Hunting Down Saddam: The Inside Story of the Search and Capture

Hunting Down Saddam: The Inside Story of the Search and Capture

by Robin Moore

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This authoritative and gripping narrative plunges the American public into the real and personal story of the United States forces in Iraq, and their successful maneuvers in capturing one of the most vicious dictators of our time.

Hunting Down Saddam contains up-to-the-minute material and provides never-before-heard accounts of the triumphs and frustrations, strategies and attacks, of those who put their lives at risk to track down Saddam Hussein.

* The first book to tell the whole story of the pursuit of Saddam, from pre-war to his capture.

* Candid accounts straight from the soldiers on the frontline, which have not been sanitized or filtered through the media, the military, or the Pentagon.

* Exclusive interviews with key military leaders, including Colonel "Smokin' Joe" Anderson, Commanding Officer of the 2nd Brigade, 101st Airborne (Screaming Eagles), who led the attack on Saddam's sons.

The capture of Saddam Hussein is the defining event for this generation's military. Action-packed and controversial, Hunting Down Saddam teems with inside information. Robin Moore gets the real story from these fighting men as only he can.

Doris Kearns Goodwin calls Hunting Down Saddam, "A fast and furious read . . . when the historians try to put together the real facts of the two wars the U. S. has fought since September 11, 2001 this book will be a valuable contribution to their research."

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781466865341
Publisher: St. Martin''s Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/04/2014
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 691,728
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

Robin Moore (1925-2008) won the admiration of the Green Berets forty years ago during the Vietnam War. That admiration had not flagged with a new generation of soldiers. In recent years Moore received letters from enlisted men who say the book The Green Berets motivated their career in the Special Forces. A nose gunner (B-17) in World War II, Robin Moore spent his seventy-eighth birthday in Iraq, interviewing troops for Hunting Down Saddam.

Robin Moore (1925-2008) is the best selling author of The French Connection and The Green Beret. He lived in Concord, Massachusetts.

Read an Excerpt

Hunting Down Saddam

The Inside Story of the Search and Capture

By Robin Moore

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2004 Robin Moore
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4668-6534-1



Saddam Hussein was born on April 28, 1937, in the village of Owja on the outskirts of Tikrit, Iraq, a city northwest of Baghdad. As a young boy, Saddam was raised mainly by his maternal uncle, in the town of ad Dawr, a mud-brick village on the banks of the Tigris River. Saddam Hussein's parents had been simple farmers, but his uncle, an officer in the Iraqi Army, gave him a glimpse of a life other than that of a humble peasant. He greatly influenced the young Saddam and instilled in him a deep passion for politics and the military.

Tikrit had always been Saddam's base of power; his birthplace held a special meaning for him, and was also part of his full name, as is the custom in Iraq: Saddam Hussein (Husayn) al-Tikriti. This connection to place was a part of his very identity. In his teenage years, Saddam moved to Baghdad, where he joined the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party when he was nineteen years old. The Ba'ath Party was new then, and sought to overthrow the nation's prime minister, Abdul Karim Qassim.

As he entered his twenties, Saddam was ambitious and daring. He knew he did not want a life as a poor peasant or farmer, and the only way he saw out of that was through force. In 1959, when he was twenty-two, Saddam was involved in a brash coup attempt — an attempt to assassinate Prime Minister Qassim. The assassination attempt failed. Saddam was shot in the leg by the prime minister's bodyguard, but fled with his life. Showing a judicious knack for escaping, he fled to Syria.

On February 25, 1960, Iraqi courts sentenced Saddam to death, in absentia, for his part in the failed assassination attempt.

Saddam left Syria shortly after his arrival and journeyed to Egypt, where he studied at Cairo's College of Law. Three years later, his comrades in the Ba'ath Socialist Party were successful, and overthrew Qassim, in what is known as the Ramadan Revolution. Saddam was thrilled, and returned to Iraq, where he was soon elected to a leadership position in the Ba'ath Party. At this point, Saddam was just in his mid-twenties.

A very short time later, in the fall of 1963, Colonel Abdal-Salam Muhammad Arif, Qassim's partner and co-leader in the coup that brought him to power in 1958, staged a successful coup against the Ba'athists, once again putting Saddam on the run. Colonel Abd-al-Salam Muhammad Arif began rounding up and cracking down on the remaining Ba'athists.

