Troops dealt an old tool
By TOM ZUCCO, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published April 12, 2003
Playing cards helped American POWs escape during World War II. They were used to frighten the enemy during the Vietnam War. If coalition forces spot and seize former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein or any of his top lieutenants, it could be in the cards -- again.
Saddam Hussein is on the most important card of the decks handed out to some troops - the ace of spades.
U.S. Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks on Friday announced that U.S. soldiers have been issued a list of 55 former Iraqi leaders in several forms, including posters, handbills and a deck of playing cards with pictures of former regime leaders. "To ease identification when contact does occur," Brooks said.
The cards combine elements of wanted posters, playing cards and trading cards. Instead of batting averages and earned run averages, the cards list job descriptions. And they're ranked, apparently, according to who is wanted the most.
Hussein's son, Uday, is the ace of hearts. Son Qusay is the ace of clubs.
The ace of spades, of course, is Hussein.
The fourth ace, the ace of diamonds, is the presidential secretary, Abid Hamid Mahmud al-Tikriti. Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, a familiar figure in the media, merits only the eight of spades.
And perhaps fittingly, Hussein's minister of information, Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf, is not in the cards. It was al-Sahhaf who claimed coalition forces were being turned back, right up to the time Baghdad fell and he disappeared.
There are two jokers: One lists Arab titles, the other Iraqi military ranks.
The cards can do more than help identify fugitive Iraqi leaders. They can also be a morale booster.
The cards were made by the U.S. military, but the Cincinnati-based United States Playing Card Co., makers of Bicycle, Aviator and Hoyle playing cards, has sold playing cards since the 1880s. And the company has had strong links to several wars.
George White, vice president of marketing at USPC, said that during World War II, the company secretly worked with the government to send special decks of cards as gifts to American prisoners in German POW camps. When the cards were moistened, they peeled apart to reveal sections of a map indicating escape routes. The company also issued "spotter cards" that showed the characteristic shapes of enemy tanks, ships and aircraft.
Bicycle playing cards served a different purpose during Vietnam. In 1966, White explained, two lieutenants in 25th Infantry Division wrote the company and asked for decks of cards containing nothing but the ace of spades. The officers said the cards, which are sometimes referred to as the "Death" card, sparked fear in superstitious Viet Cong and North Vietnamese.
"But I got a chance to speak with one of the officers years later," White said in an interview Friday, "and he told me he didn't know what impact the cards had on the Vietnamese. But it was an absolute morale booster for the troops. It let them know the people back home were thinking about them and behind them.
White, who hasn't seen the Iraqi cards other than in a photo, said they don't appear to be "real playable cards. They have no rounded corners and look like paper with no lamination.
"And they're going to have to change it when someone is captured".
An official at the Pentagon told Knight Ridder that only a couple of hundred decks had been sent to the combat zone, but that more could be dealt out in a jiffy.
The cards were made up by wags at the Defense Intelligence Agency, which is on the hunt for the depicted characters.
The Pentagon has not copyrighted the cards, which means that anyone could produce them, a defense official said.
But even in a nation of 24-million, giving out the cards with missing Iraqi leaders on them is an effective way of putting information out to the troops, White said, "because if you think about it, soldiers often have a lot of down time. And what do troops do in down time? They play cards."
White thinks the Iraqi cards, like baseball and football trading cards, will become collector's items some day. And when the inevitable movies are made about the war with Iraq, chances are viewers will see the cards again.
"You can't watch a movie about Vietnam," he said, "without seeing the ace of spades in a soldier's helmet."
Who's who in the deck of cards
Ace of spades: Saddam Hussein, president.
King of spades: Ali Hasan al-Majid, presidential adviser/Revolutionary Command Council member.
Queens of spades: Muhammad Hamza Zubaydi, retired RCC member.
Jack of spades: Ibrahim Ahmad Abd al-Sattar Muhammad, Iraqi armed forces chief of staff.
Ten of spades: Hamid Raja Shalah, Air Force commander.
