ONE of the most repeated facts about the Middle East is that Saddam Hussein was a friend with America in the 1980s when his army was fighting an eight-year war with Iran. America went on to go to destroy his government but when he was useful to them, Saddam was friends with America and, by extension, Britain.

America, the superpower, provided the weapons and training to fight but Britain, the ex-superpower that carved out Iraq's borders, provided another weapon: actors. Saddam financed the epic three-hour Clash Of Loyalties (or 'Al-Mas' Ala Al-Kubra' or 'The Final Question') in 1982, as his country's great propaganda film, a sort of Iraqi Henry V.

His government exploited its good relationship with the West to ring talent agencies in London and recruit British actors to play the officers who were in Iraq during its last days as a colony. Top of the bill was Oliver Reed. All the Brits had to wear moustaches to identify themselves as the baddies. They filmed in Baghdad, during the height of the war with Iran.

Two of the actors, Nicholas Young and Marc Sindon, told Radio Four they knew it was propaganda. Sindon said he only saw the film once at a party held by the casting director. "We sat there and howled with laughter. I took the money and ran," he said. Young said he never saw it.

Source: The Film Programme, BBC Radio Four August 5, 2011

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