The Prisoner in His Palace
In the haunting tradition of In Cold Blood and The Executioner’s Song, this remarkably insightful and surprisingly intimate portrait of Saddam Hussein lifts away the top layer of a dictator’s evil and finds complexity beneath as it invites us to take a journey with twelve young American soldiers in the summer of 2006. Trained to aggressively confront the enemy in combat, the men learn, shortly after being deployed to Iraq, that fate has assigned them a different role. It becomes their job to guard the country’s notorious leader in the months leading to his execution.Living alongside, and caring for, their “high value detainee” in a former palace dubbed The Rock and regularly transporting him to his raucous trial, many of the men begin questioning some of their most basic assumptions—about the judicial process, Saddam’s character, and the morality of modern war. Although the young soldiers’ increasingly intimate conversations with the once-feared dictator never lead them to doubt his responsibility for unspeakable crimes, the men do discover surprising new layers to his psyche that run counter to the media’s portrayal of him.Woven from first-hand accounts provided by many of the American guards, government officials, interrogators, scholars, spies, lawyers, family members, and victims, The Prisoner in His Palace shows two Saddams coexisting in one person: the defiant tyrant who uses torture and murder as tools, and a shrewd but contemplative prisoner who exhibits surprising affection, dignity, and courage in the face of looming death.In this artfully constructed narrative, Saddam, the “man without a conscience,” gets many of those around him to examine theirs. Wonderfully thought-provoking, The Prisoner in His Palace reveals what it is like to discover in one’s ruthless enemy a man, and then deliver him to the gallows.

The Prisoner in His Palace Details

TitleThe Prisoner in His Palace
Author
FormatHardcover
ReleaseJun 6th, 2017
PublisherScribner
ISBN1501117831
ISBN-139781501117831
Number of pages272 pages
Rating
GenreNonfiction, History, War, Military

The Prisoner in His Palace Review

  • Diane S ☔
    June 13, 2017
    If ever a book proves that there is not only more to a story than we know, but also that the complexity of human being is unparalleled, this is the book. The Super twelve, the twelve soldiers, from all different backgrounds, who guarded Saddam Hussein up to and through his trial and their experiences doing so are told in a clear and concise manner. We learn some of their backgrounds but much of the book is about their daily interactions with the former ruler of Iraq. Not at all what I nor they e If ever a book proves that there is not only more to a story than we know, but also that the complexity of human being is unparalleled, this is the book. The Super twelve, the twelve soldiers, from all different backgrounds, who guarded Saddam Hussein up to and through his trial and their​ experiences doing so are told in a clear and concise manner. We learn some of their backgrounds but much of the book is about their daily interactions with the former ruler of Iraq. Not at all what I nor they expected.A monster to some of his people, a hero to others, he held on to Iraq for 3 1/2 decades, through numerous plots to unseat him and various plots of assassination, he had many reasons to be paranoid. Considered a monster by most of the world, this man had a different side that was presented to the soldiers. Maybe because at that point he didn't have much to lose. Technically his trial was a farce, and his sentence a foregone conclusion. Maybe he wasn't all he was made out to be, though of course many of his actions were abhorrent​, maybe they had to be for him to keep not only his position but any kind of peace in this waring nation of tribes. Certainly isn't more peaceful without him, more Iraquies are killed now every day than before. This book makes one think , so many questions, so few answers. He may have lived as a monster but he died as a man. ARC from publisher.
