Desert Storm Trading Cards

The bizarre 1991 Gulf War trading cards celebrating weapons and the American military.

In 1990, after Iraq invaded the neighboring country of Kuwait, a coalition of Western forces mounted a response in defense of Kuwait (… and oil). The initial operation of the Gulf War was codenamed “Operation Desert Shield” which was followed by the combat phase of “Operation Desert Storm”. Around the same time the American trading card industry was reaching new highs. Trading cards were expanding beyond just sports. There were cards for TV shows, movies, bands, cartoon characters, etc. It was in this world that Desert Storm trading cards were launched.

A collection of cards from Topps Desert Storm series 2 including the “Desert Drink” card which discussed the benefits of staying hydrated.

For the children

In 1991 Topps produced the Desert Storm trading card series. There were 88 cards and 22 stickers with 9 cards & one sticker per 50-cent pack. There were cards of military leaders such as General Norman Schwarzkopf, political leaders such as President George H.W. Bush, as well as cards for vehicles, weapons, and other military equipment. Topps said these cards were not glamorizing war but instead were offering an “encyclopedic look at this military operation and its personalities and weapons …”.

As for being “encyclopedic”, the cards included numerous mistakes such as card 73 (“Machine Gunner”) which listed the 14 NATO member countries, but in 1991 there were actually 16 member countries (they forgot to list France and Iceland). Topps said their information was provided by the Pentagon and arms manufacturers, shirking any fact-checking responsibility.

Topps ended up producing three different Desert Storm card series, for a total of 264 cards, but they weren’t alone. A host of other companies got in on the action producing similar cards. Pro Set had 350 cards in their Desert Storm series with interesting cards such as Greenwich Mean Time, oil, as well as a card for the U.S. Constitution.

A collection of Pro Set Desert Storm cards including the “Greenwich Mean Time” card.

Strange days

Today the cards feel like a satirical take on America’s love of guns & patriotism – an odd relic of the early ‘90s. Critics at the time felt the cards trivialized warfare, that they were propaganda, and were desensitizing kids to violence. As for their monetary value, because of their popularity they were mass produced and so Desert Storm trading cards aren’t worth much. You can buy the entire Topps first series for $10.

Added info: at the same time as the Desert Storm trading cards Topps also produced Desert Shield baseball cards. The baseball cards were the same as regular baseball cards but with an Operation Desert Shield palm tree crest stamped on the front in gold foil. Also, after 9/11 Topps created the Enduring Freedom line of trading cards which included a collectible Osama bin Laden trading card.

Saddam Hussein’s Romance Novel

Zabibah and the King is a romance novel written by Saddam Hussein

When former president/dictator of Iraq Saddam Hussein wasn’t busy ruling/committing genocide, he found time for the arts. Between 2000-2003 he published four historical novels, all fiction, all written either by Saddam or written by ghostwriters under his direction. Three of the novels take place in the distant past of Iraq while 2002’s Men and the City takes place in the near past telling a fictionalized history of Saddam’s relatives fighting the Turks.

Zabibah and the King

It is 2000’s Zabibah and the King that is of particular interest. Zabibah and the King is a romance novel written by Saddam Hussein. On its surface the book is about King Arab of medieval Iraq, a beautiful commoner woman named Zabibah, and Zabibah’s abusive husband. The book is written as if an elderly woman is telling the story to a group of children, but there are large sections where Saddam is clearly airing his personal grievances that seem out of place if an elderly woman is telling them to children. As for the plot, when the King and Zabibah meet they mostly just talk about political theory, religion, and the best way to rule a country.

Eventually the abusive husband gets jealous that his wife is spending so much time with the King. He exacts his revenge by raping Zabidah and eventually teams up with the ruler of an enemy kingdom to wage war on King Arab. In the end Zabibah and her husband die in battle against one another, King Arab dies later, and when he dies he leaves the kingdom in the hands of a democratic council (which had been Zabibah’s idea) and the country prospers. Oh and also there is a whole section about bestiality between a bear and a herdsman which, again, is supposedly being told by an old woman to children.

Thinly veiled is the fact that Zabibah and the King is an allegory. The King represents Saddam himself, Zabibah is the people of Iraq, Zabibah’s rapist husband is the United States, and the enemy kingdom who help to wage war is Israel. Also the bear involved in the bestiality might represent Russian forces in some way. The book is Saddam laying-out his worldview, it’s about the United States’ 1991 invasion of Iraq during the Gulf War, and ultimately it’s a soapbox for Saddam to complain about things.

The book is not good but “remarkably” it was a bestseller in Iraq. Also Saddam used a 1998 painting titled The Awakening by Jonathon Bowser for the book cover, but never got permission from the artist.

Added info: Be sure to check out Saddam’s Goodreads author profile for more of his work and a very generous biography of him.