As from Monday in Tikrit, Hussein may be seen by residents super-imposed on to such people as Zsa Zsa Gabor, Rita Hayworth, Elvis Presley and British-born rocker Billy Idol.
Lieutenant-Colonel Steve Russell chuckled while showing journalists a range of spoof Hussein pictures taken from the Internet: “We’re going to do something devious with these.”
Russell, whose 1st Battalion, 22nd Regiment is spearheading the 4th Infantry Division’s search for the ousted leader, hopes to receive official permission by Monday.
“Most of the locals will love them and they’ll be laughing. But the bad guys are going to be upset, which will just make it easier for us to know who they are.”
The poster campaign is part Russell’s plan to enrage resistance groups in the Tikrit area and thereby provoke poorly-planned attacks.
Officers from the 4th Infantry’s psychological operations unit say it is not necessarily a bad idea, although they tend to favour more subtle leaflet drops.
“It’s mostly good for troop morale, but if we can put these posters up in Tikrit and the enemy can’t take them down, then at least it shows who owns the streets,” said Sergeant David Cade, a psychological operations specialist.
Psychological or pathological?
But the posters run a serious risk of stoking fury among ordinary Iraqis who may not be pro-Hussein but still will not accept occupation or American ridicule. Some of the images are bound to upset sections of the Muslim community.
One of the posters shows Hussein’s head on Elvis’s dancing body, a gold crucifix hanging around his hairy chest. Another shows a buxom Rita Hayworth leaving little to the anatomical imagination.
Given fears in the Arab world that the invasion of Iraq was akin to a Christian crusade, some Iraqis quoted by AFP say US forces would do well to think twice about leaving the cross hanging around Saddam Elvis’s neck.
“Maybe it is funny for the soldiers, but I think most locals will find it very insulting,” said Uday, a 22 year old working as a translator at the US army base in Tikrit.