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  • Taryn
    June 1, 2017
    Is evil something you are? Or is it something you do? —Bret Easton Ellis, American PsychoIn the summer of 2006, twelve United States soldiers (also known as the "Super Twelve) were tasked with guarding former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein as he sat on trial for crimes against humanity. Saddam ruled over Iraq for 35 years and is responsible for the torture and murder of thousands of Iraqis—but that’s not the version of the man the U.S. guards met. They watched over a larger-than-life figure brou Is evil something you are? Or is it something you do? —Bret Easton Ellis, American PsychoIn the summer of 2006, twelve United States soldiers (also known as the "Super Twelve) were tasked with guarding former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein as he sat on trial for crimes against humanity. Saddam ruled over Iraq for 35 years and is responsible for the torture and murder of thousands of Iraqis—but that’s not the version of the man the U.S. guards met. They watched over a larger-than-life figure brought down to earth, a man stripped of his power and possessions. To them, Saddam was a man who enjoyed smoking cigars, tending to the weeds in the prison yard, writing poetry, and chatting about cars and family. By the time Saddam was executed, some of the soldiers who guarded him had come to enjoy their time with the old man. He gave them a respect that they didn't get from their own superiors and possessed many qualities they admired. The Prisoner in His Palace, published little over a decade after Saddam's execution, is an engaging glimpse into the surreal assignment of guarding an infamous dictator and the emotional complexity of leading someone you’ve bonded with to their death.“Any means are justified if they achieve the goals dictated by the interests of power and security.” - Zabiba and the King, a novel by Saddam HusseinI've been stuck in a reading rut for the past couple of months and this is the first book that broke through the “nothing interests me” barrier! It's about 210 pages of content and I read it within 24 hours, so it's a great choice if you're looking for a fascinating and concise non-fiction book to read. The style is journalistic. Within the pages is a profile of a complex figure who one CIA official called “the most traumatized leader I have ever studied.” This book is not an exhaustive account of Saddam's life, but it covers some events from Saddam's traumatic childhood, his violent rise to power, his reign over Iraq, and his downfall after the United States invasion in 2003. The anecdotes show a man of contradictions. He was proud of his progressive policies, but simultaneously capable of committing barbaric acts against his people. During his trial, maintaining his legacy as an iron-fisted ruler seemed to be more important to him than helping his defense save his life. His personality changed dramatically once he wasn't in front of the camera, from aggressive theatrics in front of the judge to a polite demeanor when handed over to the guards. “When I’d see the trial going on, and what he’d done to his people,” Rogerson later recalled, “I’d be like ‘Holy shit,’ there’s a shitload of dead people, he just killed an entire city. I’d think, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,’ but then I’d see him, and I never looked at him like ‘You’re a psychopath,’ because [that person] wasn’t with me. . . . He was more like a grandpa.” We are also introduced to some of the men who were charged with guarding Saddam. We learn about the complex dynamics between these diverse personalities living in cramped quarters while working a high-stress job, but the parts about troop life weren't as in-depth as the parts about their actual assignment. The experience of guarding Saddam was a turning point for many of them. Many of these soldiers rushed to join the military after the 9/11 attacks, but began to question their role in the conflict and what they gave up to be a part of it. For some of them, returning home after the war brought on different types of hardship. They had missed out on valuable time with family that could never be recovered. Those who wanted to talk to about their unique mission found no one wanting to listen; few people want to hear the emotional complexities of bonding with a murderous dictator and leading him to his execution. (I've experienced similar uncomfortable reactions when I mention this book to people.) Coming to like someone who has hurt so many people may seem odd at first thought, but it's a very human response. For example: visceral public reaction when a beloved celebrity or community member is accused of a heinous crime, or even Oliver Stone’s opinions after spending time with Vladimir Putin. Perhaps there's some element of it being easier to process what we've directly experienced, rather than events we know about secondhand. Years later, the man Saddam had tapped to oversee the genocidal operation, Chemical Ali, would tell his FBI interrogators: “There are two faces of Saddam, one who went out of his way to share with those in need and was sometimes reduced to tears when stopping to assist a poor person, and the other a lonesome man with no friends, either inside or outside his family, who didn’t even trust his own sons.” This second “face of evil” was “so cruel you couldn’t imagine.” There were many aspects of Saddam's personality and incarceration that