Behind the camera: US Military
Where: Adwar, Iraq about 15 kilometers (nine miles) from Tikrit, Saddam’s ancestral home
Photo Summary: Saddam Hussein getting a medical checkup from an unknown US military doctor. He would later be treated by Dr. Sudip Bose
Picture Taken: December 13, 2003
Saddam was last seen April 9, 2003, just before American forces overran Baghdad. As the months passed American forces were under intense pressure to capture the former President of Iraq. The Iraqi uprising was escalating and the American government hoped that the capture of Saddam would take the wind out of the sails of the insurgency. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld even visited the task force charged with finding Saddam. He told the commander in charge of the operation, “I’m dumbfounded when I think about it … The chances of us using that kind of money to find somebody — to figure out how to invest some time and develop a network and produce the information that would do it — I mean, that ought to be doable.” Finally, on December 13, 2003, Paul Bremer the U.S. civil administrator in Iraq held a press conference where he formally announced the capture of Saddam Hussein by saying what would become his famous phrase, “Ladies and gentlemen, we got him.” The footage shown at that news conference of a heavily bearded Saddam calmly getting a medical checkup from US military personnel would be shown around the world and become one of his most famous images.
Operation Red Dawn
Saddam had been on the run since April evading American forces by disguise and his network of loyal Iraqi civilians. Slowly though Americans were able to breakdown his security network by arresting security officials and former bodyguards. Finally, a breakthrough when on December 12 Mohamed Ibrahim Omar al-Musslit was unexpectedly captured in Baghdad. Mohamed had been a key figure in the President’s special security organization. His arrest leads to other arrests and interrogation of one of these detainees lead to information on Saddam’s whereabouts.
The informer told American forces that Saddam was located in the village of Ad-Dawr on the outskirts of Tikrit in one of two groups of buildings on a farm codenamed Wolverine 1 and Wolverine 2.
Within hours Colonel James Hickey (1st Brigade, 4th Infantry Division) together with US Special Operations Forces launched Operation Red Dawn and under cover of darkness made for the target areas. At first, the units didn’t find anything, but under closer inspection, Special Forces found what they called a “spider hole” with Saddam inside. As soldiers removed the cover for of the spider hole they saw Saddam Hussein who seeing he had no option but surrender said, “I am the President of Iraq…” — to which an American soldier replied: “The President of The United States sends his regards.” In his almost tomb-like hole Saddam had two AK-47s, a pistol, $750,000 in $100 bills.
Death to Saddam! Down with Saddam!
On December 13, 2003, the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) of Iran first reported that Saddam Hussein had been arrested, citing Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani. These reports were soon confirmed by other members of the Iraq Interim Governing Council, by U.S. military sources, and by British Prime Minister Tony Blair. In a press conference in Baghdad, shortly afterwards, the U.S. civil administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer, formally announced the capture of Saddam Hussein by saying, “Ladies and gentlemen, we got him.” Bremer reported that Saddam had been captured at approximately 8:30 p.m. Iraqi time on December 13.
At the news conference, Bremer presented video footage of Saddam in custody. Saddam Hussein was shown with a full beard and hair longer and curlier than his familiar appearance, which a barber later restored. His identity was later reportedly confirmed by DNA testing. He was described as being in good health and as “talkative and co-operative”. At the news conference Iraqi journalists rose to their feet and started shouting, “Death to Saddam!” and “Down with Saddam!”