Cover image for The prisoner in his palace : Saddam Hussein, his American guards, and what history leaves unsaid
The prisoner in his palace : Saddam Hussein, his American guards, and what history leaves unsaid
First Scribner hardcover edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc., 2017.

Physical Description:
xix, 246 pages ; 24 cm
Documents the story of twelve young American soldiers deployed to Iraq in the summer of 2006 who were assigned to guard Saddam Hussein in the months before his execution, a responsibility that raised life-changing questions about their beliefs and Hussein's character.


Material Type
Shelf Number
Item Notes
Book 956.7044 BAR 1 .SOURCE. 07/17 B&T
Book 956.70443 BAR 1
Book 956.70443 BARDENWERP 1 .SOURCE. BT 7-6-17

On Order

Prescott Public Library1Received on 6/14/17
Cottonwood Public Library1Received on 7/12/17



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.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Bardenwerper, a U.S. Army veteran, eschews the usual war reportage fare of violence and valor as he profiles the "Super Twelve," the unit of the 101st Airborne whose Iraq experience consisted largely of drinking tea and playing chess with a kindly old man who took an interest in their families and offered financial assistance for college. That man was Saddam Hussein, whom they were assigned to guard for the duration of his trial. The soldiers gradually warmed to their prisoner, who spoke good English, had a quick sense of humor, and enjoyed smoking Cohiba cigars. After a day of denouncing the American oppressors in court, "his demeanor would change the instant he joined his guards in the elevator." His guards, meanwhile, escaped the physical dangers of the front lines, yet most still developed PTSD and similar afflictions. An alarming number wound up unemployed, homeless, or incarcerated. "Everything changed" for one soldier "when he led the old man he'd grown to know to his execution and was forced to stand by as his body was desecrated." Bardenwerper's engrossing history reveals that everybody has the capacity for good, and, more disturbingly, that every good person has the capacity for great evil. Agent: Zoë Pagnamenta, Zoë Pagnamenta Agency. (June) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Kirkus Review

An insider account of the last days guarding, and bonding with, the former president of Iraq.A group of 12 American military policemen, deployed to Iraq in August 2006, made up the rotating squad that guarded Saddam Hussein over the course of five months in Baghdad while he was tried, convicted, and executed by hanging on Dec. 30. In this alternating account that moves among time periods delineating Hussein's bloody history as Iraqi leader, as well as the back stories of many of the officers of the U.S. squad and prosecution team, journalist Bardenwerper, a former infantry officer in Iraq and Pentagon fellow, manages to portray a surprisingly sympathetic character in the former dictator. The Iraqi High Tribunal, housed in a former Baath Party headquarters building in Baghdad, had been established by the American victors and "modeled on UN war crimes tribunals." Presided over by five Iraqi judges (the leading judge was a prominent Kurd) and stocked by many Shia who had been persecuted by Hussein over the years, the court chose to condemn him for crimes against humanity in the specific 1982 incident of a murderous crackdown of 148 Shiite residents in Dujail rather than for the more notorious chemical gas attacks against Iraqi Kurds during the Iran-Iraq War. At the time of the trial, the air of sectarian violence was rife in Iraq, and Hussein and his defense teamincluding American lawyer Ramsey Clark and Hussein's daughter Raghadwere convinced it was a sham trial; Hussein vociferously protested the proceedings in court. Nonetheless, through the eyes of the young soldiers guarding him, the dictator presented as a bland, thoughtful old man who was fastidious in his habits, simple in his pleasures, fond of smoking his cigars in the sun, and discussing his memories with his captors. In skin-crawling detail, the author effectively captures a unique time and place in an engrossing history. A singular study exhibiting both military duty and human compassion. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Library Journal Review

In August 2006, 12 U.S. military policemen were assigned to guard former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein (captured in December 2003) during his trial. There are two points to writer and former army infantry officer Bardenwerper's book: 1) how Hussein often acted like a fairly normal man in interactions with his guards, although he was always aware of the political (and farcical) aspects of the whole situation; and 2) how most of the guards, just ordinary guys doing their duty, developed some form of attachment to him as an individual with interesting stories and background. Everyone knew what Hussein's fate would be (he was hanged on December 30, 2006). Most of the source material for this book was gathered through interviews with the guards and government records. While the politics of the complicated situation are not ignored in this easy-to-read chronicle, it is much more a human interest story, with details of the everyday life of a high-value prisoner and his captors and how the guards were affected by it all. For more up-close observations about Hussein's captivity, read Caring for Victor by Robert Ellis, an army nurse who cared for Hussein. VERDICT Suitable for all readers.-Daniel Blewett, Coll. of DuPage Lib., Glen Ellyn, IL © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



