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The playing cards

During the 2003 invasion of Iraq by a United States-led coalition, the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency developed a set of playing cards to help troops identify the most-wanted members of President Saddam Hussein's government, mostly high-ranking members of the Iraqi Regional Branch of the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party or members of the Revolutionary Command Council; among them were some of Hussein's family members. The cards were officially named the "personality identification playing cards". As of 2018, all but 6 of the 52 most wanted have been either killed, or captured.

About the cardsEdit

Each card contains the wanted person's address and, if available, the job performed by that individual. The highest-ranking cards, starting with the aces and kings, were used for the people at the top of the most-wanted list. The ace of spades is Saddam Hussein, the aces of clubs and hearts are his sons Qusay and Uday respectively, and the ace of diamonds is Saddam's presidential secretary Abid Hamid Mahmud al-Tikriti. This strict correspondence to the order of the most-wanted list was not carried through the entire deck, but sometime later in 2003, the list itself was renumbered to conform (almost) to the deck of cards. The card backs feature a green military camouflage pattern.

According to US Navy Lieutenant commander Jim Brooks, a spokesman for the Defense Intelligence Agency, such playing cards have been used as far back as the US Civil War and again in World War II—Army Air Corps decks printed with the silhouettes of German and Japanese fighter aircraft fetch hundreds of dollars today—and in the Korean War. Troops often play cards to pass the time, and seeing the names, faces and titles of the wanted Iraqis during their games will help soldiers and Marines in case they run into the wanted individuals in the field, Brooks said.[1]

The list of "Most Wanted" was the result of a multi-intelligence agency collaboration which included the Defense Intelligence Agency, Central Command, and representatives from all US Service Branch Intelligence entities. The "Most Wanted" names were then assigned to their respective cards by five US Army soldiers, 2LT Hans Mumm, SSG Shawn Mahoney, SGT Andrei Salter, SGT Scott Boehmler, and SPC Joseph Barrios, who were assigned to the Defense Intelligence Agency.[2] The pictures used on the cards came from a number of intelligence agencies, but most were derived from "open sources". The deck of cards was first announced publicly in Iraq on 11 April 2003, in a press conference by Army Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks, deputy director of operations at U.S. Central Command. On that same evening Max Hodges, a Houston-based entrepreneur, found and downloaded a high-resolution artwork file for the deck from a Defense Department web server. Discovering the following day that the file had vanished from the military web server he became the first eBay seller to offer the artwork file, in PDF, which could be used to reproduce the deck.[3] He quickly contracted Gemaco Playing Card Company to print 1,000 decks for about $4,000 and started selling both the decks, in advance of receiving them from the printer, on eBay, and his own web site. When some of his early auctions for a $4 deck of cards quickly rose to over $120,[4] it did not take long for other eBayers to jump on the bandwagon and print or order decks of their own to sell. In just a few days hundreds of sellers materialized and the price dropped to just a few dollars per deck.

Texas-based Liberty Playing Card Co. received an order to manufacture the cards for the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait and by claiming to be "the authorized government contractor" quickly became another popular domestic supplier for the commercial market. The U.S. military inadvertently included in the jokers the trademarked Hoyle joker owned by the United States Playing Card Company of Cincinnati, Ohio. Although The U.S. Playing Card company does not object to the government's use of the image, they do object to other companies using the trademarked image. Thus, in some sense, the U.S. military inadvertently granted The U.S. Playing Card Company exclusive rights to manufacture the authentic decks, if the trademarked images on the jokers are considered a requirement for being authentic.


Rashid Taan Kazim playing card
  • Ace ♠: Saddam Husayn Al-Tikriti, President (#1 on most-wanted list) (Captured 13 December 2003) (Executed 30 December 2006).
  • King ♠: Ali Hasan al-Majid, Presidential Advisor/RCC Member, also known as Chemical Ali (#5) (Captured 21 August 2003) (Executed 25 January 2010).
  • Queen ♠: Muhammad Hamza Zubaydi, Retired RCC member (#9, but was originally #18) (Captured 21 April 2003) (Died in Custody 2 December 2005).
  • Jack ♠: Ibrahim Ahmad Abd al-Sattar Muhammad, Iraqi Armed Forces Chief of Staff (#13, was #11) (Captured 12 May 2003) (Died in Custody 28 October 2010).
  • Ten ♠: Hamid Raja Shalah, Air Force Commander (#17, was #15) (Captured 14 June 2003) (Released August 2007).[5]
  • Nine ♠: Rukan Razuki Abd al-Ghafar, Head of Tribal Affairs Office (#21, was #39) (Killed in 2003).[6]
  • Eight ♠: Tariq Aziz, deputy prime minister (#25, was #43) (Surrendered 24 April 2003 and sentenced to death, Died in June 2015).
  • Seven ♠: Mahmud Dhiyab, minister of interior (#29, was #46) (Surrendered 2003, Released in July 2012).[7]
  • Six ♠: Amir Rashid Muhammad al-Ubaydi, presidential adviser/former oil minister (#33, was #47) (Surrendered 28 April 2003, Released in April 2012).
  • Five ♠: Watban Ibrahim Hasan, presidential adviser (#37, was #51) (Captured 13 April 2003 and sentenced to death. Died of natural causes in custody on 13 August 2015).[8]
  • Four ♠: Muhammad Zimam Abd al-Razzaq, Ba'ath Party branch command chairman (#41, was #23), (Captured 15 February 2004).[9]
  • Three ♠: Sa'd Abdul-Majid Al-Faisal, Ba'ath Party branch command chairman (#55, was #36), (Captured 24 May 2003) (Released 18 December 2005).[9]
  • Two ♠: Rashid Taan Kazim, Ba'ath Party regional chairman (#49, was #30), (Captured 9 July 2006),[10] or possibly still fugitive.[9]




