Capturing Saddam

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The hunt for Saddam

Seems kind of funny that the same month we’re pulling out of Iraq, retired Army lieutenant colonel Steve Russell is releasing We Got Him! A memoir of the hunt and capture of Saddam Hussein. Russell, who served 21 years in the Army, was directly involved in Saddam’s capture in the infamous “spider hole” near Tikrit, eight years ago Tuesday. The new Iraqi government executed Saddam by hanging Dec. 30, 2006. Battleland chatted with Russell about his book in an email exchange:

Why did you write We Got Him?

I felt a moral obligation to the soldiers we served with and especially those we lost.

What did you learn in writing the book?

When we lived it, we were so engaged in it that it did not seem as impossible as it now looks today. I also learned a lot about the enemies that we fought.

What role did you play in Saddam’s capture?

I commanded an Infantry task force of a thousand soldiers in Tikrit and was involved heavily from June until his capture in December.

Tell us about the key tip that led to Saddam’s capture.

After closing the ring for five months, we had three series of raids that led us to Saddam’s key man named Mohammed al-Musslit. We felt if he were ever captured, he would have to know where Saddam was. He did.

Steve Russell, LTC, USA (ret.). (Photo: State of Oklahoma)

What don’t people understand about the hunt for Saddam?

It was not an instant or chance thing. It was a six-month manhunt involving many players, with both special operations and regular forces working hand in hand with one another.

What did the hunt for Saddam teach you? And the country?

Don’t quit. If it is worth doing it is worth finishing. We understood this at the lowest level and that is why Saddam was captured.

Iraq and its people taught me that there are good human beings all over the world that are often subject to tyranny with little hope of escape.