New Book: Saddam Resisted at Capture

Hussein's suite littered with cans of tuna, Raid.

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Exactly eight years ago Tuesday, when ousted Iraqi tyrant Saddam Hussein crawled out of a six-foot underground spider hole to face his American captors, he resisted a bit too much and ended up with a bloody mouth and eye, according to a new and comprehensive book on the capture.

In We Got Him! A Memoir of the Hunt and Capture of Saddam Hussein by a commander involved in the search, Hussein is described as holding up one hand at a time, but not both at the same time, when his tiny hole was opened on a farm near Tikrit.

Retired Lt. Col. Steve Russell, who helped plot the Dec. 13, 2003 capture, tells that "there was much cursing and bantering between the translator and Saddam. Tempers flared. Finding nothing on Saddam, {special operations forces} began to inspect him for known physical marks. Angry, he attempted to shove the soldiers away. That was a stupid thing to do. He was immediately 'encouraged' to cooperate. With his mouth bleeding and a cut above his eye, he became much more cooperative."

Russell's book details the full, years-long search for Saddam and how it ended up focused on the exact same farm Saddam hid at in 1959 after his botched assassination attempt on then leader Iraqi Prime Minister Gen. Abd al-Karim Qasim. [Debate Club: Was The Iraq War Worth It?]

Russell reports that despite hitting a dead end in the search for Saddam and his key aide, Mohammed al-Musslit, the U.S. network built to find him never gave up on its belief that he was in the Tikrit area.

When it finally captured al-Musslit on Dec. 12, 2003, the team moved fast to press the Hussein aide for information, which he coughed up freely. "He talked a lot. He wanted to establish his relevance," said Russell. "He was kind of like Hermann Goering in the Nuremberg Trials. He wanted to get his role down," says Russell.

By the end of the next day, he had not only led U.S. forces to the farm Hussein was hiding at, but he pointed with his foot to the cover of the spider hole.

Russell details the dreadful life Hussein lived at the farm. He also shows the reader around the farm house used by Hussein's cooks and aides. "In the kitchen, Happy Brand tuna, an open box of Belgian chocolates, cartons of eggs, American-made chips and snacks revealed an interesting side of the dictator. In his 'Presidential Suite,' Saddam's ratty bedroom wall was decorated with carpets bearing the image of a large buck on one and a sailing ship on the other," writes Russell.

"Most interesting of all was the Noah's Ark calendar tacked on the wall. Stacks of novels lay littered about with a can of Raid nearby to ward away pests." [See the 3 Worst Cities on Earth.]

Saddam was eventually tried by Iraqis and executed just over three years later, on Dec. 30, 2006.

Russell's book so comprehensively details the hunt for Saddam and U.S. military objectives in Iraq that Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raymond Odierno wrote the foreword.

"It is an honor for me to introduce this personal memoir by one of the finest battalion commanders with whom I have served," writes Odierno. "His story captures the human dimension of this awful thing we call war, not often seen in the media accounts during the 24-hour news cycle, and usually overlooked during the search for the sensational."

Odierno, the Army's top officer, also says that the book shows that the wars America will face in the future have been changed by Iraq and Afghanistan. "First, our military will never again fight alone. There will frequently be a multi-national component and we must always take an inter-agency and whole-of-nation approach to warfare. Second, there will always be an irregular warfare component to any fight in which we may find ourselves."

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