surprised me. He adjusted easily from a grandiose life to a jail cell. He had nuanced opinions about U.S. leadership, the U.S. Army, and the future of Iraq. He was allowed much more freedom of movement than I would've expected. Some of the guards were eager of his approval—they did their best to grant his requests and make his incarceration comfortable. Saddam returned the favors in kind, even offering to pay for one soldier's college tuition if he ever got access to his money again. Was his kindness to the U.S. guards manipulation or was there an element of finally being able to relax and "be one of the guys"? We can never know for certain. Before you can get too comfortable with the “crotchety old man” version of Saddam, the author transports us to the past and a portrait of a brutal dictator emerges. One of the most disconcerting aspects of this book is how someone who is capable of being a thoughtful person can be capable of terrifying barbarism. I was shocked when a couple of the U.S. soldiers insisted that Saddam would never hurt them, which may speak to how easy it is for men like Saddam draw people into their circle despite all the risks involved. These insights are counterbalanced by tales of how earning Saddam's affections was no inoculation from his cruel whims. The switch could flip terrifyingly quick, even for family members.   Hutch later reflected: “I feel like I have to explain why it bothered me so much; for an American to be upset. But for us to stand by and let them treat another human being that way—I thought that’s what we were over here to stop, the treatment like that. I truly felt that I was just as guilty as anybody else. I’ve never really had a conscience about anything I’ve ever done over here. As far as humanity goes, I’ve seen some pretty bad things, but it’s what I had to do, it’s what was required of me, it was my job. But my job had never before said that I had to stand there and watch people spit on and kick a person’s body. And you know what, I’m glad I feel that way, I really am. Because if I didn’t feel that way, I would think something was wrong with me.” As Saddam was led to his death, he told the U.S. soldiers that they were “'more family to him' than any Iraqis had been." None of the soldiers ever doubted Saddam's guilt, but even the men who didn't develop a relationship with Saddam were shaken by the events surrounding his execution. One of the members of the "Super Twelve" noted that "it almost would have been easier if Saddam had acted more like the murderous tyrant they’d expected to find." The Prisoner in His Palace is an uncomfortable book to read because it made me feel twinges of empathy that I didn't want/expect to feel and it showed the human side of someone who caused an inordinate amount of pain and suffering. Despite my discomfort, I also found it reassuring that for many people there are elements of our humanity that are difficult to override. I wish it was longer and more in-depth, but it's a fascinating tale and I'm still talking about it weeks later!For another read about the nature of humanity, you might be interested in Human Acts by Han Kang. One of the men featured in the book wrote his own book about his experiences: Caring for Victor: A U.S. Army Nurse and Saddam Hussein by Robert Ellis. A few interesting articles I read while reading this book:'I was shocked': Iraqis remember day Saddam Hussein was hangedThe World; How Many People Has Hussein Killed?Ten Years After the Fall of Saddam, How Do Iraqis Look Back on the War?I Grew Up In Iraq During Saddam's Worst Days — Here's What Life Was LikeJudge Remembers Saddam as Intelligent, Charismatic and Remorseless___________I received this book for free from Netgalley and Scribner. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review. It's available now!
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  • Dem
    June 11, 2017
    I really had no interest in reading a book about Saddam Hussein until I happened upon The Prisoner in His Palace: Saddam Hussein, His American Guards, and What History Leaves Unsaid and I was curious as the book was written from the viewpoint of "The Super 12" and this piqued my interest along with a goodread friend's review. In 2006, 12 young Soldiers deployed to Iraq and were tasked with guarding Saddam Hussein. Through a series of first hand accounts from the American guards, interrogators an I really had no interest in reading a book about Saddam Hussein until I happened upon The Prisoner in His Palace: Saddam Hussein, His American Guards, and What History Leaves Unsaid and I was curious as the book was written from the viewpoint of "The Super 12" and this piqued my interest along with a goodread friend's review. In 2006, 12 young Soldiers deployed to Iraq and were tasked with guarding Saddam Hussein. Through a series of first hand accounts from the American guards, interrogators and spies who recalled their conversations and observations with the Dictator before he died we learn how these young men viewed and treated their prisoner and how Saddam viewed and treated them in return which I found extremely interesting. These young men's lives would be changed forever as a consequence.The book is not an account of Saddam's life and yet the author has included adequate background information about his life, family and the heinous crimes he and his sons inflicted during his time in power. A well researched and a very interesting account of the Prisoner Saddam Hussein and his American guards.