The Prisoner in His Palace CHAPTER 1 Ocala, Florida--September 11, 2001 The phone rang, waking Steve Hutchinson from an uncomfortable sleep. His head was pounding, his mouth sandpaper. He was staying at his cousin's house, and his large frame was draped across the couch. It felt like it had only been a few hours since he'd passed out there after getting home from a long night working security at the Midnight Rodeo, a rough honky-tonk bar in the central Florida town of Ocala. He blamed the nasty headache on the beers he'd torn through after his shift ended around 4:00 a.m. Though he tried to ignore it, his phone kept ringing, each series of tones sending searing pain through his hungover skull. Too sapped of energy to hold the phone to his ear, he put it on speaker and clumsily dropped it to the floor. "Turn on the TV," a voice urged. It was his cousin's wife, calling from work, and she sounded panicked. "Which channel?" he asked. "Any of them," she replied. It was just after 9:00 a.m. on September 11, 2001. Hutchinson turned on the television just in time to see United Airlines Flight 175 strike the South Tower of the World Trade Center, not quite twenty minutes after American Airlines Flight 11 had slammed into the North Tower. Until that morning he'd been on an uncertain career path. A muscular former Georgia high school football and baseball standout, he'd been working for the county road department during the day and doing some bouncing at the Rodeo at night, but the images of a smoldering lower Manhattan decided something in him. "I wasn't getting over there fast enough," he'd later say, referring to his decision to join the Army and go overseas. Baghdad, Iraq--August 2006 Five years later, Steve Hutchinson, known as Hutch to his buddies, was doing the "duffel bag drag" across the steamy tarmac of Baghdad International Airport, often referred to as BIAP. He'd arrived as part of the 551st Military Police Company based out of Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and he knew the drill. Like many who joined the military in the wake of the September 11 attacks, he'd found himself thrust into an exhausting operational tempo. By 2006, he'd already spent a year deployed to Iraq during the initial invasion in 2003, and another in Afghanistan. He was one of the more tenured members of his squad of eleven other American military policemen, mostly in their twenties, who'd just arrived "downrange." The youngest, Private Tucker Dawson, wasn't yet twenty-one; the oldest, Specialist Art Perkins, was in his mid-thirties. With the "War on Terror" already nearly five years old, about half had deployed previously while the other half had spilled from the Air Force C-130 into a combat zone for the first time. The lieutenant to whom they reported, Andre Jackson, was a recent ROTC graduate. The junior enlisted soldiers and noncommissioned officers (NCOs) under his command came from all over the United States, though a disproportionate number hailed from working-class communities scattered across the Rust Belt. They didn't know it yet, but in a few months they'd be playing a pivotal role in a historical drama they couldn't have imagined. The men--there were no women in the squad--had grown reasonably tight in the months preceding deployment. They'd performed countless training missions back at Fort Campbell to prepare for deployment, which they expected would be spent carrying out assignments common for military policemen--for example, guarding detainees and providing convoy security. And during the training lulls those who were single grabbed some downtime at Kickers bar or the Lodge in nearby Clarksville, Tennessee, while the married among them stuck with more domesticated routines, such as taking turns babysitting each other's kids so that they could enjoy dinner with their wives at the popular Yamato's Japanese steakhouse off post. Those who'd deployed before, like Hutchinson, Art Perkins, Tom Flanagan, and Chris Tasker, were familiar with the routine. Less so Tucker Dawson, Adam Rogerson, and Paul Sphar, for whom this was an altogether new adventure. Sphar had barely been allowed to deploy at all, due to his persistent weight problems. In the months leading up to their leaving for Iraq, Sergeant Chris Battaglia had "run the dogshit" out of Sphar to trim his ample midsection. The young private stood out from the others for reasons other than his weight, though. The fact was, he seemed a better match for a skate park or mosh pit than a military parade ground. He was covered in tattoos, proud to have almost a "full shirt" of them. The soldiers had arrived in Iraq after a marathon journey that took them from Fort Campbell to Maine to Germany to Kuwait to--at last--BIAP's floodlit tarmac. The temperatures had continued to linger in the nineties even after the sun had set, and before the men had even finished unloading their bags, their clothes were drenched in sweat. It was a not-so-subtle reminder that they were far from home, and that this was for real. Excerpted from The Prisoner in His Palace: Saddam Hussein, Twelve Young Americans, and What History Leaves Unsaid by Will Bardenwerper All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Table of Contents

Author's Notep. xv
Charactersp. xvii
Timelinep. xix
Introductionp. 1
Part I The Super Twelvep. 3
Part II The Ace of Spadesp. 41
Part III Condemnedp. 69
Conclusionp. 191
Acknowledgmentsp. 207
Sourcesp. 211
Notesp. 215
Indexp. 237