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Most-wanted Iraqi playing cards

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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 2021, all but four of the 52 most wanted have either died or been captured, eleven of whom have been released.

About the cards[edit]

Rashid Taan Kazim playing card
Rafi Abd Latif Tilfah playing card

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 camouflage reminiscent of that seen on the Desert Camouflage Uniform.

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 American Civil War and again in World War IIArmy 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, Amazon.com 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.

The Texas-based Liberty Playing Card Company 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.

List of cards[edit]

Suit Card Person Pos Orig Fate
Spades Ace ♠ Saddam Hussein
1 Captured 13 December 2003
Executed 30 December 2006
King ♠ Ali Hasan al-Majid (also known as Chemical Ali)
Presidential Advisor/RCC Member
5 Captured 21 August 2003
Executed 25 January 2010
Queen ♠ Muhammad Hamza Zubaydi
Retired RCC member
9 18 Captured 21 April 2003
Died in custody on 2 December 2005
Jack ♠ Ibrahim Ahmad Abd al-Sattar Muhammad
Iraqi Armed Forces Chief of Staff
13 11 Captured 12 May 2003
Died in custody on 28 October 2010
10 ♠ Hamid Raja Shalah
Air Force Commander
17 15 Captured 14 June 2003
Released August 2007[5]
9 ♠ Rukan Razuki Abd al-Ghafar
Head of Tribal Affairs Office
21 39 Killed in 2003
8 ♠ Tariq Aziz
deputy prime minister
25 43 Surrendered 24 April 2003 and sentenced to death
Died in June 2015
7 ♠ Mahmud Dhiyab
minister of interior
29 46 Surrendered 2003
Released in July 2012[6]
6 ♠ Amir Rashid Muhammad al-Ubaydi
presidential adviser/former oil minister
33 47 Surrendered 28 April 2003
Released in April 2012
5 ♠ Watban Ibrahim Hasan
presidential adviser
37 51 Captured 13 April 2003 and sentenced to death
Died of natural causes in custody on 13 August 2015[7]
4 ♠ Muhammad Zimam Abd Al-Razzaq
Ba'ath Party branch command chairman
41 23 Captured 15 February 2004[8]
3 ♠ Saad Abdul-Majid
Ba'ath Party branch command chairman
45 36 Captured 24 May 2003
Released 18 December 2005[8]
Died on 16 April 2021
2 ♠ Rashid Taan Kazim
Ba'ath Party regional chairman
49 30 At large as of 2020
Clubs Ace ♣ Qusay Saddam Husayn
son of Saddam
2 Killed in standoff with the U.S. Army in Mosul in 2003
King ♣ Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri
RCC vice chairman
6 Died on 25 October 2020
Queen ♣ Kamal Mustafa Abdallah Sultan
secretary of the Republican Guard
10 8 Surrendered 17 May 2003[8]
Jack ♣ Sayf Al-Din Fulayyih Hasan Taha Al-Rawi
Republican Guard chief of staff
14 12 At large as of 2020
10 ♣ Latif Nusayyif Jasim
Ba'ath Party military bureau deputy chairman
18 37 Captured 9 June 2003[8]
Died in August 2021[9]
9 ♣ Jamal Mustafa Abdullah
deputy head of tribal affairs
22 40 Surrendered 20 April 2003
Released on 30 June 2020
8 ♣ Walid Hamid Tawfiq
governor of Basra
26 44 Surrendered 29 April 2003
Released on 25 June 2020
7 ♣ Ayad Futayyih Khalifa al-Rawi
Quds forces chief of staff
30 20 Captured 4 June 2003
Died in custody on 18 May 2018
6 ♣ Husam Muhammad Amin
head of National Monitoring Directorate
34 49 Captured 27 April 2003
Released 2005
5 ♣ Barzan Ibrahim Hasan
presidential adviser
38 52 Captured 17 April 2003
Executed 2007
4 ♣ Samir Abd Al-Aziz
Ba'ath Party branch command chairman
42 24 Captured 17 April 2003
3 ♣ Sayf al-Din Al-Mashhadani
Ba'ath Party branch command chairman
46 27 Captured 24 May 2003[8]
Killed by ISIS 2014
2 ♣ Ugla Abid Saqr
Ba'ath Party regional chairman
50 31 Captured 20 May 2003[8]
Released 2012
Hearts Ace Uday Saddam Husayn
son of Saddam Hussein
3 Killed in standoff with US Army in Mosul in 2003
King Hani Abd al-Latif Tilfah
Director—special security organization
7 Captured 21 June 2004[10]
Queen Barzan Abd al-Ghafur Sulayman Majid
Special Republican Guard commander
11 9 Captured 23 July 2003[8]
Released on 29 June 2020
Jack Rafi Abd Al-Latif Tilfah
director of general security
15 13 At large as of 2020
10 Abd al-Tawab Mullah Huwaysh
deputy prime minister
19 16 Captured 2 May 2003
9 Mizban Khadr Hadi
RCC member
23 41 Surrendered 9 July 2003
Died in custody on 16 May 2020[8]
8 Sultan Hashim Ahmad
minister of defense
27 19 Captured 2003, Sentenced to death
Died in custody on 19 July 2020[11]
7 Zuhayr Talib Abd Al-Sattar
director of military intelligence
31 21 Captured 23 April 2003
Died on 15 June 2020
6 Muhammad Mahdi Salih 35 48 Captured 23 April 2003
Released July 2010
5 Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash PhD (Dr. Ammash was derisively called "Mrs. Anthrax" in Western propaganda.)
Weapons of mass destruction scientist, the only female on the list
39 53 Captured 7 May 2003
Released 2005
4 Humam Abd al-Khaliq Abd al-Ghafur
minister of higher education and scientific research
43 54 Captured 19 April 2003
3 Fadil Mahmud Gharib
Ba'ath Party branch command chairman
47 28 Captured 15 May 2003[8]
Killed by ISIS in 2014
2 Ghazi Hammud
Ba'ath Party branch command chairman
51 32 Captured 7 May 2003[8]
Died in 2007
Diamonds Ace Abid Hamid Mahmud
presidential secretary
4 Executed on 7 June 2012[12]
King Aziz Salih
Ba'ath Party branch command chairman
8 17 Sentenced to death in 2011
Died in January 2024
Queen Muzahim Sa'b Hassan al-Tikriti
air defense forces commander
12 10 Captured 23 April 2003
Released in April 2012
Jack Tahir Jalil Habbush
Iraqi intelligence service
16 14 At large as of 2020
10 Taha Yasin Ramadan
vice president/RCC member
20 38 Executed in 2007
9 Taha Muhyi Al-Din Maruf
vice president/RCC member
24 42 Captured 2 May 2003
Died in exile in 2009
8 Hikmat Mizban Ibrahim
deputy prime minister and finance minister
28 45 Captured 18 April 2003
Died in custody in 2012
7 Amir Hamudi Hasan
presidential scientific adviser
32 55 Surrendered 12 April 2003
6 Sabawi Ibrahim Hasan
presidential adviser
36 50 Died of cancer in 2013
5 Abd Al-Baqi Abd Karim Al-Sadun
Ba'ath Party branch command chairman
40 22 Captured in 2015
Sentenced to death in 2016
Died in 2021
4 Yahya Abdallah al-Ubaydi
Ba'ath Party branch command chairman
44 25 Killed in 2003[13]
3 Muhsin Khadr
Ba'ath Party branch command chairman
48 29 Captured 7 February 2004[8]
Died in custody in 2017
2 Adil Abdallah Mahdi
Ba'ath Party branch command chairman
52 33 Captured 15 May 2003[8]
Died of kidney failure on 22 March 2004