Nine of spades: Rukan Razuki Abd al-Ghafar, head of tribal affairs office.
Eight of spades: Tariq Aziz, deputy prime minister.
Seven of spades: Mahmoud Diab al-Ahmed, minister of interior.
Six of spades: Amer Rashid Muhammad, presidential adviser/former oil minister.
Five of spades: Watban Ibrahim Hasan, presidential adviser.
Four of spades: Muhammad Zimam Abd al-Razzaq, Baath Party regional command chairman.
Three of spades: Sa'd Abdul-Majid al-Faisal, Baath Party Regional command chairman.
Two of spades: Rashid Taan Kazim, Baath Party regional chairman.
* * *
Ace of clubs: Qusay Hussein, Hussein's son.
King of clubs: Izzat Ibrahim, RCC vice chairman
Queens of clubs: Kamal Mustafa Abdallah, secretary of the Republican Guard.
Jack of clubs: Sayf Al-Din Fulayyih Hasan Taha, Republican Guard chief of staff.
Ten of clubs: Latif Nusayyif Jasim, Baath Party military bureau deputy chairman.
Nine of clubs: Jamal Mustafa Abdallah, deputy head of tribal affairs.
Eight of clubs: Walid Hamid Tawfiq, governor of Basra.
Seven of clubs: Ayad Futayyih Khalifa, Quds forces chief of staff.
Six of clubs: Hossam Mohammed Amin, head of National Monitoring Directorate.
Five of clubs: Barzan Ibrahim Hasan, presidential adviser.
Four of clubs: Samir Abd al-Aziz, Baath Party regional command chairman.
Three of clubs: Sayf al-Din, Baath Party regional command chairman.
Two of clubs: Ugla Abid Saqr, Baath Party regional chairman.
* * *
Ace of diamonds: Abid Hamid Mahmud, presidential secretary.
King of diamonds: Aziz Salih, Baath Party regional command chairman.
Queen of diamonds: Muzahim S'ab Hasan, air defense forces commander.
Jack of diamonds: Tahir Jalil Habbush, intelligence service.
Ten of diamonds: Taha Yassin Ramadan, vice president/RCC member.
Nine of diamonds: Taha Muhie-eldin Marouf, vice president/RCC member.
Eight of diamonds: Himat Mizaban Ibrahim, deputy prime minister and finance minister.
Seven of diamonds: Amir Hamudi Hasan, presidential scientific adviser.
Six of diamonds: Sabawi Ibrahim Hasan, presidential adviser.
Five of diamonds: Abd al-Baqi Abd al-Karim Abdallah, Baath Party regional command chairman.
Four of diamonds: Yahya Abdallah, Baath Party regional command chairman.
Three of diamonds: Mushin Khadr, Baath Party regional command chairman.
Two of diamonds: Adil Abdallah Mahdi, Baath Party regional command chairman.
* * *
Ace of hearts: Uday Hussein, Hussein's son.
King of hearts: Hami Abd al-Latif Tilfah, special security organization.
Queen of hearts: Barzan Abd al-Ghafur Sulayman Majid, Special Republican Guard commander.
Jack of hearts: Rafi Abd al-Latif Tilfah, director of general security.
Ten of hearts: Abdel Tawab Mullah Huweish, deputy prime minister.
Nine of hearts: Mizban Khadr Hadi, RCC member.
Eight of hearts: Sultan Hashim Ahmed, minister of defense.
Seven of hearts: Zuhayr Talib Abd al-Sattar, director of military intelligence.
Six of hearts: Muhammad Mahdi, minister of trade.
Five of hearts: Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash, weapons of mass destruction scientist.
Four of hearts: Humman Abd al-Khaliq Abd, minister of higher education and scientific research.
Three of hearts: Fadil Mahmud Gharib, Baath Party regional command chairman.
Two of hearts: Ghazi Hammud, Baath Party regional command chairman.
Two jokers: One lists Arab titles, the other Iraqi military ranks.
-- Source: The Associated Press
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