Saddam’s sister in Amman.

I saw Saddam Hussein’s sister yesterday.  It was chilling, it was scary.  I was just standing in the lobby of my hotel with Arun.  We were just talking, I was going to go up and write up some notes.  I saw two big Mercedes pull up just outside the hotel in the miserable downpour of rain.  A man walked out of the front Mercedes, a tall man, in his sixties, I’d say, with white hair and a white mustache, he looked distinguished in an expensive overcoat and he looked very serious and determined.  He just walked into the hotel and straight through the lobby, like: nobody�s going to stop me, I’m not even going to look at anybody.  The doorman at the hotel told Arun, that’s Saddam’s brother-in-law and Arun told me.  I watched him walk towards the elevator and wait.  A group of three women got off the elevator and they walked with him with that same straight-forward, not-to-be-disturbed look, though they walked quite slowly.  It was a woman in her sixties, a woman in her eighties, and a younger woman, maybe 35.  They all wore very nice European dresses, they looked rich, fancy.  The two older women had shawls on their heads, but it looked like that had more to do with the rain than Islam.  It seems ridiculous, but I felt like I was looking at evil.  I felt scared.  It felt chilling.  And somehow I just knew this was Saddam’s family.  I was thinking, maybe I should approach them.  Ask some questions.  Get a story out of this.  Nobody has talked to any of Saddam’s immediate family.  But I was stuck, just staring at them.  I felt scared.  They walked out to the Mercedes and drove off, followed closely by the second Mercedes.  Arun told me, those are Mukhabarat, you saw all those guys?  And I sort of realized that the three women had been surrounded by a bunch of youngish men in dark overcoats.  I hadn’t paid attention to them before.  Arun told me he recognized those guys, because once he gave a tour to an Asian country’s president.  Those same Jordanian Mukhabarat guys followed the President�s car and, whenever the car was stopped at a light, they would jump out of the rear car and surround the front one with guns out.  This is actually big news–and I’m revealing here, as far as I know.  None of the other journalists saw them or knew they were here when I mentioned it.  Saddam’s family hasn’t left Iraq before, from what I understand.  This could be a sign that they’re preparing their exit, that they know Saddam’s days are over.

I haven’t been writing and I realize that everything seems so normal, so uninteresting that there doesn’t seem to be much reason to write.  I’ve given up on the Iraqi visa for now.  The two fixers have given up, too.  Nobody even talks about that anymore.  Nobody goes down to the embassy.  A bunch of people flew home this week to spend Christmas with their families rather than waste it here.  I’m thinking of going to Beirut for a few days, do some stories, and hang out with some of my new reporter friends.  It really feels like a college dorm here.  I work all day–though most people just hang out in the hotel–and then at night we drink and eat and laugh and all that.  Sometimes–though rarely–we even discuss the upcoming war and politics and what we’re reporting.  There are cool kids and the ones everyone tries to avoid and the nerds who don’t hang out with us, but stay in their rooms and write.  The food’s much better, the rooms are much nicer than college.  I started thinking that I need to go to Tel Aviv, I need to get out of here if I’m going to get work done.