  • Ace : Abid Hamid Mahmud, presidential secretary (#4), executed on 7 June 2012.[11]
  • King : Aziz Salih, Ba'ath Party branch command chairman (#8, was #17, sentenced to death in 2011).
  • Queen : Muzahim Sa'b Hassan al-Tikriti, air defense forces commander (#12, was #10) (Captured 23 April 2003, Released in April 2012).
  • Jack : Tahir Jalil Habbush, Iraqi intelligence service (#16, was #14).
  • Ten : Taha Yasin Ramadan, vice president/RCC member (executed in 2007; #20, was #38).
  • Nine : Taha Muhyi Al-Din Maruf, vice president/RCC member (#24, was #42), (Captured 2 May 2003), (died in exile in 2009).
  • Eight : Hikmat Mizban Ibrahim, deputy prime minister and finance minister (#28, was No. 45), (Captured 18 April 2003), (Died in Custody 2012).
  • Seven : Amir Hamudi Hasan, presidential scientific adviser (#32, was #55), (Surrendered 12 April 2003).
  • Six : Sabawi Ibrahim Hasan, presidential adviser (#36, was #50- Died of cancer in 2013).
  • Five : Abd al-Baqi Abd al-Karim Abdallah, Ba'ath Party branch command chairman (#40, was #22 - Captured in 2015).
  • Four : Yahya Abdallah, Ba'ath Party branch command chairman (#44, was #25), (Killed in 2003).[12]
  • Three : Muhsin Khadr, Ba'ath Party branch command chairman (#48, was #29), (Captured 7 February 2004).[9]
  • Two : Adil Abdallah Mahdi, Ba'ath Party branch command chairman (#52, was #33), (Captured 15 May 2003).[9]


There are also two jokers: one lists Arab tribal titles, the other Iraqi military ranks. There are no cards for most-wanted No. 45 (was #26), Nayif Shindakh Thamir, No. 53 (was #34 – Killed in 2003[13] or probably still fugitive[9]) Husayn al-Awadi, or No. 54 (was #35) Khamis Sirhan al-Muhammad, captured on 11 January 2004.[9] Al-Muhammad was held for six years before being released on 30 July 2010. He has since fled to Syria where most of the other 6 uncaptured members of the deck of cards are reported to be hiding.[14]

The 13 June 2003 edition of the BBC One satirical news quiz, Have I Got News for You, featured a set of the playing cards in one round, spoofing guest host Bruce Forsyth's 1980s game show Play Your Cards Right (the British version of the American series Card Sharks). The two teams played a version of the latter's main game, retitled Play Your Iraqi Cards Right (although during the segment it was revealed that the writers' first choice had been Play Your Kurds Right), with the same rules (and audience participation). Much of the humour of the round came from the reactions of the two team captains: while Paul Merton was clearly familiar with the game and greatly enjoyed it, his opponent, Ian Hislop, admitted he'd never seen Play Your Cards Right and appeared mystified by the game's rules and etiquette (when at one point Merton and the crowd shouted the traditional cry of "lower, lower," to predict the next card in the hidden sequence, Hislop commented, "I'm not sure this programme could get much lower!")[citation needed]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Burgess, Lisa (17 April 2003). "Buyers beware: The real Iraq 'most wanted' cards are still awaiting distribution". Stars and Stripes. Retrieved 17 February 2017.
  2. ^ "The Faces Behind the Faces on the 'Most Wanted' Deck". Armed Forces Press Service.
  3. ^ Iraq Most Wanted Identification Playing Cards (PDF version) white rabbit online shop, archived on 27 November 2005 from the original
  4. ^ Valdes-Dapena, Peter (13 April 2003). "Hot item: 'Most wanted Iraqi' cards". CNN. Retrieved 13 May 2010.
  5. ^ Jane Sutton (17 August 2007). "As last Iraqi POW released, Noriega only U.S. POW". Reuters. Retrieved 26 February 2019.
  6. ^ "صدام حسين من الزنزانة الامريكية : هذا ماحدث". Retrieved 30 August 2013.
  7. ^ "Iraq Frees Saddam Hussein's Interior Minister". Retrieved 30 August 2013.
  8. ^ Mamoun, Abdelhak. "Watban Ibrahim al-Hassan, half brother of Saddam Hussein, has died - Iraqi News". Iraq news, the latest Iraq news by Iraqi News. Retrieved 18 February 2016.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "أبرز وجوه النظام العراقي السابق: أين هم الآن؟". BBC (in Arabic). 2 September 2010.
  10. ^ "اعتقال الرجل الثاني في الجيش الإسلامي و رشيد كاظم طعان". Buratha News Agency (in Arabic). 10 July 2006.
  11. ^ "Iraq executes Saddam Hussein's aide Abid Hamid Mahmud". BBC News. 7 June 2012. Retrieved 7 June 2012.
  12. ^ DAVID JOHNSTON and JAMES RISENPublished: 19 April 2003 (19 April 2003). "A NATION AT WAR: THE HUNT; New Tape of Hussein Prolongs Debate on His Fate - New York Times". Retrieved 30 August 2013.
  13. ^ Published: 25 March 2003 (25 March 2003). "A NATION AT WAR: THE IRAQI CAPITAL; HUSSEIN RALLIES IRAQI DEFENDERS TO HOLD CAPITAL - Page 2 - New York Times". Retrieved 30 August 2013.
  14. ^ Mohammed, Riyadh, "Hussein Backer Set Free In Iraq", Los Angeles Times, 5 August 2010, p. 10.