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View Full Version : Ex-Marine Says Public Version of Saddam Capture Fiction


sfsdfd
03-10-05, 11:45 AM
<a href="http://www.13wham.com/news/national/story.aspx?content_id=422B960A-26BA-4891-9E60-21C8818788D4">link</a>

<b>Ex-Marine Says Public Version of Saddam Capture Fiction</b>

A former U.S. Marine who participated in capturing ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein said the public version of his capture was fabricated.

Ex-Sgt. Nadim Abou Rabeh, of Lebanese descent, was quoted in the Saudi daily al-Medina Wednesday as saying Saddam was actually captured Friday, Dec. 12, 2003, and not the day after, as announced by the U.S. Army.

"I was among the 20-man unit, including eight of Arab descent, who searched for Saddam for three days in the area of Dour near Tikrit, and we found him in a modest home in a small village and not in a hole as announced," Abou Rabeh said.

"We captured him after fierce resistance during which a Marine of Sudanese origin was killed," he said.

He said Saddam himself fired at them with a gun from the window of a room on the second floor. Then they shouted at him in Arabic: "You have to surrender. ... There is no point in resisting."

"Later on, a military production team fabricated the film of Saddam's capture in a hole, which was in fact a deserted well," Abou Rabeh said.

Abou Rabeh was interviewed in Lebanon.
Interesting.

- David Stein

OldDude
03-10-05, 11:50 AM
Interesting, but it makes so little sense:
*Why claim the capture was one day later
*Why fabricate the "hole" story
*If there was "fierce resistance," why did he survive? Bush was pretty clear it would be better if he were found dead. Can't anyone in the Army follow instructions? I always thought he was pretty lucky to have surrendered successfully.

wmansir
03-10-05, 11:55 AM
It sounds more like pro-Saddam propaganda than the revelation of a US conspiracy. If Saddam were holding out as such he would be dead, just like his sons. I don't think the US put much of a premium on capturing him alive, but I could be wrong.

Birrman54
03-10-05, 11:57 AM
Yea I can't believe the US gave a shit if he was found alive. If he had actually resisted, it would have surprised me if he managed to survive.

birrman54

dick_grayson
03-10-05, 11:59 AM
Yea I can't believe the US gave a shit if he was found alive. If he had actually resisted, it would have surprised me if he managed to survive.

birrman54


why? it was great propaghanda and the media had a circus with it.

Birrman54
03-10-05, 12:02 PM
why? it was great propaghanda and the media had a circus with it.

You don't think the media would have had a circus dead or alive? I can't believe the US would have preferred giving Hussein a chance to spout his insane rants in an open trial.

birrman54

dick_grayson
03-10-05, 12:08 PM
You don't think the media would have had a circus dead or alive? I can't believe the US would have preferred giving Hussein a chance to spout his insane rants in an open trial.

birrman54


I think they'd have MORE of a circus with him alive. Him dead doesn't have the same impact. treating him the way they did (like probing a stray dog) was degrading and embarassing (or at least should have been). it was good for the US to show him in custody and in US hands. dead would not have had the same impact.

Tracer Bullet
03-10-05, 12:09 PM
Interesting, but it makes so little sense:
*Why claim the capture was one day later
*Why fabricate the "hole" story
*If there was "fierce resistance," why did he survive? Bush was pretty clear it would be better if he were found dead. Can't anyone in the Army follow instructions? I always thought he was pretty lucky to have surrendered successfully.

*They needed time to create and stage the hole story
*Finding him in a stinking hole, hiding like a rat comes across much better for the government
*Despite what they said, I always believed they wanted him alive. Publicly denegrating Saddam is going to be great for them

I think it makes quite a bit of sense. I'd need more proof and documentation than a single marine, though.

Static Cling
03-10-05, 12:15 PM
Interesting, but it makes so little sense:
*Why claim the capture was one day later
*Why fabricate the "hole" story Yeah, I don't understand the significance of making up the story. Is it that much more significant that he was captured on Day D+1 instead of Day D? And is it that much more significant that he was in a hole (oh, ha ha, the former Iraqi tough guy was found in a hole in the ground, how ironic) than saying that he was arrested after a gun battle with the military? In short, what does the military/government get out of it?

Also, I'm wondering what sort of proof he has that he was 1) in the military and 2) he was part of the team that captured Saddam.

Groucho
03-10-05, 12:23 PM
I agree that it makes no sense to change the story. If anything, the alternate story (ranting Saddam waving a gun around) is even better.

Allow me to be the first to throw down the "Shenanigans" gauntlet.

JasonF
03-10-05, 12:27 PM
If Saddam had been captured dead, there would be a certain portion of the Ba'athists, insurgents, etc., who wouldn't believe we had really captured him, would maintain that he is still out there, etc. Having him alive so all the world can see that yes, it really is Saddam, is better for us.

mikehunt
03-10-05, 12:39 PM
Abou Rabeh was interviewed in Lebanon.

so the first we hear of this conspiracy is from 1 person in Lebanon.
rriiigghhhtttttt

classicman2
03-10-05, 12:56 PM
Is the correct spelling of phony- phony or phoney?

dick_grayson
03-10-05, 12:57 PM
Is the correct spelling of phony- phony or phoney?

phony

sfsdfd
03-10-05, 01:10 PM
Yea I can't believe the US gave a shit if he was found alive. If he had actually resisted, it would have surprised me if he managed to survive.
You must have missed all of the rhetoric for that period - especially concerning Osama bin Laden - that dead bad guys become martyrs who strengthen the cause, while imprisoned bad guys are just kind of pathetic.

