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Debriefing the President: The Interrogation of Saddam Hussein
     

Debriefing the President: The Interrogation of Saddam Hussein

by John Nixon
 

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Set for release on the 10th anniversary of Saddam Hussein's execution, a riveting, revealing and newsmaking account of the CIA's interrogation of Saddam, written by the CIA agent who conducted the questioning. 

In December 2003, after one of the largest, most aggressive manhunts in history, US military forces captured Iraqi president Saddam Hussein near

Overview

Set for release on the 10th anniversary of Saddam Hussein's execution, a riveting, revealing and newsmaking account of the CIA's interrogation of Saddam, written by the CIA agent who conducted the questioning. 

In December 2003, after one of the largest, most aggressive manhunts in history, US military forces captured Iraqi president Saddam Hussein near his hometown of Tikrit. Beset by body-double rumors and false alarms during a nine-month search, the Bush administration needed positive identification of the prisoner before it could make the announcement that would rocket around the world.
            At the time, John Nixon was a senior CIA leadership analyst who had spent years studying the Iraqi dictator. Called upon to make the official ID, Nixon looked for telltale scars and tribal tattoos and asked Hussein a list of questions only he could answer. The man was indeed Saddam Hussein, but as Nixon learned in the ensuing weeks, both he and America had greatly misunderstood just who Saddam Hussein really was.
            Debriefing the President presents an astounding, candid portrait of one of our era’s most notorious strongmen. Nixon, the first man to conduct a prolonged interrogation of Hussein after his capture, offers expert insight into the history and mind of America’s most enigmatic enemy. After years of parsing Hussein’s leadership from afar, Nixon faithfully recounts his debriefing sessions and subsequently strips away the mythology surrounding an equally brutal and complex man. His account is not an apology, but a sobering examination of how preconceived ideas led Washington policymakers—and the Bush White House—astray. Unflinching and unprecedented, Debriefing the President exposes a fundamental misreading of one of the modern world’s most central figures and presents a new narrative that boldly counters the received account.

Editorial Reviews

The New York Times - James Risen
Most C.I.A. memoirs are terrible—defensive, jingoistic and worst of all, tedious. Others are doomed by the C.I.A.'s heavy-handed and mandatory censorship. There are exceptions, and that list includes the refreshingly candid Debriefing the President…Mr. Nixon…reveals gobsmacking facts about that deposed Iraqi leader that raise new questions about why the United States bothered to invade Iraq to oust him from power. These details will likely appall Americans who have watched their nation's blood and treasure wasted in Iraq ever since. More broadly, Mr. Nixon offers a stinging indictment of the C.I.A. and what he sees as the agency's dysfunctional process for providing intelligence to the president and other policy makers. The agency, he writes, is so eager to please the president—any president—that it will almost always give him the answers he wants to hear.
From the Publisher
"Nixon captures the psychological give-and-take of these exchanges [with Saddam Hussein] with gripping readability...and he describes the resultant verbal sparring with a sharp ear for nuance." – Steve Donoghue, The Christian Science Monitor

"Mr. Nixon, the first C.I.A. officer to interrogate Hussein after his capture in December 2003, reveals gobsmacking facts about that deposed Iraqi leader that raise new questions about why the United States bothered to invade Iraq to oust him from power. These details will likely appall Americans who have watched their nation’s blood and treasure wasted in Iraq ever since…. More broadly, Mr. Nixon offers a stinging indictment of the C.I.A. and what he sees as the agency’s dysfunctional process for providing intelligence to the president and other policy makers…. Mr. Nixon’s book comes at an extraordinary moment, when President-elect Donald J. Trump is already at war with the C.I.A….“Debriefing the President” will add fuel to the fire of the Trump-led criticism. It will also send a chilling warning to anyone counting on the C.I.A. to stand up to Mr. Trump once he is in office.” – James Risen, The New York Times
 
“Gripping…Nixon’s book, Debriefing the President, gives more ammunition to the skeptics; indeed, some of its contents can only be described as sensational.” – John Cassidy, The New Yorker

"A fascinating glimpse of the "tough, shrewd, manipulative" leader and his views on the U.S. invasion, Iraqi history, and his own role in the Middle East...An intelligent and readable postscript to the Iraq War that will be valuable for future historians."
--Kirkus (starred review)

Kirkus Reviews
★ 2016-12-05
A report on the CIA's interrogation of deposed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein (1937-2006). Former senior CIA analyst Nixon—the first American to question Hussein at length after his 2003 capture following the fall of Baghdad—debuts with a fascinating glimpse of the "tough, shrewd, manipulative" leader and his views on the U.S. invasion, Iraqi history, and his own role in the Middle East. Tasked with identifying Hussein based on tribal markings ("Holy shit, it's Saddam!" he remembers thinking), Nixon spent days in a dinghy guardhouse with the charismatic dictator, who proved sane but unlikable, variously cooperative and confrontational, and touted an inflated idea of his place in Iraqi history. Hussein scoffed at the idea that his country had weapons of mass destruction, denied any connection to al-Qaida, and said he had committed no war crimes. He said he was no longer governing at the time of the invasion but was instead spending his time writing fiction. He "loved" the Kurds, against whom his military, acting on their own authority, had used chemical weapons. Above all, he was "dumbfounded" at American ignorance of the Arab world. He thought the 9/11 attacks would bring the U.S. closer to his regime, which opposed radicalism in the Islamic world. Instead, the George W. Bush administration "vastly underestimated" Hussein, viewing him through a "tyrant caricature," writes Nixon, noting, "no serious Middle East analyst believes that Saddam Hussein was a threat to the United States." The author is highly critical of both the Bush administration and the CIA. He recounts White House visits during which officials obsessively demanded to know the location of the WMDs and displayed their misunderstanding of Iraq and the region. CIA leaders seemed interested mainly in pleasing the president. Readers are left with the impression that both Hussein and Bush were clueless about the thinking and motives of one another. There are some redactions in the text. An intelligent and readable postscript to the Iraq War that will be valuable for future historians.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780399575815
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
12/27/2016
Pages:
256
Sales rank:
26,253
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.10(d)

Related Subjects

Meet the Author

John Nixon was a senior leadership analyst with the CIA from 1998 to 2011. He did several tours in Iraq and was recognized by a number of federal agencies for his contribution to the war effort. During his time with the CIA, Nixon regularly wrote for, and briefed, the most senior levels of the US government.  He also taught leadership analysis to the new generation of analysts coming into the CIA at the Sherman Kent School, the Agency’s in-house analytic training center. Since leaving the Agency in 2011, Nixon has worked as an international risk consultant in Abu Dhabi, UAE.  He lives in Alexandria, Virginia. This is his first book.

From the Trade Paperback edition.

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