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  • Paul Pessolano
    April 10, 2017
    “The Prisoner in His Palace, Saddam Hussein, His American Guards, and What History Leaves Unsaid”.Category – History Publication Date – June 06, 2017.When reading this book one must remember and keep in mind what kind of a man was Saddam Hussein. One must remember the corruption of his regime, the untold murders committed at this command, and the horrors committed by his sons.With that said the reader that will be introduced to a man that resembles nothing of Saddam Hussein. After his capture Sa “The Prisoner in His Palace, Saddam Hussein, His American Guards, and What History Leaves Unsaid”.Category – History Publication Date – June 06, 2017.When reading this book one must remember and keep in mind what kind of a man was Saddam Hussein. One must remember the corruption of his regime, the untold murders committed at this command, and the horrors committed by his sons.With that said the reader that will be introduced to a man that resembles nothing of Saddam Hussein. After his capture Saddam was guarded by twelve United States Soldiers. They will tell you how, when they first met him, that they were appalled by the things that he had done. However, after guarding him until his death, they discovered a different person. Saddam was able to change these soldiers attitude of him from one of hatred to one on compassion. The most telling part of the book is what happened to these soldiers once they left the service for civilian life. I found this book to be extraordinary in its treatment of a man who committed untold atrocities and faced hanging. I also believe that the author treated a very difficult subject matter with honesty and no prejudice. Although the book shows a different side of Saddam one must never forget who he truly was.
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  • Mayank Rathore
    March 17, 2017
    This book is a true attraction to those who loves to read the history of those who left a mark on our memories by terror. I wanted to read a book written on Saddam and this book fulfilled my desire. Somehow this book got connected with my emotions and I'm sure it will become one of the finest book of the year. The book is written very professionally and maturely. You will never find the story going off track from the original theme. The author succeeded to create the exact vision in my mind of t This book is a true attraction to those who loves to read the history of those who left a mark on our memories by terror. I wanted to read a book written on Saddam and this book fulfilled my desire. Somehow this book got connected with my emotions and I'm sure it will become one of the finest book of the year. The book is written very professionally and maturely. You will never find the story going off track from the original theme. The author succeeded to create the exact vision in my mind of the same era in which the novel is written. Seriously, I can't describe you how this book attracted me to read it again. Yes, I read it twice and once you will read it then you will understand that why I did so? Among the story, you will meet several characters to whom you will love for their extreme work and others, you will hate because of their cruelty and inhuman acts. Well, to know more, you should get your hands on this book and give it a read.
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  • Amy
    February 14, 2017
    Incredible storytelling and extremely well-researched. This is one of the best books I've read on the topic of Iraq and, specifically, Saddam Hussein after his capture. It challenged my point-of-view tremendously. I had never really considered those charged with guarding Hussein in the days after his capture and leading up to his death or how that job impacted who they were, their day-to-day life, or their overall humanity. There are a lot of things to learn through their story. This book brilli Incredible storytelling and extremely well-researched. This is one of the best books I've read on the topic of Iraq and, specifically, Saddam Hussein after his capture. It challenged my point-of-view tremendously. I had never really considered those charged with guarding Hussein in the days after his capture and leading up to his death or how that job impacted who they were, their day-to-day life, or their overall humanity. There are a lot of things to learn through their story. This book brilliantly connects. It is a narrative that has been missing in the many books on the war in Iraq. Disclaimer: I received an advance reader copy of this book and my thoughts and rating are based on that edition.
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  • Lisa Cleveland
    June 6, 2017
    This is the best non-fiction book I've read in at least a year, and looking a my t.b.r. list it will probably be the best I'll read this year. I remember when Saddam Hussein started coming to my attention back in the early 1980's. He was extremely charismatic, and scary as anything I'd ever seen. Reading this book was odd because I didn't expect to find poignant moments, but I did. I enjoyed the stories, the humor, and depths that I wouldn't have thought possible. Most of all, I really didn't li This is the best non-fiction book I've read in at least a year, and looking a my t.b.r. list it will probably be the best I'll read this year. I remember when Saddam Hussein started coming to my attention back in the early 1980's. He was extremely charismatic, and scary as anything I'd ever seen. Reading this book was odd because I didn't expect to find poignant moments, but I did. I enjoyed the stories, the humor, and depths that I wouldn't have thought possible. Most of all, I really didn't like reading about Saddam's last day, or what was done to his dead body afterward. I can see how if you guard someone day in, and day out, then became friendly acquaintances and in a few cases close to that person, how leading them to their death, and bodily desecration could mess a person up. I felt for these guards, and Doc, and the interpreter. I even shed a few tears towards the end. As for my feelings about this idiot war that Bush and friends started? Well, a book review isn't the place. I'd recommend this book and author. It shows what a monster Saddam was, but also an almost human side too. Thanks to Scribner and Netgalley for allowing me to read this e-book. Much appreciated.