- David Stein

sfsdfd
03-10-05, 01:14 PM
I agree that it makes no sense to change the story. If anything, the alternate story (ranting Saddam waving a gun around) is even better.
Are you kidding? By characterizing him as a guy hiding in a hole eating rats does two things: (a) it makes him appear to be a Gollum-like goblin creature, hence undeniably evil; (b) it makes him appear completely cowardly, hence deflating the morale of his supporters.
Allow me to be the first to throw down the "Shenanigans" gauntlet.
Even as I was posting it, I thought it sounded a little like those military employment documents from last August. Either way, it's interesting.

- David Stein

B.A.
03-10-05, 01:17 PM
I repeat the call that "we need more proof."

mikehunt
03-10-05, 01:35 PM
so did they fake his hair/beard and other aspects of his disheveled look too?

Venusian
03-10-05, 01:45 PM
http://www.newkerala.com/news-daily/news/features.php?action=fullnews&id=83213


[World News]: RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, March 9 : Pentagon officials dismissed as "ridiculous" and untrue a report that the capture of Saddam Hussein in Iraq was staged.

Ranger
03-10-05, 01:45 PM
The source of this story is an interview with a Saudi paper? Whatever.

OldDude
03-10-05, 02:30 PM
You must have missed all of the rhetoric for that period - especially concerning Osama bin Laden - that dead bad guys become martyrs who strengthen the cause, while imprisoned bad guys are just kind of pathetic.

- David Stein

Oddly, mostly from liberals. Bush was pretty clear he preferred the dead. Whatever you feel about him, he seems to say what's on his mind. If he really wanted them alive, I don't think he would have said he wanted them dead.

dick_grayson
03-10-05, 02:33 PM
Oddly, mostly from liberals. Bush was pretty clear he preferred the dead. Whatever you feel about him, he seems to say what's on his mind. If he really wanted them alive, I don't think he would have said he wanted them dead.


I think you've got Saddam confused with Osama bin Laden......and that makes two of you. ;)

OldDude
03-10-05, 03:18 PM
No, we want all those miscreants dead, Zaqawi, too.

Myster X
03-10-05, 03:33 PM
this must be somebody's backyard
http://content.clearchannel.com/Photos/military/iraq/Saddam_Captured/saddam_hole2_ChrisHondrus2.jpg

according to this site.
http://www.nationalledger.com/scribe/archives/2005/03/index.shtml

His story is a load of bull. Saddam was captured by Task Force 121, which is composed mainly of Delta Force. No Marines participated in the capture of Saddam Hussein. He's just another person looking to make a quick buck.

I don't think any money can be made, it's likely more for propaganda for the America-haters in the Middle East.

But NC then links to this post on something called "Awful forums."

First of all, there were no major Marine units in Iraq at the time that Saddam was captured. The last Marines to leave Iraq left at the end of September '03 (I was in the last Marine convoy to leave Iraq, trust me on this one). Marines did not re-enter Iraq en masse until January of '04.

Second, I tried searching the Marine Locator on Marine Online, this guy has no account (something that's been required for a few years now).

Third, I tried searching the Marine Corps Uniform Board tool for looking up who has been approved for a Combat Action Ribbon (something he would have received had he, you know, ever been shot at or shot at someone), his name does not show up (tool located here.)

Fourth, I looked up who was killed around that time here and couldn't find either anyone of Sudanese descent, nor any Marines (goes back to my first point) killed around that time.

Interesting.

This ex-Marine, Nadim Abou Rabeh, has a lot of explaining to do to make his story and his timeline valid. In less than a day, his story is falling apart.

There is a fabrication somewhere, but right now the finger is pointing at Nadim Abou Rabeh.

eXcentris
03-10-05, 03:40 PM
We need more proof but considering the several accounts claiming that the toppling of Saddam's statue was also a carefully staged media event, I woudn't be surprised.

VinVega
03-10-05, 03:45 PM
I'm really skeptical of this "new version" of events.

OldDude
03-10-05, 04:02 PM
Well, now UPI seems to be saying the "ex-Marine's" account is the bogus account.
http://www.washtimes.com/upi-breaking/20050309-070805-3293r.htm
DOD dismisses claims on Saddam capture



Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Mar. 9 (UPI) -- Pentagon officials dismissed as "ridiculous" and untrue a report that the capture of Saddam Hussein in Iraq was staged.

A Saudi Arabian newspaper reported Tuesday that a former U.S. Marine, now living in Lebanon, claimed the Iraqi dictator had been captured earlier by a small team of troops, and forced into the now famous "spider hole" to play a role in a film fabricated by the U.S. military to make Saddam look bad.

United Press International published a summary of the newspaper report without seeking Pentagon comment.

The newspaper al-Medina said former-Marine Sgt. Nadim Abou Rabeh claimed Saddam Hussein was caught by a 20-man unit a day before the Army said he was captured. Rabeh said Saddam Hussein was found in a house, and a gun battle ensued that killed one of Marine.

The U.S. Army's 4th Infantry Division announced Dec. 14 that Saddam Hussein had been captured in a massive operation on Dec. 13. He was discovered, bearded and disoriented, in a small underground chamber.

Saddam was captured near Tikrit in an operation led by the 4th Infantry Division. The operation involved about 600 troops.


Want to use this article? Click here for options!
Copyright 2005 United Press International

Tracer Bullet
03-10-05, 04:37 PM
Pentagon officials dismissed as "ridiculous" and untrue a report that the capture of Saddam Hussein in Iraq was staged.

To be fair, this is what they have to say.

OldDude
03-10-05, 05:02 PM
Yeah, we all know an unknown paper in Saui Arabia is more reliable than the DoD, their reports can be taken as complete fact, just like the Onion, and fact checking is a waste of time and money when any competent journalist could be bashing the administration instead.

