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The former presidential palace of Saddam Hussein, occupied by the Coalition Forces Land Component Command, Baghdad, Iraq, circa 2003. David K. Dismukes/U.S. Army/Getty Images
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A view of the conference hall in the former Republican Presidential Palace, 2011. Ali Al-Saad/Getty Images
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Iraqis Loot The Presidential Palace shortly after the U.S. invasion in 2003. Gilles Bassignac/Getty Images
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Saddam-era Iraqi missiles fire into the sky in a mural inside the U.S. embassy building in the Green Zone September 3, 2007 in Baghdad, Iraq. John Moore/Getty Images
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US Army Sergeant Craig Zentkovich from Connecticut belonging to the 1st Brigade Combat Team photographs a pink bedroom at Saddam Hussein's presidential palace 13 April 2003. Romeo Gacad/Getty Images
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A looter removes an item from one of Saddam Hussein's palaces beneath a portrait of Hussein's family May 5, 2003 in Baghdad, Iraq. Mario Tama/Getty Images
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Inside what was probably a large reception room in the Presidential Palaces compound, April 10, 2003, in Baghdad, Iraq. Sean Smith/Getty Images
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Iraqis Loot The Presidential Palace in 2003. Gilles Bassignac/Getty Images
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Bedroom in the Presidential Palace. Alain Buu/Getty Images
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A chair stands amidst rubble inside the Presidential Palace. Gilles Bassignac/Getty Images
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Furniture being taken out and sold by Iraqi civilians. Gilles Bassignac/Getty Images
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A U.S. Army soldier of the 101st Airborne Division cleans the steps at the division headquarters in Mosul. The headquarters occupies a former palace of Saddam Hussein overlooking the Tigris River in northern Iraq. Stan Honda/AFP via Getty Images
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In the pool house at Saddam Hussein's palace in Mosul, mosaics depict him patting an old woman on the head and holding a young girl. Gregory Rec/Getty Images
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Iraqis walk in front of Saddam Hussein's former palace on April 21, 2009, in the city of Hillah in Babil Province, about 50 miles south of Baghdad, Iraq. The Palace, which is adjacent to the remains of the ancient city of Babylon, was purged of anything of value by looters as Saddam's regime fell in April 2003 and then occupied by US and coalition forces until late 2006. Muhannad Fala'ah/Getty Images
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Iraqis stand inside a marbled room, where Saddam supposedly once slept, at one of the former dictator 's palace villas in Hillah, which can be rented for about $170 USD a night. Circa 2009. Muhannad Fala'ah/Getty Images
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Visitors walk through the graffiti-painted halls of Saddam's Babil Palace. Ameer Al Mohammedaw/Getty Images
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Visitors walk through the graffiti painted halls of the Babylonian Palace. Ameer Al Mohammedaw/Getty Images
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Ceiling of Babylonian Palace ruins with images of the landmarks of Iraq. 2011. Hillah, Iraq.HomoCosmicos/Getty Images
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A partial view of a former palace at the ancient archaeological site of Babylon. Hussein Faleh/Getty Images
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The Sujud Palace was built for Saddam Hussein's first wife. Stalactite molding was used in the main entrance hall. Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
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An Iraqi man leaves Sujud Palace with an ornate couch. The palace, hit by several cruise missiles, is one of the last palaces built by Saddam.Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
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A U.S. soldier walks down a main stairwell inside the Radwaniyah Palace used as a reception palace for guests near Baghdad's international airport, 2003. Timothy A. Clary/Getty Images
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Tikrit's presidential complex is composed of three reception palaces and several residential and leisure palaces, on a marina next to the Tigris river. Here, the double-revolution staircase is made of white marble and coated with mother-of-pearls. Patrick Robert/Getty Images
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U.S. military personnel reads a book on a terrace of one palace inside Saddam Hussein Tikrit complex, 2004. Daniel Mihailescu/Getty Images
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A bedroom with porthole-styled window inside the Tikrit complex. Patrick Robert/Getty Images
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Tikrit's ornate features include shining columns and circular windows.Patrick Robert/Getty Images
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A destroyed portion of Tikrit Palace. Alain Buu/Getty Images
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U.S. infantrymen sit by the pool bar at Uday Hussein's palace. Uday was a notoriously brutal playboy who abused his power in the most vicious fashion. April 10, 2003, in Baghdad. Mirrorpix/Getty Images
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Lion caretaker Jaffar Thahab, plays with lionesses that were moved here from an animal compound in Uday Hussein's section of the Republican Palace. Uday, son of Iraq's ex dictator Saddam Hussein, raised wild beasts as a hobby, Saeed Khan/Getty Images
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U.S. infantrywoman Felicia Harris poses for a picture as she lays in the four poster bed at the palace of Uday, April 10, 2003, in Baghdad. Mirrorpix/Getty Images
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A young Iraqi boy leaves the Omar Al Farouk Palace, one of Saddam's palaces in his hometown of Tikrit, with an ornate chair. Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
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A train once used to bring Saddam Hussein's loyalists from Baghdad to Saddamiat al Tharthar resort city, which now lies abandoned, at Lake Tharthar, Iraq, circa 2013. Marco Di Lauro/Getty Images
33 Photos Of Saddam Hussein’s Palaces That Show The Excess Of His Fallen Regime
In 2003, President George W. Bush took the occasion of the September 11th terrorist attacks to order U.S. forces to invade Iraq and finally defeat their unruly dictator. There was a plan to save some of Saddam Hussein's palaces from the more extreme bombing, and turn them into command centers. Hussein possessed between 80-100 palaces — most built after the 1991 Gulf War.
