Fishin’ Accomplished: Weapons of Bass Destruction

The hunt for the Saddam Bass in Iraq.

Photo: Courtesy Sgt. 1st Class Douglas W. Anderson/US Army

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FOR SEVEN and a half years, US soldiers have been on a fishing expedition in Iraq: the hunt for the Saddam Bass.

Hundreds of the huge, carnivorous creatures swarm the moats of Baghdad’s Al Faw Palace, a sandstone citadel built by Saddam Hussein that now houses the US military HQ. The fish, which can grow to six feet and weigh more than 100 pounds, were supposedly cultivated by the dictator and his sons. A favorite base workers’ myth holds that the Husseins threw captives to the fishes, who in time developed a taste for human blood.

Today, the Saddam Bass feast on nothing nastier than chow-hall scraps, torment waterfowl, and dodge soldiers and contractors indulging in off-duty catch-and-release fishing. They even have a fan blog (thefishatalfawpalace.blogspot.com).

The fish, actually a rare variety of Tigris carp and other native freshwater species, have also been enlisted in reconstruction efforts. Many were shipped last year to a hatchery in Wasit province, where it’s hoped they’ll help restore wetlands and “revolutionize the fishing industry,” in the words of Col. Lyle Jackson, an Army veterinarian who oversaw the redeployment. “We can help the whole Iraqi economy with these fish,” he says.

Plenty of Saddam Bass still patrol the palace, mascots of sorts for the remaining troops, who will soon be coming home—or departing for Afghanistan, where they have bigger fish to fry.

For a rundown on what else the US leaves behind in its wake in Iraq, check out Mother Jones‘ slideshow on what we left behind, then join us on Facebook to post your own thoughts on the costs of the Iraq war.

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You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

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