Or as the WSJ says,
http://www.opinionjournal.com/best/?id=110006398
BY JAMES TARANTO
Thursday, March 10, 2005 3:49 p.m. EST

UPI Goes Monkeyfishing
"A former U.S. Marine who participated in capturing ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein said the public version of his capture was fabricated," reports United Press International:

Ex-Sgt. Nadim Abou Rabeh, of Lebanese descent, was quoted in the Saudi daily al-Medina Wednesday as saying Saddam was actually captured Friday, Dec. 12, 2003, and not the day after, as announced by the U.S. Army.

"I was among the 20-man unit, including eight of Arab descent, who searched for Saddam for three days in the area of Dour near Tikrit, and we found him in a modest home in a small village and not in a hole as announced," Abou Rabeh said.

"We captured him after fierce resistance during which a Marine of Sudanese origin was killed," he said. . . .

"Later on, a military production team fabricated the film of Saddam's capture in a hole, which was in fact a deserted well," Abou Rabeh said.

A translation of the original Saudi story is here. Elements of it are easily checkable, and they don't check out. This site lists all U.S. combat fatalities in Iraq. On Dec. 12, 2003, two men were killed in action: Jarrod Black and Jeffrey Braun. Both were soldiers, not Marines; and neither one has a Sudanese-sounding (i.e., Arabic) surname. Nor were any Marines or any servicemen with Arab-sounding names killed on Dec. 10 or 11.

As CNN noted at the time, Saddam was captured by the Fourth Infantry Division, and it's not clear why Marines would be along on an Army operation. There is little doubt that both al-Medina and UPI have fallen for a hoax.

Tracer Bullet
03-10-05, 06:47 PM
Yeah, we all know an unknown paper in Saui Arabia is more reliable than the DoD, their reports can be taken as complete fact, just like the Onion, and fact checking is a waste of time and money when any competent journalist could be bashing the administration instead.

Or as the WSJ says,
http://www.opinionjournal.com/best/?id=110006398

Do you work for the DoD or something? All I said was that they have no choice but to deny this story, true or not. I said before that such an even doesn't sound implausible, but I'd need actual proof.

classicman2
03-10-05, 07:16 PM
Do you work for the DoD or something? All I said was that they have no choice but to deny this story, true or not. I said before that such an even doesn't sound implausible, but I'd need actual proof.

What proof would you require to believe the DOD's version?

Would any 'actual proof' satisfy you?

Tracer Bullet
03-10-05, 07:24 PM
What proof would you require to believe the DOD's version?

Would any 'actual proof' satisfy you?

Certainly not just the DoD basically putting its fingers in its ears repeating "lalalalalala" over and over. As I said before, the DoD would have to deny this story, true or not, and they have offered no actual evidence that it isn't true. They just expect a denial to be believed.

I said in a previous post that I don't believe the account. I also said it didn't seem implausible.

Factual errors in the original Saudi newspaper story are definitely not good for this marine's story.

kvrdave
03-10-05, 07:25 PM
Well, now UPI seems to be saying the "ex-Marine's" account is the bogus account.


Easy, Cowboy. This is something some people want to believe, and it is probably best that we let the glimmer of hope stay in their eyes awhile.

Because they want it to be true, it is possible that it is true, and thus, anything contrary doesn't matter.


By the way, I just heard that Saddam actually killed 10 men with a toothpick before they got him. He actually agreed to be "captured" because he loves the people of the world. Run with it. :lol:

nevermind
03-10-05, 07:52 PM
By the way, I just heard that Saddam actually killed 10 men with a toothpick before they got him. He actually agreed to be "captured" because he loves the people of the world. Run with it. :lol:

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/media/evening_news/images/rather3.jpg

AND I JUST STEPPED DOWN YESTERDAY?!?!?.


FUCK.

OldDude
03-10-05, 10:10 PM
Easy, Cowboy. This is something some people want to believe, and it is probably best that we let the glimmer of hope stay in their eyes awhile.

Jeez, I didn't even bring up the conservative blogs that have already proved there was no one with this name in the Marines at the time.
(you can do your own search. I wasn't too sure of their evidence.)

Amazing that no one who "wants to believe" has searched for or found a single shred of supporting evidence, they just have faith that DoD couldn't possibly being telling the truth and some Arab rag undoubtedly is.

Clearly, UPI, has "stepped away" from their story that they broke. :lol:

DVD Polizei
03-10-05, 11:41 PM
A former U.S. Marine who participated in capturing ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein said the public version of his capture was fabricated.

Ex-Sgt. Nadim Abou Rabeh, of Lebanese descent, was quoted in the Saudi daily al-Medina Wednesday as saying Saddam was actually captured Friday, Dec. 12, 2003, and not the day after, as announced by the U.S. Army.

----

Bolded for easy identification of a line of bullshit. :)

Venusian
03-11-05, 07:13 AM
By the way, I just heard that Saddam actually killed 10 men with a toothpick before they got him. He actually agreed to be "captured" because he loves the people of the world. Run with it. :lol:

well... the DoD would have to deny this story, true or not, and they have offered no actual evidence that it isn't true. They just expect a denial to be believed.

so I guess we should put the burden of proof on the DoD...sounds like Saddam is a toothpick weilding nice guy

Tracer Bullet
03-11-05, 08:40 AM
well... the DoD would have to deny this story, true or not, and they have offered no actual evidence that it isn't true. They just expect a denial to be believed.

so I guess we should put the burden of proof on the DoD...sounds like Saddam is a toothpick weilding nice guy

That's exactly what I've been saying, and OldDude was jumping on me for not believing the DoD, as if they're my grandmother.

Simply saying that the DoD would have to deny this story is not the same thing as believing it's true.

sracer
03-11-05, 09:09 AM
What proof would you require to believe the DOD's version?

