Reading: Will Bardenwerper


Will Bardenwerper

The Prisoner In His Palace


Monday, July 10 at 7:00pm

In the haunting tradition of In Cold Blood and The Executioner’s Song, this remarkably insightful and surprisingly intimate portrait of Saddam Hussein lifts away the top layer of a dictator’s evil and finds complexity beneath as it invites us to take a journey with twelve young American soldiers in the summer of 2006. Trained to aggressively confront the enemy in combat, the men learn, shortly after being deployed to Iraq, that fate has assigned them a different role. It becomes their job to guard the country’s notorious leader in the months leading to his execution.

Living alongside, and caring for, their “high value detainee” in a former palace dubbed The Rock and regularly transporting him to his raucous trial, many of the men begin questioning some of their most basic assumptions—about the judicial process, Saddam’s character, and the morality of modern war. Although the young soldiers’ increasingly intimate conversations with the once-feared dictator never lead them to doubt his responsibility for unspeakable crimes, the men do discover surprising new layers to his psyche that run counter to the media’s portrayal of him.

Woven from first-hand accounts provided by many of the American guards, government officials, interrogators, scholars, spies, lawyers, family members, and victims,
The Prisoner in His Palace
shows two Saddams coexisting in one person: the defiant tyrant who uses torture and murder as tools, and a shrewd but contemplative prisoner who exhibits surprising affection, dignity, and courage in the face of looming death.

In this artfully constructed narrative, Saddam, the “man without a conscience,” gets many of those around him to examine theirs. Wonderfully thought-provoking,
The Prisoner in His Palace reveals what it is like to discover in one’s ruthless enemy a man, and then deliver him to the gallows.



"Bardenwerper deftly toggles from a nonstop supply of terror to occasional scenes of normal life throughout The Prisoner in His Palace . . . a brief, but powerful, meditation on the meaning of evil and power."
USA Today

"Compelling."
New York Post

"A moving account."
5280 Magazine

"Expertly examines Saddam Hussein."
Vanity Fair

Will Bardenwerper has contributed to The New York Times and The Washington Post. He served as an Airborne Ranger-qualified infantry officer in Iraq and was awarded a Combat Infantryman’s Badge and Bronze Star. In 2010, he joined the Pentagon as a Presidential Management Fellow, where he spent the next four years. He has an MA in international public policy from The Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies and a BA in English from Princeton.


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