In This Review

Debriefing the President: The Interrogation of Saddam Hussein
Debriefing the President: The Interrogation of Saddam Hussein
By John Nixon
Blue Rider Press, 2016, 256 pp

Nixon spent 13 years as an Iraq analyst for the CIA. When U.S. forces captured Saddam Hussein a few months after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Nixon and a colleague were tasked with “debriefing” the dictator—in other words, questioning him in order to gain intelligence. Nixon’s book is informed by those conversations and examines Saddam’s life and reign, U.S. policy in Iraq, and the role of the firebrand Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in post-Saddam Iraq. Nixon believes that the invasion was a mistake, but that view appears to have little to do with his interrogations of Saddam. Nixon acknowledges Saddam’s misdeeds but also puzzlingly asserts that “no one knew better the dreams and desires of Iraqis.” He sees Sadr as a lasting force in Iraqi politics but does not spend much time explaining why. Nixon also complains of an “era of analytic mediocrity” at the CIA, which he associates with the tenure of Director George Tenet. During that period, Nixon argues, the agency allowed itself to become a tool of presidential agendas