Saddam was not so lucky this time. Arif's men caught up with Saddam several months later, and he was thrown in prison, remaining there for two years. Saddam, determined to survive, escaped from prison. Soon after Saddam's escape, Arif died in a helicopter crash, and was succeeded by his older brother. Arif's brother took over for a very brief reign.

In July of 1968, Saddam and his fellow Ba'athists organized and carried out a successful and bloodless coup, ousting the Arif Regime. Saddam's cousin, General Ahmed Hasan al-Bakr, became the new president of Iraq.

Al-Bakr named his cousin Saddam vice president as well as head of the secret police, or the SSS (Special Security Service), hence controlling internal security and intelligence. Saddam's megalomaniacal vision of power began to manifest itself as he embarked upon an agenda to clean house in the new regime. In his role as head of the SSS, Saddam solidified his role as top enforcer, purging all non-Ba'athist traces of the former regime. He was ruthless. Dozens of Iraqi officials with questionable loyalties were sent into "retirement," imprisoned, or eliminated — the lucky ones were deported or forced to flee the country. Saddam wanted no more coups while he and his family were in power.

As vice president, Saddam wasted no time in trying to remove all possible competition and threat. In 1968, the thirty-year reign of terror began against the Shi'ia "Marsh Arabs" in the south and the Kurdish population in the north. Saddam wanted minorities suppressed by any means necessary — all under the umbrella of what Saddam called his "Arabization" Project, an agenda with all too familiar echoes of Nazi Germany.

Hundreds of thousands of non-Ba'athist citizens and Iraqis of non-Arab descent were arrested, deported, or killed. Entire Shi'ia Muslim and Kurdish villages were burned to the ground in a scorched earth strategy, though not before anything of value was carted away and split up between Saddam's most trusted personnel as a "reward" for their loyalty. Families, entire generations, were wiped out. Those targeted who were not murdered by Saddam's secret police or quick enough to flee were tortured and imprisoned.

Oil was, and is, Iraq's number one commodity by a significant margin. Since the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1918, foreign oil companies maintained a constant presence in Iraq. Saddam wanted them out. In 1972, he led an effort to nationalize all of the foreign oil companies, thereby consolidating Iraq's wealth into a monopoly for the Ba'athists.

In July of 1979, al-Bakr resigned, and Saddam Hussein became the new president of Iraq. By now, the SSS (also known as the SSO) had been beefed up by Saddam, expanded and designed to be led by those whom Saddam was confident he could trust. To ensure that security, there once again was a wave of purging and murdering those in his ranks whose loyalty was not 100 percent ascertained. Saddam went on to ban the opposing political party, the Da'wa Party. Membership in its ranks was a capital crime, punishable by death.

The Shatt al-Arab waterway lies near the border of Iran and Iraq. It is here that the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers meet, at a place called al Qurnal. From al Qurnal, the river flows into the Persian Gulf; the Iranians claimed it was on their land, while Iraq felt it was on theirs. In September 1980, scarcely over a year after being named president, Saddam declared war against their big neighbor to the east. The Iraqi Army, surprisingly strong from oil wealth, routed the Iranians, forcing them back from the waterway. But Iran, a country over three times bigger in land mass and population, was not to be so easily defeated. Although the Iranian Army was not as sophisticated and organized as Iraq's, Iran had a steady supply of zealous warriors and eager martyrs.

By 1984, the war was only half over, and it wasn't going so well for Iraq. The Iranians had turned the tables on the war, and were invading Iraqi soil. Basra, Iraq's largest southern city, and less than fifteen miles from the Iranian border, was hit hard. The seesawing war continued, while the threat to Saddam compounded with new waves of Kurdish insurgencies in the north. Feeling collapse nigh, Saddam chose to deploy chemical warfare in the form of poison gas against the Iranian invaders, as well as against the Kurdish opposition. The results were a success for Saddam, and they were horrific. In one Kurdish village alone, Halabaja, an estimated five thousand people were killed, and more than twice that injured. An untold total number of Iranians and Kurds perished in Saddam's chemical attacks. By the end of the Iran–Iraq war in 1988, the casualties were estimated to be between 1 and 1.5 million people.

Two years later, Saddam sealed his fate with the world community when he invaded Kuwait on August 2, 1990. Saddam used many reasons to justify his action, but was steadfast on his claim that Kuwait was the 19th province of Iraq. Powers from the United States and the United Nations tried reasoning with him, but to no avail.