Would any 'actual proof' satisfy you?
Has the DoD released stories on aspects of the War in Iraq that were later "corrected" or "clarified"?

What was the DoD's original story about the female solider that was captured? I don't remember her name, but I do remember hearing about how she took out 12 enemies after being shot.... a real-life "Rambette". Wasn't that story later "corrected"?

classicman2
03-11-05, 09:22 AM
I never said I believe everything DOD tells us.

And, neither do I believe everything that the media tells us.

I certainly don't believe everything that ex-Generals or soldiers say - especially what they say a rather long time after the event.

In this case, however, it seems (barring some proof) that the DOD's account of Saddam's capture is more plausible.

chanster
03-11-05, 01:25 PM
I love this little stupid game the Bush haters or U.S. military haters play. Someone writes a story, with zero credible evidence, and then it is accepted as truth. Most notably, this technique was seen in full force during the election in this forum, when people were posting articles saying "BUSH IS ACTING LIKE A MAN ON COCAINE WITHDRAWAL" and then somehow the burden of proof gets shifted to prove the story false. I thought we had moved past that mostly, I guess not.

dick_grayson
03-11-05, 01:28 PM
I love this little stupid game the Bush haters or U.S. military haters play. Someone writes a story, with zero credible evidence, and then it is accepted as truth. Most notably, this technique was seen in full force during the election in this forum, when people were posting articles saying "BUSH IS ACTING LIKE A MAN ON COCAINE WITHDRAWAL" and then somehow the burden of proof gets shifted to prove the story false. I thought we had moved past that mostly, I guess not.


I don't consider saying something is "interesting" as being accepted as truth. try reading the posts. no one has accepted it as true. you are going to break your neck on that slippery slope of yours :p

chanster
03-11-05, 01:31 PM
Weren't you the one who posted the article about Bush being on cocaine withdrawal? Talk about a slippery slope.

dick_grayson
03-11-05, 01:32 PM
Weren't you the one who posted the article about Bush being on cocaine withdrawal? Talk about a slippery slope.

not that I'm aware of


EDIT: I couldn't find anything that anyone posted regarding Bush and cocaine withdrawal (although I don't doubt that the joke was made) So I'm pretty sure it wasn't me......so feel free to acknowledge that no one said they took it as fact. ;)

Static Cling
03-11-05, 06:44 PM
Has the DoD released stories on aspects of the War in Iraq that were later "corrected" or "clarified"? Hasn't the DoD released many, many stories on aspects of the War in Iraq that needed no later correction or clarification? Is it just easier to focus on those high profile stories that got retracted?

OldDude
03-11-05, 07:29 PM
Here's an interview from last summer with the translator who was with the Army unit that captured Saddam. The photo gallery includes pictures of him with Saddam, when captured, as well as back home in St. Louis. So who's story is more believable, his or the mysterious Sgt. Rabeh, who no one has actually verified the existence of, or talked to (except an Arab paper that we all known, isn't generally known for truth).
http://ksdk.com/news/news_article.aspx?storyid=64178
Local Man Tells Of Helping Capture Saddam
created: 7/23/2004 7:50:02 PM
updated: 7/26/2004 12:14:52 PM

St. Louis area man who helped troops capture Saddam.

By Deanne Lane

More: Photo Gallery

(KSDK) -- It's a world famous photograph, showing a man wearing military camouflage holding Saddam Hussein down on the ground. What few people knew, until now, that man lives in the St. Louis area.

"I just told myself it can't be, no way," says Samir, 34. He's asked us not to use his last name, or identify exactly where he lives.

Samir worked with the military as an interpreter. He was at the remote farm on December 13th when U.S. forces discovered a secret hiding place. The next few minutes would feel like a lifetime for Samir.

"We saw the hole for the bunker, but it hard to believe someone live in that hole. It was really small," Samir remembers. "They shot in there and he started yelling, "Don't shoot, don't shoot, don't kill me.'" So I had to talk to him. I was the translator. I said, 'Just come out.' He kept saying, 'Don't shoot. Don't kill me.'"

In Arabic, Samir said he continued to pursuade Saddam to come out. He was about to come face to face with the tyrant who killed his loved ones.

Saddam was the reason he fled Iraq in 1991 and eventually moved to St. Louis.

Samir says, "I was like, 'I got him.'" We all reached him and pulled him out. And we say Saddam Hussein he looks really old. He looks disgusting." There was also anger, "You want to beat the crap out of him. He destroyed millions in Iraq. I'm one. I left my family 13 years ago because of him."

Saddam couldn't fight back, but he did speak out, "He called me a spy. He called me a traitor. I had to punch him in face. They had to hold me back. I got so angry I almost lost my mind. I didn't know what to do. Choke him to death. That's really not good enough."

For Samir, this was sweet justice. One of Iraq's own, now a U.S. citizen, helping arrest one of the world's most wanted fugitives, "I said 'Who are you? What's your name?' He replied, 'I'm Saddam.' 'Saddam what?' I asked. He said, 'Don't yell. I'm Saddam Hussein."

Now, many months later, Samir had another emotional moment in store. He would meet the leader of the free world, when President Bush attended a campaign rally in St. Charles, "I told him I'm the one who had to talk to Saddam and the first one who grabbed him."

Samir says he spoke from the heart, "This is the message from Iraqis and my family. They want to thank you to free Iraqis from Saddam. And he said, 'You're welcome.'"

During their meeting, Mr. Bush received a photo from Samir, and special beads that Samir's parents gave him for protection. "It's like a blessing. It's important to me and I want you to have it. He tapped me on shoulder and said, 'Great work.'"

Soon, Samir will return overseas for more work as an interpreter. He says he's glad to do it for the country he now calls home, "I don't call myself hero. I call it lucky. A lot of people helped, but I was there at the right time."