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  • Ms. Please Pass The Books
    June 27, 2017
    Saddam Hussein once said, "The law is anything I write on a piece of paper."I say, it's a crime for any Hussein historian not to read what Will Bardenwerper wrote in this compilation.A brilliant, fantastic book for a person like me who is obsessed with all things Saddam Hussein. I loved the varied perspectives of the military guards tasked with overseeing Hussein and others who had different degrees of contact with him. As a ruler the man was a tyrant, as a figure the man is fascinating, and as Saddam Hussein once said, "The law is anything I write on a piece of paper."I say, it's a crime for any Hussein historian not to read what Will Bardenwerper wrote in this compilation.A brilliant, fantastic book for a person like me who is obsessed with all things Saddam Hussein. I loved the varied perspectives of the military guards tasked with overseeing Hussein and others who had different degrees of contact with him. As a ruler the man was a tyrant, as a figure the man is fascinating, and as a prisoner from these first person accounts, the man was humanized in a way I never thought possible.
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  • Kristin
    April 8, 2017
    Viewed by most of mankind as a depraved, despotic dictator, Saddam Hussein, a master manipulator, manages to confound the twelve American soldiers sent in secrecy to guard him during his captivity and his final days on earth. Will Bardenwerper tackles the difficult topic of a terror-inducing Hussein in The Prisoner in His Palace, a narrative likely to wreak havoc on your senses by questioning the man himself, the myth and his eventual demise. An incredibly intense read, I was horrified to find m Viewed by most of mankind as a depraved, despotic dictator, Saddam Hussein, a master manipulator, manages to confound the twelve American soldiers sent in secrecy to guard him during his captivity and his final days on earth. Will Bardenwerper tackles the difficult topic of a terror-inducing Hussein in The Prisoner in His Palace, a narrative likely to wreak havoc on your senses by questioning the man himself, the myth and his eventual demise. An incredibly intense read, I was horrified to find myself in tears over Hussein’s last moments with his Super Twelve, something I would never have expected for this monster.
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  • Myles
    March 20, 2017
    I don't love that this book compares itself with In Cold Blood, a lengthy book that goes to great pains to humanize its subjects and their victims, painting a vivid picture of what happens next after a tragedy. The Prisoner in His Palace is brief (~200 pages without the index and notes) and, to be fair, more tethered to the truth than Capote, and therefore more dry. Saddam Hussein is the most vivid presence in these pages, perhaps intentional, but it feels like Bardenwerper was unable to capture I don't love that this book compares itself with In Cold Blood, a lengthy book that goes to great pains to humanize its subjects and their victims, painting a vivid picture of what happens next after a tragedy. The Prisoner in His Palace is brief (~200 pages without the index and notes) and, to be fair, more tethered to the truth than Capote, and therefore more dry. Saddam Hussein is the most vivid presence in these pages, perhaps intentional, but it feels like Bardenwerper was unable to capture the essence of the soldiers who guarded Hussein in his last months.Bardenwerper uses declassified notes from F.B.I. interrogations, the army's oral history interviews and interviewed many of those involved himself to put this book together. As it is its a disturbing situation for any soldier to be put in - providing care to a man who personified evil - and raises some interesting points about the mental costs of such a task. The book raised some questions for me - who were the guards who watched Saddam before the Super Twelve were assigned to him? There are some references to his capture and some hospital stays, but there are gaps in the 'chain of custody' as far as viewpoints go. Other than a few physical characteristics and some vignettes of some of the soldier's (or doctor's or lawyer's) lives at home before and after guarding Saddam Hussein there isn't enough to distinguish the soldiers from each other. There were also some pointless inclusions, such as two soldiers scuffling in their room one night or another soldier being awkward and picked on. Neither of these examples were elaborated on as being part of a trend in the unit or the army at large, or representing any stress particular to the Iraqi conflict. Is there more Bardenwerper wants to say? Why doesn't he? I appreciate brevity, but the narrative wasn't strong enough for me to get a sense of who these men were. Except for Saddam Hussein, which, cool, but this book promises a lot more than that, and I was a little disappointed.