The invasion of Kuwait posed a number of threats that got the attention of the United States — not the least of which was the threat to Saudi Arabia, and in turn, the United States led a coalition force against the invading Iraqis. On January 17, 1991, the Persian Gulf War began with a massive air campaign. Five weeks later, the ground war started, and within seventy-two hours, Kuwait was liberated. Tens of thousands of Iraqi troops were killed, wounded, or taken prisoner.

Iraq signed a cease-fire agreement on March 3, 1991, the conditions of which included Saddam destroying all of his WMDs (Weapons of Mass Destruction, such as the poison gas he used in the 1980s on the Kurds and the Iranians). It called for a cease to his ruthless persecution of ethnic minority groups, and the return of any captured prisoners, all of which Saddam agreed to. Nevertheless, Saddam was not a man of his word, and he quickly crushed a Kurdish insurrection in the north and a Shi'ia rebellion in the south.

The massacre of the two groups put the world leaders on notice once again. This time the United Nations imposed the Northern and Southern No-Fly Zones across the north and south of Iraq so that Saddam would be unable to murder his own minority groups. Operations SOUTHERN WATCH and NORTHERN WATCH were put into place by the United States and the United Nations to police the adherence to the no-fly zones.

For not living up to a single promise on the cease-fire agreement, the UN imposed economic and military sanctions on Iraq. As the situation for his people got worse and worse, the more lavish and opulent Saddam and his inner circle became. For twelve years, Saddam did not budge. These sanctions severely punished the Iraqi people, yet Saddam would rather starve his own population than give in to the world's demands for justice.

On November 8, 2002, UN Security Council Resolution 1441 was passed, which stated that for twelve years, Saddam had been in "material breach" of every agreement that had been made at the end of the Persian Gulf War. Saddam had twelve years to live up to his end of the bargain, and failed to do so, on every single count.

In the years between the end of the Persian Gulf War and the start of Operation IRAQI FREEDOM, Saddam's Iraq was hit with three sets of major air strikes. Still, Saddam held fast as his people continued to starve and buckle under the weight of his oppression. With the Global War on Terror (GWOT) underway in the wake of 9/11, President George W. Bush decided that something more had to be done. Saddam not only laughed in the face of the world's demands and continued the slaughter of his own people, he also harbored terrorist cells such as Ansar al-Islam, and there was mounting intelligence that pointed to Saddam acquiring components of nuclear materials (Russian U-235 weapons-grade uranium) by way of Djibouti. President George Bush II was about to finish what his father had started. ...



Two years after George W. Bush was inaugurated president of the United States, the antagonistic relations that had been smoldering between the United States and Iraq finally burst into incandescence. On March 20, 2003, at 2045 hours EST, President George W. Bush's Gulf War Two, or GW2 as it was informally dubbed, lit up the desert skies and the sprawling Iraqi capital of Baghdad, becoming full-fledged declared war.

Earlier that day, at 0545 hours local Iraq time, President Bush covertly sent five Special Forces ODAs (Operational Detachment Alpha) from the 10th SFG (Special Forces Group) — stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado — into northern Iraq. At the same time, he sent the 5th SFG (A), accompanied by the Florida National Guard, from Kuwait into the western desert of Iraq, and revved up the Air Force to maximum capacity. At last, the president of the United States would put an end to the Iraqi threat.

The U.S.-led coalition had forced Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait during the first Gulf War, but the coalition stopped short of going into Baghdad after a badly defeated Iraqi Army streamed home. The senior George Bush said that the United Nations, under whose mandate the American military was operating, had only called for removing Saddam from Kuwait, not for removing the dictator from his own country.

Ten years later, his son, George W. Bush, realized that Saddam was indeed plotting mass destruction of his enemies in Middle Eastern and world affairs. And Saddam was acquiring the weapons of mass destruction to do just that — almost daily, the White House received ominous warnings.

Through Djibouti, on the Horn of Africa, cargo planes were landing for refueling and maintenance. Spies from Somalia, with leanings toward the United States, warned that there was at least one transport aircraft landing in Djibouti each week, from Russia. These planes were landing with large refrigeration systems, which had to be attached to ground electrical systems to keep them working. One crew member was watching at all times, to make sure the refrigeration units were operative.

