Thursday, June 20, 2024

Review The Prisoner in His Palace, Saddam Hussein, His American Guards and What History Leaves Unsaid

Bardenwerper, Will, The Prisoner in His Palace, Saddam Hussein, His American Guards and What History Leaves Unsaid, Scribner, 2017


When you first open The Prisoner in His Palace, Saddam Hussein, His American Guards and What History Leaves Unsaid by Will Bardenwerper it appears that it is just about the 12 American Military Police (MPs) that guarded Saddam Hussein. That did not seem like it would be that interesting. It turns out the book covers Saddam’s trial and execution and the people around him like a U.S. medic, the FBI agents that interrogated him, the former Qatari Justice Minister that represented him and others.


The book can be divided up into three parts. The first and largest deals with Saddam’s detention and trial. Much of that covers the relationships the MPs formed with Saddam because it was only one of them and Saddam in a prison for hours. They all knew he was a brutal dictator and had killed thousands and yet they came to see him as a friendly old man. It’s a stark contrast to his image and proves far more interesting than one would think.


When it comes to the trial the most interesting part was when Saddam’s daughter Raghad hired the former Qatari Justice Minister Dr. Najeeb al-Nuaimi to join the legal team. He told her that there was nothing that could be done to save her father and that he was going to be hung in the end. He felt that the court case was going to be for show and he largely proved right such as when the chief judge was removed apparently for being too soft on Saddam. Since the verdict was already predetermined Nuaimi and Saddam used the trial to make political speeches against the case, the court and the new Iraq as being shams of justice.


The book also goes into great detail about Saddam’s execution which hasn’t been covered much. It’s well known that the witnesses began chanting “Muqtada” as the former president was strung up in reference to Muqtada al-Sadr one of the new leaders that emerged from the 2003 invasion. After he was killed his body was wrapped up and the witnesses began shooting in the air and chanting in celebration and then kicked and spit on the dead body. That is not mentioned in most accounts. President Bush said he hoped the hanging would help lead to a democratic Iraq but the turn of events showed that it was an act of revenge by the new Shiite parties that had taken power.


The Prisoner In His Palace was a surprising read because it contained far more than the title would lead one to believe. Many Iraqis are not going to like it because of its portrayal of Saddam. Reading about a courteous and friendly old dictator with his American guards is not going to sit well with how most view him. The book has much more than that however from the main points of Saddam’s trial to what occurred during his execution. It definitely contains information that other books don’t provide about those events.


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