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  • Linda Layne
    June 17, 2017
    To begin with, this is not a book I would typically read. However, I heard an interview with the author, Will Bardenwerper and NPR's Terry Gross of "Fresh Air." After hearing the interview, I HAD to read this book. My library had just purchased the book and I dove into the author's recollections and while I was not disappointed, I had not expected his words to have such an impact upon me. No spoiler alerts here, but this book is about humanity - plain and simple. But being humans, we have the a To begin with, this is not a book I would typically read. However, I heard an interview with the author, Will Bardenwerper and NPR's Terry Gross of "Fresh Air." After hearing the interview, I HAD to read this book. My library had just purchased the book and I dove into the author's recollections and while I was not disappointed, I had not expected his words to have such an impact upon me. No spoiler alerts here, but this book is about humanity - plain and simple. But being humans, we have the ability to perform acts of good and of course, the flipside, acts of evil. How or why is not for me to explain . . . or judge. I am merely stating a fact. But here is another statement of fact: everything we do has an impact on someone else - good or bad - like it or not - WE impact those around us. What the "Super Twelve" did took bravery, compassion, and at times - I would imagine every fiber of their being to do what was required of them. None of them walked away from their service unchanged by their service. And I daresay that anyone who reads this book will not also experience some kind of a change. As for me, well I hurt even more for those who serve this country and return to no support for their PTSD. I believe in our troops (who serve here and on foreign soil) because they do what so many either cannot or will not. I will continue to do whatever I can to help, yet I know that it will never be enough.
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  • Susan
    May 7, 2017
    Subtitled, “Saddam Hussein, his American guards and what history leaves unsaid,” this is a sobering portrait of how twelve American’s got the, somewhat unenviable, task of guarding the former dictator. Dubbed the ‘Super Twelve,’ they were banned from keeping a journal, or even writing about their mission with family and friends back home – although they were interviewed for the Army’s oral history programme and some were interviewed by the author. This is a well paced and interesting read, but t Subtitled, “Saddam Hussein, his American guards and what history leaves unsaid,” this is a sobering portrait of how twelve American’s got the, somewhat unenviable, task of guarding the former dictator. Dubbed the ‘Super Twelve,’ they were banned from keeping a journal, or even writing about their mission with family and friends back home – although they were interviewed for the Army’s oral history programme and some were interviewed by the author. This is a well paced and interesting read, but the author does admit that much of the dialogue used is, obviously, as those involved remember it . As the author says, this is nonfiction, but with ‘storytelling liberties.’ The book begins with Saddam Hussein’s execution on the 30th December, 2006, in Baghdad. The story then backtracks, to tell us the back story of some of the American guards involved, as well as filling in some facts from Saddam Hussein’s childhood and life. Although we get some of his background, arrest and behaviour in captivity, though, this is not a biography. It is clear that Saddam Hussein never expressed any remorse, or regret, for his actions. He did, however, have a need to socialise and was a man of contradictions. He was a man who turned a blind eye to the extreme violence of his eldest son, Uday, yet asked about the children of the men guarding him. He was a man responsible for terrible crimes, yet tended the weeds in the yard and saved crumbs for the birds. He was usually polite and capable of comforting his guards, enjoyed a cigar and was, therefore, not what those guarding him expected. Really, though, this should not be such a surprise. Even those on trial for crimes against humanity, are humans themselves…Overall, this is a very interesting account of the tensions in this closeted existence and of the American’s attempts to treat Saddam Hussein with respect and make sure he was physically well enough to go to trial. It is also more about these twelve men’s humanity than Saddam Hussein as, almost against their will, they discover it is not easy to play a role in the death of a person you have come to know. As Saddam Hussein was executed, violence erupted – spreading across the country. It was, for these men, a shocking event and this is obvious. However, had they not felt something, it would suggest that their own humanity had been compromised, so they should not have been surprised that they felt something; even though they knew of their prisoners past. An interesting read about the end of a dictator’s life. I received a copy of this book from the publisher, via NetGalley, for review.
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  • North Landesman
    June 21, 2017
    A fascinating look at the 12 American soldiers guarding Saddam before his death. Bardenwerper writes well. His Saddam comes off as wily, evil, and ... incredibly likable. A complicated, weird portrait of a seemingly one-dimensional dictator. The book is sad, but worth reading and fun, especially when Saddam is demanding Raising Bran. I strongly recommend this.
