Saddam's Last Stand

<B>Scott Pelley</B> Reports On Dramatic Capture Of Iraq's Former Leader

What was it like in that hole where Saddam Hussein spent his last moments as a free man? Correspondent Scott Pelley takes you to the site of Saddam's last stand.

But first, Pelley talks to Col. James Hickey, who has been putting the puzzle together one piece at a time for months. He launched 12 raids against the Iraqi dictator before Saturday night's capture.

He told Pelley about the Army he sent to catch the former Iraqi leader: "[We sent] about 600 soldiers, lots of tanks, Bradleys, aircraft, Humvees, howitzers in position for fire support. Our estimate was there was going to be armed resistance."

However, Saddam's capture was nothing like Hickey expected. The eight-month manhunt ended in a muddy orange grove where the dictator had fallen from palace to pauper.

Hickey showed 60 Minutes II the one-room shack and outdoor kitchen where Saddam, who still fancied himself president of a nation, was reduced to squalor. In his kitchen, there was instant coffee, cans of tuna, jars of beans and beef luncheon meat.
It turned out that Saddam was just a few miles from Hickey's headquarters of the First Brigade of the 4th Infantry Division.

Hickey earned advanced degrees in public policy and diplomacy, but most of his work in Iraq has been detective work -- hunting Saddam and his high-ranking henchmen. "The brigade across my area of responsibility has conducted over 500 raids of various types since mid-June," says Hickey.

And many of them have been against the man they call "High Value Target No. 1."

"We had at least a dozen operations targeted toward Saddam Hussein, some of them in the Tikrit area, some in other areas," says Hickey. "There were probably three where I felt after the fact that we were close."

In fact, there was one time when Hickey says he believed he was just within hours of catching Saddam: "It was late September or early October in a farm on the opposite bank of the Tigris on the west bank of the Tigris, about 3 kilometers from this very spot due west. We felt pretty confident we were at the right place but we just weren't there at the right time."

Hickey says there was no luck or magic in finding Saddam this time. It took months of raids and interrogations focused on five powerful families in Saddam's hometown Tikrit -- what Hickey calls "working up the family tree."

"We've identified five or so families that we thought early on were particularly important to the security to No. 1, and their efforts to put up an armed resistance in our area," says Hickey. "Clearly, this is a regime that counted on a handful of key families."

Hickey's intelligence officers identified one man, a ranking member of Saddam's personal security team. He was found last week, and that was the key. He hasn't been identified, but he gave up Saddam's hideout.

Hickey wouldn't say why the man betrayed Saddam. But in hours, his force moved in under cover of darkness and suddenly the power went out in the village where Saddam was hiding.

"As fortune would have it, the power went out in the town of Ad Dawr, which further masked our approach," says Hickey.
A special forces team called Task Force 121 searched the shack. There was no Saddam, but then they came back for a second pass.

"They pulled back a small piece of carpet and found a block of Styrofoam that was covered with some earth, removed that and they clearly saw a man down there, and they saw two hands come up out of the bottom of the hole," says Hickey.

"It's a hole just the size for one man," says Pelley, taking a camera down to show what it looks like. "There is a light right up here, a florescent light connected above by an electrical wire. This is a concrete wall, looks like, it's less than two feet across, and over here, the same thing, tiny little space with a fan also connected by the same wire. This hole here, this pipe, is connected to the pipe that goes outside and brings in fresh air."

Pelley, who is 6 feet tall, has just enough room to lie down in this tiny concrete vault, with a dirt floor, and an opening that leads back outside. This was the last thing that Saddam saw as a free man.

When American forces saw Saddam come out of the hole, he was dressed in a dishdasha, the Arab robe that flows to the ground. He had his pistol strapped to his hip.

"According to the soldier I spoke to, he said, 'I am Saddam Huseein, president of Iraq, and I'm willing to negotiate,' and the rejoinder was 'President Bush sends his regards,'" says Hickey.

The standard operating procedure for a soldier finding a hole like that is to toss a grenade down there. It didn't happen this time, says Hickey, because "the man at the bottom of the hold clearly communicated his willingness to surrender."

"He may have been history," says Hickey.
Saddam was handcuffed, a hood was pulled over his head, and he flew by helicopter to Tikrit, and then Baghdad.

Capt. Desmond Bailey of Wetumpka, Ala., was covering the special forces team as they brought Saddam out.

"First feeling, is this it? That's all it took to get the old man. Thought he would have gone down more like Qusai and Odai with a fight," says Bailey. "We were prepared for direct fire contact, but did not have it, which is not a bad thing. It's just that we expected that and when it did not happen, it's not the way we pictured it in our minds."

What did Hickey say when he got the call that Saddam was captured? "That's great," he says. "I called Gen. Odierno on my secure telephone from my vehicle and told him we captured Saddam Hussein."

They found riches among the rags, and it turned out to be about $750,000 in American $100 bills.

The dictator, who boasted palaces, a million-man army and his face on every street corner, was reduced in 254 days to a hole for a house, an impotent arsenal and a face that, even after the fall, could not be disguised.

Col. Hickey called the mullahs and politicians together in Tikrit and told them that times had changed: "What is absolutely clear is one simple fact. Saddam Hussein and his criminal regime will not return."

Based on intelligence developed since Saddam's capture, raids are still continuing every night.

"There is work to be done and we're not done yet," says Hickey.

  • Rebecca Leung

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