Ukrainian personality identification playing cards with pro-Russian separatist leaders of the war in Donbas, inspired by the American ones from Iraq. This one depicts Igor "Strelkov" Girkin.

The cards also include two jokers: one lists Arab tribal titles, the other Iraqi military ranks. There are no cards for most-wanted No. 45 (was #26), Nayef Shindakh Thamir, No. 53 (was #34 – Killed in 2003[14] or possibly still fugitive[8]) Hussein Al-Awadi, or No. 54 (was #35) Khamis Sirhan, captured on 11 January 2004.[8] Al-Muhammad was held for six years before being released on 30 July 2010. He fled to Syria where other uncaptured members of the deck of cards were reported to be hiding.[15]

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 it was later revealed that the writers' first choice of title 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 had 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 also[edit]


  1. ^ Burgess, Lisa (17 April 2003). "Buyers beware: The real Iraq 'most wanted' cards are still awaiting distribution". Stars and Stripes. Archived from the original on 24 March 2017. Retrieved 17 February 2017.
  2. ^ "The Faces Behind the Faces on the 'Most Wanted' Deck". Armed Forces Press Service. Archived from the original on 12 April 2008. Retrieved 21 April 2008.
  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. Archived from the original on 30 May 2010. Retrieved 13 May 2010.
  5. ^ Jane Sutton (17 August 2007). "As last Iraqi POW released, Noriega only U.S. POW". Reuters. Archived from the original on 26 February 2019. Retrieved 26 February 2019.
  6. ^ "Iraq Frees Saddam Hussein's Interior Minister". Aina.org. Archived from the original on 25 April 2015. Retrieved 30 August 2013.
  7. ^ Mamoun, Abdelhak. "Watban Ibrahim al-Hassan, half brother of Saddam Hussein, has died - Iraqi News". Iraq news, the latest Iraq news by Iraqi News. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 18 February 2016.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "أبرز وجوه النظام العراقي السابق: أين هم الآن؟" (in Arabic). BBC. 2 September 2010. Archived from the original on 25 April 2018. Retrieved 18 May 2018.
  9. ^ وفاة لطيف نصيف جاسم القيادي البارز بنظام صدام حسين
  10. ^ "Iraq: Peacekeeping Operations: 2 Mar 2009: Hansard Written Answers". TheyWorkForYou. Archived from the original on 15 July 2018. Retrieved 23 November 2020.
  11. ^ "تلفزيون الناصرية: وفاة وزير الدفاع الاسبق سلطان هاشم في سجن الحوت". 19 July 2020. Archived from the original on 7 August 2021. Retrieved 20 July 2020.
  12. ^ "Iraq executes Saddam Hussein's aide Abid Hamid Mahmud". BBC News. 7 June 2012. Archived from the original on 7 June 2012. Retrieved 7 June 2012.
  13. ^ 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". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 22 November 2018. Retrieved 30 August 2013.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  14. ^ "A NATION AT WAR: THE IRAQI CAPITAL; HUSSEIN RALLIES IRAQI DEFENDERS TO HOLD CAPITAL". The New York Times. 25 March 2003. p. 2. Archived from the original on 2 September 2016. Retrieved 30 August 2013.
  15. ^ Mohammed, Riyadh, "Hussein Backer Set Free in Iraq", Los Angeles Times, 5 August 2010, p. 10.

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