This could only mean that radioactive and nuclear substances were being transported. These shipments were being paid for with large amounts of U.S. dollars originating from Saddam's oil-smuggling operations based in Basra, Iraq's Arabian Gulf port. The administration could no longer risk standing by until Saddam was able to launch a nuclear weapon toward any part of the world.

Special Forces Groups left the United States over a week before, scheduled to fly into Iraq. They were planning to take off from the large airbase the United States had rebuilt in Kosovo, the former Yugoslavian military headquarters brought down by NATO. The 10th Special Forces Group ended up leaving for Iraq from Constanta, Romania, that very day.

Special Forces Companies, or B-Teams (ODBs), are comprised of a group of A-Teams under them, much like the Army has platoons. One Company Commander — generally a major — has up to six A-Teams or ODAs in his command. SGM (Sergeant Major) Tim Strong was the noncommissioned officer in charge of the B-Team, comprising the five A-Teams of this first expeditionary force of Green Berets to openly invade northern Iraq. The five ODAs were not all from the same company. SGM Tim Strong and his B-Team were only the skeleton of the company that would soon be augmented by thousands of native Kurdish tribesmen. Known as Peshmerga, the Kurd warriors were indigenous to the mountainous area in the north of Iraq, and almost immune to the raids of ordinary Iraqi soldiers. They collectively hated the lowlanders whose leader, Saddam Hussein, and his cousin, "Chemical Ali," had launched the gas attack that had killed thousands of Kurds in the late 1980s.

Before the five A-Teams could go into action against the Iraqis, they had to reach their destination as quietly as possible, and meet up with the awaiting Peshmerga and their commander of the Irbil sector, General Mustafa.

* * *

In England, at Biggin Hill, an airbase about forty miles north of London, LTC (Lieutenant Colonel) Mark Alsid was one of the pilots who fly the particularly dangerous and most difficult missions the U.S. Air Force has to offer, as part of the 352nd Special Operations Group (SOG). This was to be no exception. Alsid took off from Constanta, Romania, with four other American pilots, each piloting a huge MC-130 transport filled with crew and supplies to be used by the A-Teams.

At the same time, units from the Florida National Guard were waiting to cross from Kuwait into southern Iraq, and start the march to Baghdad. Also waiting in the wings for their cue into Iraq were the British Royal Marines, Parabats (Parachute Battalions) and Tank Regiment — their job being to control the southern port of Basra and secure the route past it for the Florida National Guard, who would head up to Baghdad. With everything prepared and ready, the forces poised to invade Iraq had nothing to do but wait — a common malaise at the beginning of wartime action.

While the Special Forces were waiting for the "green light," or go-ahead, the intelligence contingents were scratching their heads, wondering if they could perhaps knock out Saddam Hussein and prove he'd been killed — thus ending the war before it started.

As the 10th Group ODAs waited with their pilots, ready to fly, a top-secret group made up of Special Forces and Delta Force was on patrol inside of Baghdad, hoping to determine Saddam Hussein's exact location. As they interrogated their assets regarding the dictator's present whereabouts, they finally got a break — a clue as to where Saddam was at that very moment. They learned he was most likely deep down in the subbasement structure of the house of a Ba'ath Party general, a veritable underground fortress and bomb shelter, with fifty-foot-deep roots. Relaying the information to call in Close Air Support (CAS) attachments, the Special Forces intelligence group moved as far away from the target area as possible. No one wanted to be taken out by friendly fire or stray bombs dropped by their own planes before the war even began.

Task Force 20 (the super-secret Special Operations Task Force with one purpose: hunting down Saddam and his henchmen) gave the go-ahead, and a two-thousand-pound smart bomb was dropped from an F-117/A Nighthawk, directly onto the house where Saddam was suspected to be hiding. The entire city shook as the JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munitions) bomb hit and exploded after penetrating close to one hundred feet into the ground.


Excerpted from Hunting Down Saddam by Robin Moore. Copyright © 2004 Robin Moore. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents


Title Page,
Copyright Notice,
Foreword by Mark Vargas,
A Score to Settle,
Task Force VIKING,
The Screaming Eagles,
Task Force DAGGER,
Private Contractors,
Letters from Tikrit,
The Ace in the Hole,
St. Martin's Paperbacks Titles by Robin Moore,
Outstanding Praise for Robin Moore's Gripping Real-Life Accounts,

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