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  • Sarah(All The Book Blog Names Are Taken)
    June 25, 2017
    This book is a hard one to deal with. I found myself, even when being reminded of some of the numerous atrocities Hussein committed, feeling sympathy for the man. That makes me feel kind of yucky, but at the sane time, I can't really help it. How do you reconcile those two faces of Saddam? I don't think you can; he was at once both a murdering, vicious tyrant and a loving father, kind to his friends. Oi.
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  • Alice
    May 8, 2017
    Books like this do not typically appeal to me. Yet, this book is a very human story about the American soldiers -- who could easily be my friends or neighbors -- assigned to a bizarre and unexpectedly life altering detail: guarding one of history’s most heinous dictators right before he is put to death. When watching the endless news footage before and after the hunt for Saddam, I never would have even thought about the people working a job like this. Then, had a friend of mine gotten that assig Books like this do not typically appeal to me. Yet, this book is a very human story about the American soldiers -- who could easily be my friends or neighbors -- assigned to a bizarre and unexpectedly life altering detail: guarding one of history’s most heinous dictators right before he is put to death. When watching the endless news footage before and after the hunt for Saddam, I never would have even thought about the people working a job like this. Then, had a friend of mine gotten that assignment, I might have been happy for him or her to get a relatively safe and interesting job while deployed. Yet, it ended up changing many of them forever. This book tackles a familiar topic from a completely new angle and leaves you reconsidering things that you previously thought you understood: the news stories about Saddam, the complicated experience of being a US soldier, and the notion of “pure evil.” The story and events themselves are so weird and engrossing that this book reads like a novel. The soldiers are so real and human that they could easily be people that I know back here at home. They get through their task with humor, optimism, and by taking pleasure in surprising little things such as reading the Harry Potter series. I highly recommend this book for a groundbreaking and fascinating look at a pivotal moment in our recent history.This review was based on an advance copy.
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  • Margaret Sankey
    February 11, 2017
    After reading Phil Klay's editorial in the NYT yesterday (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/10/op...), I moved this to the top of the book stack. Using Army oral history and follow-up interviews with the participants, Bardenwerper has reconstructed the time a dozen young American MPs (with guest appearances by assorted CIA and FBI interrogators) spent guarding Saddam Hussein in one of his former palaces in the months leading up to his execution. In the shadow of Abu Ghraib, this confinement was un After reading Phil Klay's editorial in the NYT yesterday (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/10/op...), I moved this to the top of the book stack. Using Army oral history and follow-up interviews with the participants, Bardenwerper has reconstructed the time a dozen young American MPs (with guest appearances by assorted CIA and FBI interrogators) spent guarding Saddam Hussein in one of his former palaces in the months leading up to his execution. In the shadow of Abu Ghraib, this confinement was under close scrutiny, but just as had happened with the Nuremberg prisoners, it was impossible not to have personal contact with a man whose behavior swung between cartoonish autocrat and charming, avuncular roommate. Bardenwerper manages a story that is part banality of evil, part fundamental American decency and all surreal.
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  • Carmen Tracey
    June 9, 2017
    The near-mythical allure of Saddam Hussein and an enduring interest in the U.S. invasion of Iraq kept me turning the pages through this well-researched book. However, my enjoyment of the book as a work of literature was undermined throughout by stodgy, repetitive writing, choppy pacing, and lack of in-depth characterization. I could barely tell the American military guards apart, despite the fact that the author hammered home the same handful of characteristics for each one of them throughout th The near-mythical allure of Saddam Hussein and an enduring interest in the U.S. invasion of Iraq kept me turning the pages through this well-researched book. However, my enjoyment of the book as a work of literature was undermined throughout by stodgy, repetitive writing, choppy pacing, and lack of in-depth characterization. I could barely tell the American military guards apart, despite the fact that the author hammered home the same handful of characteristics for each one of them throughout the book. I guarantee I'll never forget that Saddam's translator was Lebanese-American, for example, because Bardenwerper makes sure to remind you each time he crosses the page, but I couldn't tell you anything else about him. The best parts were the anecdotes about Saddam, an endlessly fascinating figure who the author more or less manages to humanize. However, I think perhaps the greatest drawback to this book is its failure to manage the reader's expectations properly. The publishers did this book a disservice by comparing it, in the back cover blurb, to the literary masterpiece that is In Cold Blood. An interesting story, for sure, but a masterpiece it ain't.