The military succeeded in their mission to end Hussein's dictatorship — and life. They also secured their headquarters. U.S. troops moved in, with some factions occupying palaces longer than others. However, as soon as the troops moved out, the looters took their turn. Anything of value not nailed down was removed and sold for whatever cash it could bring.
The Iraqi government now owns all the dictator's former residences. Some locals think Saddam Hussein's palaces should be restored — even if the history is full of horrors. Others believe they should be left to fall apart, taking the unsavory memories of war and death with them.
The Republican Palace
jim.gordon/Wikimedia Commons An aerial view of the Republican Presidential palace in Baghdad, Iraq.
The U.S. government ended up with the opulent Republican Presidential Palace for one of their headquarters in Iraq. This palace was one of the largest and most luxurious. A Tomahawk Land Missile had hit part of it, but it remained mostly intact.
The government also believed the palace could contain important documents, as it was Hussein's favorite place to meet other important politicians.
However, foreign dignitaries who visited the palace were not duly impressed with its comfort. They found the mattresses rock hard, the tap water always hot — never cool. The old, tube televisions only picked up a handful of stations, and the halls echoed in sterile silence.
At least one U.S. soldier jokingly said that he was going to enjoy his first shower in weeks here. The taps still dispensed water, signifying that the palace was evacuated in a rush.
Though Saddam couldn't swim, he also insisted that each wing of the Presidential Palace have its own pool.
Aerial view of the Al-Faw palace.
The Al-Faw palace was another of Saddam Hussein's palaces that was mostly spared from Gulf War II bombs. This one has an unreal amount of space: almost half a million square feet, with 62 rooms — 29 of them bathrooms.
There is an artificial lake surrounding it, stocked by Hussein himself with a special breed of large bass. The giant fish is dubbed the Saddam bass; U.S. troops enjoyed fishing for them in their downtime when they occupied the palace.
The funny thing about this particular palace; the rooms are huge, and everything is as ornate as you'd expect, but much of it is an illusion. A giant chandelier is part plastic, walls are thin as paper, and what seems like gold is just the fool's variety — that is to say, fake.
Saddam Hussein's Tikrit Palace
JOSEPH BARRAK/AFP via Getty ImagesA U.S, soldier walks down the stairs in the hallway of toppled leader Saddam Hussein's palace in his hometown of Tikrit, north of Baghdad. 2003.
The village of Tikrit along the Tigris River is known as the "city of palaces", as Hussein built dozens upon dozens of them along the riverbanks. Many of the residences contain rare marble features, artillery-resistant walls, and beautiful swimming pools.
Saddam Hussein's palaces in Tikrit form a compound 50 times as big as that of the White House. Contained within are his own palace, and one for his mother and sons. There are hundreds of rooms and an enclosed, man-made lake with towers surrounding it. After it was returned to the Iraqi people, the plan was to make it a lush resort. However, looters took everything within a matter of weeks — even the light switches.
Today there are dozens of visitors to the complex; mourners visit one particular courtyard overlooking the river. Here, in June 2014, Islamic extremists executed 1,700 air force cadets, throwing bodies into the Tigris. The Camp Speicher massacre victims are also buried on the grounds.
Search teams are still excavating bodies.
Go inside the splendor and decrepitude of Saddam Hussein's palaces with these 33 photos.
An All That’s Interesting writer since 2013, Erin Kelly focuses on historic places, natural wonders, environmental issues, and the world of science. Her work has also been featured in Smithsonian and she’s designed several book covers in her career as a graphic artist.