By Mark Ellis
Eric Maddox, a former Army interrogation specialist who led the hunt for Saddam Hussein, said it was Saddam’s craving for a favorite fish dish that resulted in his seizure, according to a story by Trib Live.
Maddox spoke at a dinner held at the Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum in Oakland, California on April 22, 2015.
A U.S.-led special operations task force captured Saddam Dec. 13, 2003, near his hometown of Tikrit. The former Iraqi strongman was discovered in an underground hiding place or “spider hole” near a farmhouse.
Four months before the capture, Maddox questioned Saddam’s chef, who revealed that Saddam’s favorite dish was masgouf – a grilled fish meal seasoned to the leader’s liking, according to the Trib.
Because of the fear of arrest, Hussein’s inner circle wouldn’t visit the fish market after the dictator was overthrown. Maddox theorized that Saddam would find some other way to get his fish.
Another informant told Maddox an associate of Saddam built a fish pond and stocked it with carp. After Maddox located the fish pond, a fisherman at the pond told him where Hussein’s bodyguard was hiding. The bodyguard eventually led the special ops team to Hussein, according to the Trib.
“If you look at any high-value target, you can track them down through their vices,” Maddox told the Trib.
“Saddam Hussein was tracked down through his fish. (Osama) bin Laden was tracked down through his
messengers and his wives. … All high-value targets are human. After a while, they’re like, ‘Man, I need some fish. I need some women.’ ”
Maddox, 42, interrogated more than 300 people before he found Saddam. Most were unhelpful, but Maddox told the Trib he did not resort to waterboarding or other severe interrogation methods.
He applied pressure to Hussein’s bodyguard by having special ops round up 40 of the man’s relatives and using them as leverage.
“I told him, ‘I’ll let them all go. I’ll let every single one of them walk if you give me Saddam Hussein,’ ” Maddox told the Trib. “When he broke, he just said, ‘We’ve got to go. We have to go right now.’ ”
Maddox wrote a book about the search for Saddam called “Mission: Black List #1: The Inside Story of the Search for Saddam Hussein — As Told by the Soldier Who Masterminded His Capture.” The book will be turned into a feature-length film.
The speaking engagement by Maddox benefitted Operation StrongVet Western Pennsylvania, a group that helps support veteran programs.