SunMonkey
03-12-05, 07:48 AM
And it's not like Saddam might have something to say about the US story if it weren't true.

DarkestPhoenix
03-12-05, 08:06 AM
Pssshaw.

They caught him a day before that.

This guy's a paid conspirator.

sracer
03-12-05, 09:53 AM
Hasn't the DoD released many, many stories on aspects of the War in Iraq that needed no later correction or clarification? Is it just easier to focus on those high profile stories that got retracted?
Sure it's easier. But by examing those that were retracted, clarified, corrected we might be able identify a pattern.

If the previous "big news worthy" DoD releases have been true, then it is highly likely that Hussein's capture was as it was described. But if previous high-profile stories were later amended/corrected then it at least gives someone some reason to wonder if the event, as reported, was accurate.

I know that we're still in a war. I know that it is important for the DoD to do what it feels is necessary to protect our troops and to win. And if the actual capture of Hussein happened differently than the DoD initially reported, it doesn't effect the essential truths of why we're there and what the objectives are.

It really is just idle speculation by those of us comfortably state-side. If I were out there with you guys, I wouldn't have spent more than 1/2 second thinking about it.

It's easy to lose perspective sometimes. :(

Static Cling
03-12-05, 10:36 AM
If the previous "big news worthy" DoD releases have been true, then it is highly likely that Hussein's capture was as it was described. But if previous high-profile stories were later amended/corrected then it at least gives someone some reason to wonder if the event, as reported, was accurate. I think that the high-profile "good news" stories that don't get retracted blend into the background with the rest of the good news stories. There are plenty of stories of heroism that are either reported once or not at all, and then aren't reported on again because there's really nothing else to report about them... no scandal or misconduct, nothing juicy like that.

However, the high-profile stories that get amended/corrected (Jessica Lynch & Pat Tillman come to mind) become even BIGGER profile stories in the media, and so we focus on them because they're pushed at us so hard.

bhk
03-13-05, 10:33 AM
I'd like to add:





Free Mike Hawash

Jazzbutcher
03-16-05, 09:57 AM
The military staging an event for the media? Preposterous!

http://www.gwu.edu/~ww2/pics/macarthur.gif

http://www.childrensmuseum.org/birthday/images/iwo_jima.jpg

Pistol Pete
04-27-05, 04:15 PM
Here's (http://riverfronttimes.com/issues/2005-04-13/news/feature.html) a more in-depth story on the fellow. It's long, but quoted here for archival and highlighting purpose.


"I Punched Saddam in the Mouth"
Meet Samir, the St. Louis auto mechanic who pulled Saddam Hussein from his spider hole
BY CHAD GARRISON

In a south-city Saint Louis Bread Co., a young auto mechanic named Samir puts down his coffee long enough to carefully eye the other patrons. Assured no one is paying him any mind, he lowers his voice to a guttural whisper, fidgets with the zipper on his black tracksuit and rubs his grease-stained fingers along a finely manicured goatee. Then, in a syncopated rhythm of street slang and accented English, he transports himself back in time to a bitter-cold December night in Iraq.

It had to have been the most sublime moment of his life. Samir tells how he arrived in Tikrit as an Arabic interpreter for United States Special Forces in late 2003, how he peered into a hidden bunker and heard a voice begging for mercy, how he reached into the darkness and pulled out Saddam Hussein.

"I was so angry," says Samir, who immigrated to St. Louis eleven years ago after fleeing Iraq. "I began cussing at him, calling him a motherfucker, a son-of-a-bitch -- you name it. I told him I was Shiite from the south and was part of the revolution against him in 1991. I said he murdered my uncles and cousins. He imprisoned my father.

"All these years of anger, I couldn't stop. I tried to say the worst things I could. I told him if he were a real man he would have killed himself. I asked him: 'Why are you living in that dirty little hole, you bastard? You are a rat. Your father is a rat.'"

In Arabic, Saddam told Samir to shut up. And when Saddam called him a traitor, an enraged Samir silenced his prisoner with a flurry of quick jabs to the face.

"I punched Saddam in the mouth."

Samir's extravagant story is difficult to believe -- until he pulls out his laptop computer and rifles through the dozens of photographs he shot that night. There's the photo of Samir posed next to the bodyguard who will ultimately lead U.S. forces to Saddam. There's the photo of Samir standing behind the stack of $12 million in U.S. currency seized near Saddam's hideout. And there's the most riveting image of all: Samir kneeling behind the bruised and bloodied dictator just minutes after his inglorious capture.

"I would die for this picture," Samir says. "Without this photo, no one would believe me."

It's largely because of the photos that Samir insists his last name not be used for this article. He's afraid that extremists loyal to Saddam, or opposed to the U.S. invasion, will retaliate against him or members of his family who continue to live in Iraq.

But more than that, Samir's anonymity as a 34-year-old civilian contractor free from military censor enables him to openly discuss the spellbinding saga. His version is far more real-to-life than the "official" Pentagon account.

<hr>
The high drama began to unfold around noon on Saturday, December 13, 2003, when Special Forces delivered one of Saddam's bodyguards to a U.S.-controlled palace outside Tikrit.

Intelligence officials had long viewed the bodyguard as a crucial linchpin in finding the tyrant. In a room deep within the palace, the officials and Samir went to work interrogating Saddam's protector.

"At first he lied to us; he said he didn't know anything," recalls Samir, who questioned the bodyguard in a plush recliner called the "Baath Chair" -- nicknamed for its role in interrogating members of Saddam's Baath Party.

"We made threats to him. Routine stuff, saying we would beat him. Finally, after a couple of hours, he said he knew. Saddam was on a farm."

Army soldiers had searched the small farm outside Tikrit twice before and failed to find any evidence of Saddam being there. Compelled to follow up on the tip, Samir, the bodyguard and several intelligence officers piled into a van and headed out for the hunt.

"He told us that the farmers on the land were serving as lookouts, so we didn't want to get too close," Samir says.

From a distance, the bodyguard-turned-informant pointed out the two-room farmhouse. He said Saddam was living in it and told of an underground bunker where the dictator might hide.

The reconnaissance complete, the group returned to the palace. By nightfall a brigade of some 600 soldiers from the U.S. Army's Fourth Infantry Division was in place, along with an armada of eight support helicopters flown in from Baghdad. The raid was imminent.

At 6:30 p.m. the brigade pulled out of the palace with Samir and the bodyguard riding in the lead Humvee. To keep warm, Samir wore a black stocking cap decorated with a St. Louis Rams insignia. So as not to draw attention, none of the vehicles in the convoy turned on its headlights. But even with the aid of night-vision goggles, it was tough going.

"It was so hard to see, and the bodyguard kept pointing us down the wrong dirt roads," Samir recalls. "I was yelling at him and slapping him. I don't think he was trying to get us lost, but we were getting frustrated."
When they arrived at the farm, soldiers quickly detained two of the three farmers who had served as lookouts for Saddam; the third one was never found.

Back at the farmhouse, Special Forces couldn't find Saddam or the hidden bunker.

"The farmers wouldn't tell us anything," says Samir. "We were beating the shit out of them, but they weren't talking."

Desperate, they pulled the bodyguard from the Humvee and demanded that he tell them the location of the bunker.

Samir thought the bodyguard was again trying to deceive them when he told the soldiers they were actually standing on top of Saddam's secret bunker.

"I gave him a few slaps on the face and said, 'What do you mean I'm standing on it?' We couldn't see anything. All there was was dirt and leaves. But we got some shovels off the trucks and started digging. Immediately we hit something."

Samir says a soldier fired several blank rounds into the bunker's exposed opening, and a man's voice cried out from the spider hole, pleading for his life.

"He said, 'Don't shoot. Don't kill me,'" recounts Samir.

Peering into the hole, Samir could make out only part of the man. In Arabic, Samir told the fugitive that if he wanted to live, he needed to get out now. When Samir asked to see the man's hands, he showed his right hand, and then his left, but he wouldn't show both at the same time.

"No, I want to see both your hands," Samir yelled.

Keeping an eye on the man's hands, Samir plunged into the hole and grabbed the prisoner. Samir says he knew right away that it was the deposed dictator.

"He smelled bad, like a homeless person, and had the long beard and hair, but I knew it was Saddam. I told everyone, 'It's Saddam. It's Saddam!'"

Unconvinced, Special Forces had Samir ask the captive his identity. When the man answered that his name was Saddam, Samir says he shook him by his hair and dirt-matted beard.

"I said, 'Yeah, Saddam what? Saddam what?' Finally he said, 'Hussein.'"

Upon hearing that, Samir unleashed years of pent-up rage.

"I told him that I was going to fuck him up the ass. That we were all going to fuck him up the ass. I told him he was a criminal and a murderer. I hit him and spit in his face. I stepped my foot on his head and his back. He wasn't crying, but I think he was shocked. No one had ever treated him this way."

The beating over, Samir tossed his digital camera to a nearby soldier, who quickly snapped a shot of Samir kneeling over the fallen despot.

Later, when the world's most wanted man was whisked onto an awaiting helicopter, Samir remembers Saddam muttering to himself in English, asking the same question again and again: "America, why? America, why?"
An hour later, as Saddam sat in the Baath Chair for his initial interrogation, Samir joined an adrenaline-fueled celebration taking place in a makeshift palace bar. Samir and his photos became the center of attention. Several members of Special Forces abandoned their Heinekens long enough to download the photos onto their laptops.

It was a hell of a party, Samir recalls, but amid the back slaps, toasts and laughter, he felt a nervous twinge in his gut. During the capture Samir's commanding officer scolded him for taking the photo of Saddam, and now he panicked that the attention surrounding the picture could raise further ire.

Before going to bed that night, Samir downloaded the photos onto his laptop, replaced the camera's memory card with a new one and hid the chip containing the images deep within his luggage.

<hr>
Samir was a twenty-year-old college student living in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah when he joined a civilian uprising against Saddam. It was 1991, and U.S. and coalition fighters had just declared a ceasefire after liberating Kuwait.

Encouraged by the Republican Guard's swift defeat, Samir grabbed the family AK-47 and joined thousands of southern Shiites organizing a massive rebellion. In hindsight, Samir says, the revolution was doomed from the start.

The ceasefire allowed Saddam to regroup and launch a counterattack against his own people. It soon became clear that the United States never planned to assist the Shiites with any tactical support. The failure of the U.S. government to provide military assistance during the uprising still strikes a sour chord with Samir and countless other Shiites.

"We were defenseless," fumes Samir. "Saddam began a retaliation campaign with tanks and helicopters. Our guns were useless."

Samir lost a cousin in the fighting. In other anti-Saddam strongholds, such as the southern city of Basra, Saddam's forces slaughtered thousands. Republican Guard tanks were reported to be painted with the message "After today, no more Shiites."

"I knew I had to leave," reflects Samir. "Everyone in my village knew I was part of the uprising. It was only a matter of time before [Saddam's forces] would kill me."

Three weeks after taking up arms, Samir told his parents he was going to flee the country. Reluctantly they agreed.

For 500 dinar (about $3.50 at the time) a smuggler hid Samir in the back of a van and drove him within twenty miles of U.S. military fortifications along the Iraqi-Saudi Arabian border. Samir would walk the rest of the journey, crossing desert and barren farmland before surrendering himself to a U.S. soldier.

A few days later, he boarded a military cargo plane for the remote desert camp of Rafha in north-central Saudi Arabia. Samir spent the next three and a half years in the sprawling tent city, which, in the year following the war, swelled to a population of more than 33,000 Iraqi refugees.

Samir describes his time at Rafha as intolerably boring and uncomfortable. Temperatures in the desert routinely rose to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, and blinding sandstorms blanketed everything in mounds of dirt and grime.

During his second year at the camp, Samir began receiving letters from his cousin Zeiad al-Hachami, one of the first Iraqi refugees to win asylum in the United States. Zeiad's letters from his new home in St. Louis convinced Samir that he wanted to resettle in America.

"It sounded so good," says Samir, whose fascination with America was forged as a child, when he watched the cowboy westerns of John Wayne and Clint Eastwood.

A few years later, when Samir was granted asylum, he told immigration officials he wanted to live in St. Louis. His first impression of the Gateway City might be well suited for the city's visitor-guide propaganda.

"I thought it was Heaven," says Samir. "Everything was so green and clean. Coming from the middle of the desert, it was a big deal. It was beautiful."

<hr>
Samir didn't sleep a wink the night he unearthed Saddam. Long after the party, he lay in bed replaying the unforgettable mission over and over in his mind. He pulled his laptop to the corner of the bed and once again viewed the image of him posed behind the handcuffed despot. At 6 a.m. he placed a call to St. Louis.

Mohammad Al-Baaj took the call in his south St. Louis home. Mohammed and Samir's fathers are best friends in Iraq, and their children have known each other all their lives.

"He told me to turn on CNN," recounts Mohammad, a brawny and jovial man. Weeks after casting his ballot in the January Iraqi national election, Mohammad still wears the purple dye on his index finger that marks him as a voter.

"He said he did something amazing but couldn't tell me. I didn't know what to think. I watched CNN from nine o'clock till four in the morning -- nothing. Finally I'm going to bed around four a.m., and they say that Saddam Hussein had been captured.

"A few hours later, Samir called me back. I said, 'You my man! Tonight I'm going to throw a party for you even if you can't be here. I'm going to throw a party.'"

There were no parties for Samir when he first arrived in America in the spring of 1994. He landed in St. Louis with just six dollars in his pocket, and he could barely speak English. Since then he's gained a vast network of Iraqi and American friends, and parlayed his love of automobiles toward making a comfortable living.

"He is a darn good mechanic," enthuses Nadir Malik, general manager of the airport shuttle service TransExpress, who hired Samir as a driver in 2001, only to learn later on that he was also talented under the hood. "Samir could dissect a military tank and put it back together in the same day. He's that good."

While working for TransExpress in the first few months of 2003, Samir again became swept up in efforts to topple Saddam's regime. At the time, President George W. Bush delivered an ultimatum threatening war if the Iraqi government did not allow United Nations weapons inspectors access to the country.

It took but a few hours for Samir to ace a screening exam qualifying him as an Arabic/English interpreter for the U.S. military. Days later he received his first assignment: He was to report immediately to Kuwait.

On May 2, 2003, Bush landed on the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln -- its tower adorned with a huge sign that read "Mission Accomplished" -- to announce an end to combat operations in Iraq.

Arriving in Kuwait, Samir worried he'd missed all the action and was told there would be little use for him now. Demanding to be reassigned, he was dispatched to Tallil Airbase in Iraq and given the job of interviewing civilians and interrogating prisoners.

After his plane touched down in the dead of night in the second week of May 2003, Samir learned that the airbase was just outside his hometown of Nasiriyah.

"The first thing I told my boss was that I was from Nasiriyah and hadn't been back since 1991," says Samir. "She freaked out. She could not believe it. She said, 'Tomorrow we will take you to find your family.'"

The next morning Samir hopped on a Humvee for the half-hour drive to his parents' home. The entire neighborhood, some 700 residents, poured into the streets to greet him.

"It was an awesome feeling," he says. "I felt like I was coming with the U.S. forces to free my family. It was the best feeling of my life."

Samir saw his parents often over the course of his six-month deployment in Nasiriyah, many times bringing with him soldiers from the airbase to share in meals and family celebrations. When his contract lapsed in October 2003, Samir returned to the States and immediately signed up for a second tour.

Within a few weeks he was again in Iraq, but this time, instead of being stationed in the relatively docile south, Samir was assigned to the northern city of Tikrit, where elite U.S. forces were engaged in a massive manhunt to find Saddam Hussein.

Ten days after Saddam's capture, an Army officer burst into Samir's room, demanding his photos. "He said officials at the Pentagon saw the photo with Saddam on the Internet and were pissed," recalls Samir.

It was months before the scandal of Abu Ghraib would break, but in hindsight Samir believes the military was doing some pre-emptive damage control. The picture of Samir gloating over Saddam could be seen as degrading, perhaps incriminating. A close inspection of the photo reveals blood on Saddam's lips where Samir's fists landed their mark.

"I begged him not to take the photos. I made a huge scene," recounts Samir. "But he took my laptop and erased everything. Even things that were in the trash can."

In reality, Samir's protests were merely illusory, for he had hidden away scores of copies of the photos, even going so far as to pass some along to fellow interpreters for safekeeping.

Today, military officials maintain they know of Samir's pictures but are unaware of any efforts to destroy the images.

"That may have happened to a certain extent on a local level, but it wasn't an objective here at Central Command," says Captain Alison Salerno, a public-affairs officer with the military's Tampa-based Central Command. "In a lot of situations the military frowns on so-called souvenir photos, and in this case the interpreter should've been instructed that private photos of a detainee that show their faces are not appropriate."

