of underwear, but the ones I was wearing were ruined for sure. I’d never been in a friendly fire incident before and I found myself wondering who’d come up with that expression. Friendly or not, a fifty-caliber round is still going to kill you.

The 4th ID platoon that was waiting for us at the Beiji camp was actually more the size of a full company. I would later discover that this was how they handled most of their operations, with more manpower than was really called for. As we traded our Benzes for a Humvee, I got a chance to talk briefly with the intelligence officer who had developed the information for the raid. His source was a kid, he told me, who had previously turned up some weapons caches. But tonight was different. This was the informant’s first big target.

The name of the bodyguard we were after, I found out, was Nezham Hasan Jasim Al-Muslit. It was a mouthful, like most Arabic names, made up of your grandfather’s, your father’s, and your given name, along with your tribal affiliation. It was complicated and confusing, but it was also very useful in establishing links and interlocking alliances. Just by looking at a man’s name, you could tell to whom he was related and even where his loyalties lay.

According to the informant, Nezham’s loyalties were firmly with Saddam, his former boss. Nezham was supposed to be driving across the Syrian border that morning. Maybe he was going there to meet with Saddam. I wanted to know where the kid had gotten such valuable intelligence, but it didn’t seem like my place to ask. So I climbed in the Humvee with the rest of the team and we drove up the road as Carl explained what was about to happen.

“We’re going to hang back and let them do the raid. Then we’ll search the place.” He turned to me. “You talk to whoever’s in there and let me know what you find out.”

The Humvee pulled off the road and the team dismounted to set up a security perimeter. Jared and I stayed close to the vehicle and for about thirty seconds there was nothing to listen to but the buzz of insects. It was only when I heard the unmistakable sound of a door being broken down that I realized how close to the house we actually were.

Uncomfortably close. Almost immediately an AK-47 started chattering, dumping a thirty-round clip. It had to be an insurgent; coalition forces didn’t use that weapon. There was some random yelling, followed by a few piercing screams. Then, once again, silence. After five tense minutes, the radio crackled to life. We’d gotten word to move up.

The dusty yard was full of 4th ID soldiers posted around a typical Iraqi farmhouse, mud brick and cinderblock built low to the ground. As we approached the front door, hanging off its hinges, Carl signaled for one of the shooters to accompany me inside. “This is Superfly,” he told me. I figured that since Superfly had been stuck babysitting me; he was probably one of the junior members of the team. Jared joined us.

In a large room with a low ceiling, a man was sitting on the floor. Standing over him were a couple of 4th ID guards.

“Here’s your guy,” one of them said as we entered.

The prisoner’s hands were cuffed behind his back and a heavy blindfold covered his eyes. His shirt was drenched in blood and I could see it running down his jaw and neck.

“Is he shot?” I asked.

“No,” replied the other guard. I wondered if he noticed how pale I’d turned. “Lucky for him we just butt stroked him. He was the one that opened up on us.”

“If we did the hit he’d have been dead as soon as we saw the muzzle flash,” Superfly muttered.

I took a deep breath. “Why don’t you take the blindfold off?” I suggested. I wanted to be eye to eye with this guy when I questioned him.

One of the guards obliged, pulling back the blood-soaked cloth. I’d never been very good with blood, going back to my early days in the infantry, when training accidents were not uncommon. It is something I’ve always tried to hide, with varying degrees of success.

This was going to be harder than most. Where the guy’s left eye should have been, there was an empty socket. I knelt down. “Are you Nezham Hasan?” I asked as Jared translated.

The prisoner, a thin, weather-beaten farmer who looked to be about fifty, shook his head.

“Who are you?”

He stuttered his name.

“Do you know Nezham Hasan?”

Shaking his head again, he looked scared, his one eye signaling panic. I leaned in closer, fighting nausea, and asked him the question again. This time he let loose with a long string of Arabic. “What’s he saying?” I asked Jared.

“He says Nezham owns this place,” the terp replied. “He only farms the land for him. He says he thought he was being robbed. That’s why he opened fire.”

“When was the last time you saw Nezham?”

“He was here four hours ago,” Jared translated.

“Where is he now?” I received a look of one-eyed fear. It took a few more rounds of back and forth questioning, but I finally got him to reveal that Nezham had left earlier for his home in nearby Beiji. He went on to describe the house as having a large television antenna on the roof.

“We’ve been to that place before,” volunteered one of the 4th ID platoon sergeants, who by this time had joined several others in watching the interrogation. “I know exactly where it is.” I didn’t realize it at the time, but identifying the house of a former bodyguard was, by itself, no big deal. By the time I’d arrived in Tikrit, virtually every location owned by a member of the regime had been raided at least once. The difference this time was that we might actually find one of them at home.

I passed on what I’d learned to Carl. He consulted briefly with the 4th ID company commander. “Tell this old man he’s lucky to be alive,” he said to Jared afterward. “Tell him to sit here until we’re all gone and not to make a move.” He turned to the team. “We’re going to Beiji,” he said.

Twenty minutes later, the second target had been secured. It was just as the old man had described it, down to the oversize aerial on the roof. But there was no Nezham. Instead I found myself interrogating a group of five defiant teenagers, and two of them admitted to being nephews of our quarry. They hadn’t seen their uncle in months, they swore. Although I knew they were lying through their teeth, I also knew we’d hit a dead end.

It was seven in the morning when we got back to the compound. The team gathered around a large table in the mansion’s dining room to talk over the night’s events, drinking Cokes and replaying the friendly fire incident.

At some point, someone must have shown me where to sleep. But I don’t remember how I got to the cot. I don’t even remember my head hitting the pillow.

Chapter 3


There was no reason to think I had any special qualifications to be an interrogator for the task force in Tikrit. From that first night of the raid, it had begun to dawn on me that getting good intelligence was going to require a different set of skills than those I’d learned in interrogation school.

That’s not to say I hadn’t received the best training available at the time, maybe the best in the world. In 1999 I had attended an eight-week interrogation course at the U.S. Army Intelligence Center in Fort Huachuca, Arizona. There I was taught military doctrines from Field Manual 34-52, on how to conduct effective interrogations in conformity with U.S. and international laws. I learned how to avoid getting simple yes-or-no responses by asking interrogative questions: who, what, when, where, why, what else, and what other. I was instructed in psychological approaches like Pride & Ego Up, which was meant to build up a prisoner; and Pride & Ego Down, which was meant to tear him down. I was introduced to the Geneva Convention rules prohibiting physical or mental duress, torture, or other forms of coercion to secure information.

What I didn’t learn was how to actually get the job done. Most of my instructors had never interrogated a real live prisoner. There had been very few prisoners since Vietnam. The means and methods I was taught assumed I would be in a battlefield environment much like that war, or even World War II. There was no preparation for

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