The Australian War Memorial’s Research Centre holds an original deck of playing cards, known as Iraqi “Most Wanted” cards. These cards have become a cultural icon for the earlier phase of the Second Gulf War. They were designed to assist troops to recognise key Iraqi figures wanted by the coalition forces. The numbering of the cards was based loosely on the structure of the Iraqi regime, and each deck has two jokers, one listing Iraqi military ranks, and the other, Arab titles. Saddam Hussein is the Ace of Spades.
This information was also distributed in the form of posters and handbills. But it was the cards themselves that captured the attention of the troops, the press, and the general public. The cards appear to have been more strictly followed by troops in Iraq than was probably intended. Mohammad Saeed al-Sahhaf, the former Information Minister, for example, was not included in the deck and as a result was initially released when he tried to turn himself in.
Not commercially produced, the original cards were made from heavy paper and the images appear slightly off-centre. An initial print run of about 200, produced by the US Defense Intelligence Agency, intended for operational use, was followed by 1,700 more, for distribution to troops in the theatre. The deck held by the Australian War Memorial is one of the original sets, acquired through a contact in Iraq.
However, as the electronic images were available on the US Defense Department website, many other versions are available. The cards have elicited much imitation, with the creation of other decks both praising and parodying US politics and war in Iraq: for example, “War Profiteers Card Deck”, “Heroes of War”, and “Deck of Weasels”