respected that,” Sgt Ellis said.
Saddam never discussed dying and expressed no regrets about his rule.
“He said everything he did was for Iraq,” Sgt Ellis said. “One day when I went to see him, he asked why we invaded. Well, he made gestures like shooting a machine gun and asked why soldiers came and shot up the place.”
He told the nurse that the laws in Iraq were fair and the weapons inspectors didn’t find anything.