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The Prisoner in His Palace: Saddam Hussein, His American Guards, and What History Leaves Unsaid Hardcover – June 6, 2017
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"Bardenwerper deftly toggles from a nonstop supply of terror to occasional scenes of normal life throughout The Prisoner in His Palace . . . a brief, but powerful, meditation on the meaning of evil and power."
—New York Post
“The Prisoner in His Palace is an affirmation of human dignity even in people who have behaved horrifically and in situations where you would least expect it.”
—San Quentin News
"An Iraq war veteran himself (but not in the Super Twelve), Bardenwerper has written an exceptional debut . . . his storytelling skills—confident but never showy prose, a terrific sense of pacing—make for an enlightening piece of journalism."
—Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Expertly examines Saddam Hussein."
"Takes you inside the minds of the prisoner and his protectors, whose sole task it to guard the 'Vic,' or Very Important Criminal . . . The book is captivating . . . a study of how proximity has a propensity to be persuasive, even when the common area is a cell in the basement of a courthouse."
"A behind-the-scenes look at history that's nearly impossible to put down . . . [Intersperses] tales from Saddam's past with scenes of his final days . . . As he was being led away to his execution, Hussein thanked the twelve Americans guarding him, adding that 'they'd become "more like family to him" than any Iraqis had been.' The Prisoner in His Palace offers a mesmerizing glimpse into the final moments of a brutal tyrant's life."
"What ultimately emerges is how to comport oneself in the world . . . [Saddam] was condemned to hang, a grave and deserved insult in Iraqi eyes. But 'the ugliness of the old man's death'—defiled in his winding sheet, kicked and stabbed after being strangled (the drop was bungled goes the story)—disgusted The Twelve . . . This is no reverse Stockholm syndrome at play, Bardenwerper convincingly suggests, but a bracing affirmation—a great Whitmanesque hug—of human dignity in the face of all that is harrowingly wrong."
"Bardenwerper gives the reader a close look at a real-life supervillain, and how easy it is for him to gather minions at his feet . . . tightly-constructed and engaging."
“Searing . . . Bardenwerper breathes an impressive amount of life into a story that hurtles toward death from the opening page.”
About the Author
Will Bardenwerper has contributed to The New York Times and The Washington Post. He served as an Airborne Ranger-qualified infantry officer in Iraq and was awarded a Combat Infantryman’s Badge and Bronze Star. In 2010, he joined the Pentagon as a Presidential Management Fellow, where he spent the next four years. He has an MA in international public policy from The Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies and a BA in English from Princeton. The Prisoner in His Palace is his first book.
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Ultimately, the beauty of the book is in the story-telling. Having spent over 2 years of my life fighting in that country, I appreciate how Bardenwerper accurately portrays the various feelings of a deployment and accurately describes Army culture. He also captures the spirit of the American Soldier. Most importantly, by bringing to life the Dictator and his supporting cast, we are reminded that ordinary people, maybe even good people, are capable of doing horrific things.
If I have one critique it’s that the book is too short. I wanted more. I needed to better flush out these mixed emotions I have about that man that took me away from my family for years and is responsible for the death of hundreds of thousands. But sometimes closure is an illusion. I really enjoyed reading this book and I think a variety of people would enjoy it too. I hope this is just the first in a long line of books by this author – I am a fan. Highly recommend!
This work is a welcomed addition to the history of both America’s involvement in the Iraq wars, as well as examining who exactly was Saddam Hussein. Author Bardenwerper focuses primarily on the twelve military policemen from Fort Campbell, who had the responsibility of guarding Saddam, during his final year of life. The chapters tend to be short and focused, versus many histories that seem to go on and on after the point was made.
It is interesting for these soldiers to discover the acts of kindness exhibited by Saddam, who also on occasion refers to the twelve as his sons. The author brings balance into the “good” Saddam, by including chapters that go back to earlier events, that showed the “evil” Saddam, most certainly a cruel individual that had arranged for the deaths of hundreds of thousands. It seems unreal that there are still Saddam’s on this earth, depots and tyrants, that Saddam would be proud to know that they are in his image.
We all know how this story ends, and that was the third-world hanging, by Iraqi thugs or rather government thugs. This reader remembers well the disgust watching the execution. Yes, Saddam deserved to die, but there should have been some dignity in his execution. This thought was also expressed by some of those that had guarded him in those final months. This is a book worth reading. Well done Mr. Bardenwerper.