Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe
In this week's issue, Andrea Gronvall reviews the new film The Devil's Double, a biopic about Saddam Hussein's playboy son Uday and his reluctant body double, a former classmate named Latif Yahia.
The movie's worth skipping, Gronvall writes: "Equally as offensive as the movie's smorgasbord of smut and violence is the lingering whiff of colonial-era orientalism, a Western predilection for regarding Eastern cultures as innately idle, lascivious, and irrational, and thus ripe for intervention." We've got a better story for you: in 2005, late Reader staffer Grant Pick wrote about Uday Hussein's reluctant . . . hypnotist, a Chicago-based practitioner named Larry Garrett, who was summoned to Iraq to treat injuries Hussein had sustained in a car accident.
Actually, not so reluctant—the trip was suggested to Garrett by a friend who suspected he would be interested in the adventure:
Garrett's mother and children and many of his friends thought going to Iraq was a bad idea. But his girlfriend wasn't concerned, and he wanted to go. "You have to understand my personality," he says. "If you say to me, 'I have a friend with a problem,' I'm right there for you. I'm a very trusting person. I also had fantasies that maybe I could create connections between the U.S. and Iraq, to better relations."
It wasn't until his car reached the Iraq border that Garrett learned the identity of his client, who he met with on his second day in the country.
When Uday opened his eyes he spoke in Arabic to Simani, his chief aide. "The patient said that was good," Simani told Garrett. "But the next time it must be deeper."Read Michael Miner's tribute to Pick here.
Late the next night the phone rang again in Garrett's hotel room. "The patient awaits you," said Kamal.
Garrett hypnotized Uday again. "When I was done Uday opened his eyes, and he had a smile on his face," he says. "Simani told me, 'The patient said that was better, but the next time it has to be much deeper.' I had Uday feeling stronger. I was giving him confidence. But I knew I needed to knock the guy out. Uday didn't care so much about being hypnotized—he wanted to be unconscious."
As Garrett talked to hotel staff and local merchants he learned why Uday had been so anxious to do something about his physical problems. "I heard that decisions were being made about who was next in line to Saddam," he says. "There was speculation that power might go to Qusay [Uday's brother]. This was the time when Uday had to do something or he was going to lose his position."