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  • Valerie
    May 23, 2017
    4.5 STARS This book tells the story of twelve young American soldiers in Iraq who are suddenly assigned to guard Saddam Hussein during his trial, and then in months leading up to his execution. Spending so much time in close proximity with him, they eventually would listen as he talked to pass the time. Sometimes just asking simple questions about them, or reading a poem he'd written. The soldiers always kept their duty in mind, to keep their prisoner alive and reasonably happy. Then as time wen 4.5 STARS This book tells the story of twelve young American soldiers in Iraq who are suddenly assigned to guard Saddam Hussein during his trial, and then in months leading up to his execution. Spending so much time in close proximity with him, they eventually would listen as he talked to pass the time. Sometimes just asking simple questions about them, or reading a poem he'd written. The soldiers always kept their duty in mind, to keep their prisoner alive and reasonably happy. Then as time went on, some developed a genuine respect for him and began to like the old man as a person. They kept in mind the things they'd been told or knew that he had done, but just going by the respectful way he was with them, they treated him the same way. He seemed genuinely interested in them as people, always remembering to ask about their families and children, how they were doing, what kinds of things they liked. They developed relationships with him, some quite close that they hadn't at all expected to. It made for a surprising and moving story. Thank you to NetGalley, Scribner, and author Will Bardenwerper for providing me with an ARC in return for my honest review.
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  • Jill
    June 12, 2017
    This book is the untold story of what took place after Saddam Hussein was captured and his death. This book brings to light of a tale different from the Saddam Hussein we thought we knew. This is also the story of the twelve guards who were assigned to guard him and the relationships they formed with Saddam Hussein. Overall I rated this book four stars out of five. This was a well written story, and a story that needed to be told. While I do not approve of the horrible things that Saddam Husse This book is the untold story of what took place after Saddam Hussein was captured and his death. This book brings to light of a tale different from the Saddam Hussein we thought we knew. This is also the story of the twelve guards who were assigned to guard him and the relationships they formed with Saddam Hussein. Overall I rated this book four stars out of five. This was a well written story, and a story that needed to be told. While I do not approve of the horrible things that Saddam Hussein did, this story brought more humanity to Saddam Hussein as a person. While it is difficult to process the horrible things Saddam Hussein did and the person that he was characterized to be in this story explains why this book needed to be written. The only criticism I have for this book was the organization of this book. I felt at times it was disorganized and did not flow together well with the overall book. Otherwise this book is highly recommended for everyone to read. I would like to thank Netgalley, Will Bardenwerper, and Scribner Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.For more book reviews come and read my book blog at: http://turnthepagereviewsbyjill.blogs...
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  • Nick
    June 27, 2017
    Three stars This book was pretty good. I think the characters of the twelve could have been more developed. More history on Sadam's rule would have been appreciated. Overall the book was well put together and it was an insightful read.
  • Lindy
    June 30, 2017
    This was an interesting and different read. I remember when Saddam was captured but, I didn't really follow his trial and execution. I can understand why the people involved would have conflicting emotions about him.
  • Mohammed
    June 3, 2017
    Good
  • David V.
    May 17, 2017
    Received as an ARC from the publisher. Started 5-17-17. Finished 5-22-17. True account of the US soldiers, known as the Super Twelve, who guarded Saddam Hussein while he was awaiting trial and ultimate execution by hanging in December 2006. It's a fascinating take on understanding this most complicated leader. He expressed concern about the families of his guards and yet he could eradicate whole tribes from his country by the worst possible tortures. He could kill relatives who refused to obey h Received as an ARC from the publisher. Started 5-17-17. Finished 5-22-17. True account of the US soldiers, known as the Super Twelve, who guarded Saddam Hussein while he was awaiting trial and ultimate execution by hanging in December 2006. It's a fascinating take on understanding this most complicated leader. He expressed concern about the families of his guards and yet he could eradicate whole tribes from his country by the worst possible tortures. He could kill relatives who refused to obey his every wish, and allow his sons to live after committing even worse atrocities than he himself did. He died believing until the end that somehow he'd be freed. The book also relates what happened to several of the guards after returning to civilian life--not always a pretty picture.
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