published Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

In Chattanooga, State Sen. Mark Green recounts tales of attending to Saddam Hussein

Tennessee State Senator Mark Green, R-Clarksville. speaks Monday at the Pachyderm club meeting.
Tennessee State Senator Mark Green, R-Clarksville. speaks Monday at the Pachyderm club meeting.
Photo by Angela Lewis.

State Sen. Mark Green, R-Clarksville, only wanted to become a doctor when a sudden esophagus rupture nearly killed his father. The heroics of saving everyday people inspired him to pursue the stethoscoped career.

Decades later, he would be the surgeon responsible for monitoring Saddam Hussein after U.S. troops captured the ex-dictator on Dec. 13, 2003.

On Monday, the medic and senator spoke to Pachyderm Club members about his experiences behind both a scalpel and the barrel of a gun, including that fateful run-in with Iraq's infamous dictator.

"Saddam was everything I thought he would be," Green told the Republican crowd. "His megalomania was proven to me that night."

Green noted how Hussein was dumbfounded at first -- his hiding spot ambushed with three gun barrels pointed at his face -- but the international figure gradually reasserted himself as a pompous, confident cult of personality after his capture. Green relied on a translator to address the Arabic-speaking prisoner of war, but Hussein's body language spoke for itself.

"He had become very defiant, spitting on people and yelling at guys," Green said. "But when I met with him, he sat up tall and stuck his chin out."

Hussein even performed his Islamic prayer facing opposite from Mecca -- a gesture tantamount to comparing oneself to God -- to feed his own ego.

Green attended to Hussein with basic medical supervision such as taking his temperature and blood pressure, but soon couldn't help but pick the ex-dictator's brain about his life.

"I just start asking questions," Green said. "Why did you go to war with Kuwait? Why did you go to war in Iraq?"

Hussein gave a variety of answers ranging from oil resource availability to border disputes, but one topic never came into discussion: his two sons.

"We killed Uday and Kusai," Green said. "But he never asked about them. It's a shame. Saddam Hussein sacrificed even his children for his own power."

Green finished his discussion by rounding out talking points from the recent government shutdown to education analysis, but the anecdotes of treating such an iconic figure nearly 10 years ago resonated with his audience.

"This guy is really wonderful," said former Hamilton County Commissioner Harold Coker. "He's a great storyteller, and he's got incredible credentials in terms of what he can do."

Even as a former medical staff member of the Black Hawk Down unit, the health care company owner now in Green just wants to help people, even if that means telling a story or two along the way.

"Right now, I'm just focused on serving the people who sent me to Nashville," he said."

Contact staff writer Jeff LaFave at jlafave@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6592.

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