President Bush says he will give diplomacy one more try. Whether this is just a head-fake toward peace designed to gather some international support or a real attempt to avoid war with Iraq, we owe it to ourselves to explore alternatives. I have heard widely varying estimates on the cost of a war, from $9 billion a month from the Congressional Budget Office, to White House figures of $200 billion. Naturally, there are a lot of variables in the cost, but no one seems to be willing to itemize or explain the components.
While we look over the menu at the possible prices, let me suggest one last diplomatic solution which, though unconventional, could end up satisfying everybody involved: offer to buy all Saddam Hussein’s weapons and his presidency for $9 billion. Furthermore, to secure the agreement, we make him a U.S. citizen and give him and his family diplomatic immunity, as well as immunity from prosecution of all past crimes.
A lot of people will initially find it repugnant that we would pay a gigantic sum to a tyrant, in effect rewarding him for making the world such a miserable place. But stay with me here. I floated this idea by some folks when I was playing blackjack in Las Vegas last weekend, and there’s a way it could work.
See, there’s a catch. He has to live the rest of his life within the Las Vegas city limits.
When he gets there, we hit him with the fine print. The $9 billion is like a lottery payout — equal installments over thirty years. He’ll balk, but when he sees we’re really going to live up to the rest of the agreement, he’ll take a one-time $1.8 billion payment.
With a billion-eight in his pocket and diplomatic immunity, he won’t have much else to do but gamble. Hussein is obviously the gambling type, and he probably thinks he’s smarter than the game. Vegas loves that kind of action. His family will love the high-roller lifestyle. His wife used to go on million-dollar shopping sprees in New York and London. His son Uday wears outlandish suits, with red-and-white stripes or with a lapel on just one side. That wouldn’t even stand out in Vegas. A guy who used to be a singer in Iraq said Uday would have parties where there would be five men and thirty women. While he was singing, Uday would come up on stage and make everyone drink enormous amounts of cognac. Then he would take out a machine gun and fire at the ceiling. On the top floor of Caesars Palace, that happens all the time.
Saddam’s mistress has said that his idea of a good time is wearing a cowboy hat, smoking a cigar, and watching videos of his opponents being tortured. That sounds like going to a Tyson fight at the MGM Grand. A documentary said that he likes to fish, but gets impatient, throws a grenade in the water, and has a diver get the dead fish. I’m sure, if you bet enough, you could do that in the fountains at Bellagio. He dyes his hair and wears a relaxation mask to minimize his wrinkles: Canyon Ranch Spa at the Venetian. All his palaces have waterfalls, fountains, and pools; he would be right at home in a lanai suite at the Mirage.
I give Saddam five years in Las Vegas, during which time he will set off a new economic boom in the city that will trickle down to the rest of the country, and be a danger only to himself.
Hussein Beats Aladdin Out of $100M
June 1, 2003 — Over the Memorial Day weekend, Saddam Hussein enjoyed a breathtaking run at Baccarat and won as much as $100 million at the Aladdin. The exact amount isn’t known, because the casino was unable to make good on the payout. Consequently, owners and creditors of the resort, in Chapter 11 since 2001, have turned over ownership to the former Iraqi dictator. “I think this should erase doubts in the West that you’d never hear from Saddam Hussein again,” said the jubilant gambler, who also announced he would close the Aladdin for three months and reopen it with a more “authentic” Arabian theme.
War Brewing Between Hussein, Wynn
December 14, 2003 — Casino-owner Saddam Hussein has escalated his feud with Le Reve owner Steve Wynn after Wynn supposedly told the former sovereign of Iraq that the casino would no longer accept his action. Hussein has tried to put a brave face on the situation, complaining that the casino was too drafty and the mountain looked phony. But insiders say Saddam is furious that, with his Baghdad casino project hundreds of millions over budget, he won’t get a chance to win back the $400 million he has supposedly lost at Wynn’s place. “My resort will be nicer than anything Steve Wynn ever dreamed of when it opens in February 2004.”
Rumors of Hussein Family Gambling Abound
July 7, 2004 — Sources in the gaming industry estimate that Saddam Hussein and his son Uday have lost as much as one billion dollars at the gaming tables. The Husseins, legendary high-rollers who hail from Iraq, have reportedly snuck out of the country in violation of U.N. rules and gone on high-priced gambling junkets in Australia and Nassau, where they lost more money.
Baghdad Returns to Chapter Eleven
June 17, 2005 — The Baghdad Casino, in financial trouble since it opened last December with Rosie O’Donnell as its New Year’s Eve entertainment, finally filed for bankruptcy yesterday. This is the latest setback for the Hussein family, big gamblers from Iraq who also own the casino. Caesars Palace joined the list of casinos that have turned down Saddam or son Uday’s requests for lines of credit. The property, formerly the Aladdin, formerly a vacant lot, formerly the original Aladdin, has been in bankruptcy for most of the last 25 years and locals believed it was inevitable it would happen again.
Floorman Stricken at Craps Table
October 24, 2007 — Saddam Hussein, a night-shift floorman at Pit No. 3 at the Imperial Palace Casino, collapsed on the layout last night and was pronounced dead on the scene by casino medical personnel. Hussein was remembered by other members of the pit crew as a boisterous man with a penchant for tall tales, from his adventures as a high roller to the time he was supposedly an Arabian warlord. Said a stickman at the table as they hauled away the corpse, “Sammy was one of a kind. He would insist that he once took a swing at some Washington, D.C. bigwig. We’ll miss his wild stories.”
Michael Craig, a writer in Scottsdale, Arizona, is most recently author of The 5 Minute Investor, a lazy investor’s guide to figuring out what’s happening in big companies.