A Richard B. Foley, currently sitting in the Duluth Federal Prison Camp (due to be sprung on April 12, 2005), is the last known owner of the 1960 DeSoto whose Oregon license plate turned up, inexplicably, in Saddam Hussein’s garage. Foley declined Chatterbox’s request for an interview, but Mark Munson, the prison’s public information officer, told Chatterbox that Foley was astonished to learn of the Baghdad link, remembered the car, but could recall no details about its sale. (In 1987, Foley informed the Oregon DMV that he had sold the car prior to 1985. He did not report whom he sold it to.)
And so we reach a dead end in the saga of Saddam Hussein, honorary Oregonian. (For previous installments, click here and here.) Chatterbox’s best guess is that Saddam or one of his sons was a DeSoto enthusiast—such people do exist—and arranged sometime in the mid- to late 1980s to have a 1960 model shipped to Baghdad, along with the original plates. Although strict technology-transfer restrictions were in place, it’s doubtful that the DeSoto—which probably looked something like this—would have been held up at the dock. (Tail fins pose no known proliferation threat.)
Where’s the DeSoto now? Maybe it’s parked at another palace. Saddam had dozens of them. Or perhaps somebody smashed it up and kept the license plate as a keepsake. Or maybe one of our bombs got it in 1991. It’s really impossible to say. But if Saddam’s interrogators are looking to schmooze him in between, er, debriefings, they could do worse than say: “Hey, that 1960 DeSoto was one sweet car. I’d swim across the Tigris to get one. How’d you get yours?” Let Saddam go on about how Chrysler was nuts to discontinue its production. Nod politely as the bloodthirsty tyrant bores you about the relative merits of the Adventurer versus the Fireflite. Then, after perhaps 20 minutes of this, you say, “Speaking of discontinued models, where are the remnants of your weapons program?” That’s how Chatterbox would do it.