For his part, Samir is unapologetic.

"What were they going to do? Fire me? Send me home? Fine."

Samir remains adamant that he never released the pictures onto the Internet and speculates the leak might have come from Special Forces.

Within days of finding its way online, Samir's photo with Saddam was splashed across newspapers and televisions around the world. In Iraq, the news that the man who captured Saddam was an Iraqi made Samir's face -- if not his name -- a well-known image.

For months after returning to St. Louis, Samir kept a low profile. Few people outside the city's Iraqi community (estimated to be some 3,000 people) knew the identity of the man in the photo.

"I was scared to talk about it outside of my friends," says Samir. "I didn't know what might happen. In general, lots of people say they were happy about the capture of Saddam, but I know there are a lot of people out there who don't agree. They support Saddam or don't think the United States should be there."

It was only last summer -- after a friend with connections to the Missouri Republican Party arranged a meeting between Samir and President George W. Bush -- that Samir's story became public.

The meeting, held prior to Bush's campaign stop at the St. Charles Family Arena last July, lasted just a few minutes. Samir relayed to the president his story of capturing Saddam and presented him a gift of Iraqi beads signifying good luck. Bush told Samir he was immensely proud.

Samir's boss at the time, Nadir Malik, says Samir was back at work replacing a transmission just hours after meeting the president.

"It was unbelievable in a sense," recalls Malik. "I said, 'You just met the leader of the free world, and now you're covered in grease working on an engine?' But that's very much like Samir, he's pretty laid back."

Later, CNN and other outlets would grab the story. In January, a film crew from the cable network trailed Samir, Mohammad Al-Baaj and two other St. Louis residents of Iraqi descent as they drove Samir's green BMW 740 to Nashville to register to vote in the nation's first democratic elections in more than 50 years.

Followed to the polling station by the television cameras, Samir soon found himself surrounded by a crowd of Iraqi nationals.

"At first there were a dozen, then fifty," Samir says with a grin. "Soon there were probably a hundred people. It was amazing."

CNN led the story with the following teaser: "It's a world-famous photograph showing a man in military camouflage holding Saddam Hussein down on the ground. What you may not know is that the man actually lives in the St. Louis area. He was working with the U.S. military as a interpreter when American forces discovered Saddam's secret hiding place. Well, he ended being the first person to grab Saddam as he crawled out of his spider hole."

<hr>
After learning that Samir wore a St. Louis Rams cap during Saddam's capture, the football team last season comped him several pairs of front-row tickets at the Edward Jones Dome.

More recently he was honored by the arena football franchise, River City Rage, which invited him to speak at a press conference last month announcing the team's new season and new ownership group.

Orchestrating the event was Ed Watkins, a slender man outfitted in a dark suit coat and a pair of wrinkled khakis. Watkins owned the franchise for the previous two seasons when it played under the pious moniker the Believers, and he was not about to hand off the team without a bit of last-minute pageantry.

"One of the great things about this country is our ability to express our opinion," Watkins told the two-dozen or so folks who crammed their way into a hotel conference room to witness the meeting. "That said, I'm doggone happy to present to you a man who's a hero in Iraq and here."

Samir strode confidently to the podium, dapperly attired in the English-cut suit and red-and-white tie he wears only for such events as this. He proceeded to recite a G-rated version of what is by now a well-rehearsed story and concluded his speech by expressing heartfelt regret that he would be unable to attend the team's home opener. Samir had been scheduled to be the special guest during a halftime performance titled "Honor America."

With misty brown eyes, he told the crowd: "I won't be here, but my heart will be."

Samir's friends say that away from the media spotlight, he's changed little since the night of December 13, 2003. He still wears his everyday uniform, a black tracksuit and Air Jordan sneakers, and works out daily at Bally's in Clayton. And he's more than willing to provide free auto service to friends.

Samir is quick to anger when people dismiss the necessity of the U.S. invasion of Iraq -- or, even worse, when they question the validity of Saddam's capture.

Such was the case early last month when United Press International ran a story debunking the public version of Saddam's capture. Based on an interview a former U.S. Marine gave to a Saudi newspaper, the article, which received scant attention, said Saddam was apprehended a day earlier than the official reported date of Saturday, December 13, and surrendered only after an intense firefight.

The ex-Marine, Nadim Abou Rabeh, of Lebanese descent, also said Saddam was not taken from the clutches of the spider hole but found in a modest home in a small village. Nadim claimed, too, that a military production team later fabricated the film of Saddam removed from the hole.

"People will believe what they want to believe," scoffs Samir, who heard the story but paid it no mind. "I was there. I know what happened."

Samir says that the night he took down Saddam has led him to pursue a higher purpose in life. He recently turned down a friend's offer of $60,000 a year to run his auto shop.

"I want to do something bigger than my old job," he says. "My life has changed big time because of Saddam and because of the war. I want to continue to be part of this."

<hr>
Late last month Samir returned to Iraq for the third time since the fall of Saddam's regime. This time he's working not as a interpreter but as a political and cultural consultant in the U.S. government's rebuilding efforts. The job can earn Samir in excess of $100,000 a year, though he says he'd do it for half as much.

As to the risks of arbitrary suicide bombings, Samir says he'd rather die in Iraq than here in a car accident or from a heart attack.

"Everyone dies one day," he muses. "Dying with honor is better than dying with nothing. At least you're going to be remembered."

Such bravado hardly surprises Mohammad Al-Baaj, who says his friend has never been lacking in confidence.

"He told me that maybe now he'll capture Osama Bin Laden," cracks Mohammad. "I'm just jealous that I wasn't there when he captured Saddam -- to smack him around and say bad things to him. Can you imagine? I guarantee you Saddam will never forget that experience. He'll never forget Samir."