Charging a Tyrant Cover

Charging a Tyrant

The Arraignment of Saddam Hussein

Greg Slavonic

Texas Tech University Press, Lubbock, 2023, 256 pages

Book Review published on: December 1, 2023

Greg Slavonic, a former assistant secretary of the Navy for Manpower and Reserve Affairs and a retired rear admiral recently wrote a book about his experiences in Operation Iraqi Freedom, Charging a Tyrant: The Arraignment of Saddam Hussein. This book reads as three books in one. It is the story of Hussein’s capture by members of U.S. Special Operations Command and Hussein’s initial days in prison, the arraignment of Hussein and other high-value detainees by the Iraqi judicial system, and the story of Slavonic’s experience during this time.

The book begins on 1 July 2004, which was Hussein’s arraignment day. Slavonic describes in detail much of the situation, including how the prisoner was dressed, the Apache helicopters circling the court facility, and the Rhino Bus—transportation for the former dictator. These details led the reader to assume that the rest of the book would be a deeper presentation of the historic day when a despot was charged for his actions. But that was not the case.

Beginning in the second chapter, Slavonic describes many different events. He describes the capture of the once powerful dictator. Then he tells the story of one of the interrogators, Staff Sgt. Maddox, whose work contributed to locating Hussein. While Maddox’s story is interesting, Slavonic does not make connections between the interrogator’s story and the arraignment. Here, he also describes how a Detachment of Delta Force operators, not the 4th Infantry Division, captured Hussein. Slavonic also describes events leading to the capture such as the interrogation of Iraqis, the actions of the Delta commander, and other things including the development and use of the deck of cards to identify high-value targets across Iraq.

The middle portion of the book is the story of the author’s “fourth and final combat deployment” (p. 47). Here, Slavonic relays his personal experiences deploying to Baghdad as the “Director of Public Affairs/Strategic Communicator, Baghdad, Iraq–United States Central Command, CJTF-7/MNF-I” (p. 49). He tells his story of deployment, of interaction with the various headquarters and staffs, and his preparation for his role in the arraignment process. His interactions with various staffs and commanders take center stage instead of the arraignment of Hussein. While the personal story is interesting and somewhat entertaining, there is a sense of bitterness from Slavonic about the conditions and arrangements he endured during his deployment that comes across in these pages.

When the author returns to the arraignment, he presents unique and powerful information. The reader reads the transcripts of the arraignment. These transcripts are interesting, as is the limited dialogue between the various defendants and the judge. However, there is little discussion of the nature of the crimes or any description of why each of the defendants sit before the tribunal. This limits the value of the book for any deep research or understanding.

I recommend this book if you have some shared experience with Slavonic, even just from a similar deployment experience, and you want to remember that experience from a different view. I do not recommend this book if you are looking for a deep examination of the reasons, rationale, and judicial setting of the arraignment of one of the most notorious leaders of the twentieth century.

Book Review written by: Dr. Kevin Gentzler, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas