Army Vet and Muslim Sgt. Key to Saddam Capture Speaks Out on Islamophobia

September 17, 2010

by Michael Leon


Saddam’s last hiding place

– U.S. Army Sergeant Ayman A. Ibrahim’s intelligence directly led to the capture of Saddam Hussein. Ibrahim speaks out now as a Muslim for America, and against the rampant Islamophobia in an America gone seemingly mad –

Exclusive to Michael Leon and Veterans Today

By Michael Leon

U.S. Army Sergeant Ayman A. Ibrahim (1985–2005 (ret.)) is a highly decorated military hero who despises this description.

Mr. Ibrahim’s preference aside, the former paratrooper with the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne (1985–1988) who received the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star (awarded for exceptionally meritorious conduct) among other citations, was a key figure as the senior interpreter (and interrogator) attached to the Saddam-hunting, American Special Forces Task Force 20.

Task Force 20

Task Force 20 located and captured Saddam on December 13, 2003 on a farm near Tikrit in central Iraq.

Task Force 20 is an elite and shadowy multiservice Special Forces unit reportedly composed of Marine Force Recon, Navy Seals, Army Delta Force and Rangers, and Air Force Special Operations personnel.

Ibrahim’s intelligence—derived by non-coercive interrogations and rapport-building—directly led to the capture of Saddam.

Informed personnel say American media reports and even books on Task Force 20 operations generally are rife with cover stories and misinformation, hence the often-used adjective “shadowy” by writers.

Currently working as a contractor supporting the U.S. mission, Ibrahim, now living in the Middle East, contacted Veterans Today to speak out against the Islamophobia gripping the United States as war clouds gather over Iran.

Ibrahim is an American Muslim who speaks fluent Arabic. After 9/11, working in California training mobilized National Guard troops and reserve units, Ibrahim saw his country under attack and badly wanted to work with a forward combat unit.

His sense of duty includes a heart-felt betrayal by those few calling themselves Muslim who attacked America.

“Ayman is a fiercely loyal guy who’s not only a roll-up your sleeves workhorse type, but has extremely sharp intellect under pressure. I have known him since our teenage days back in the early 80s when we rolled the California mean streets. He’s the kind of guy you want on your team; a man of integrity, principle-centered leadership, and mental toughness under extreme pressure that you absolutely need when you live in the trenches of warfare,” said John Allen, General Manager of the Veterans Today Network and long time friend, in an e-mail. 

I spoke with Ibrahim, reached in Amman, Jordan, by phone on 9/11 last Saturday—the ninth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the United States—for about an hour.


Task Force 20 criticized for going in hard in 2003 (AFP/Marwan Naamani)

War and Task Force 20

Ibrahim, as I can perceive in a phone conversation, has an unusual intensity in his voice. He talks easily, tolerates frequent interruptions, but there appears fierce conviction behind his narratives and seemingly behind each spoken word, lending his vocalization a Carl Sagan-like quality.

“War is usually a failure. When we have war, diplomacy has failed. Something has failed. Someone has not done their jobs well. Say, the neocons and Richard Pearle, for example, they are either failing in preventing war or they are trying to start one,” said Ibrahim.

“The guys I worked with [Task Force 20] in Iraq, everyone has the idea of a Rambo, elite super soldiers [like those portrayed television series], but these guys are professionals. They don’t do things for kicks. They do their jobs, and treat human beings like human beings. If they have to go in hard, it’s because they are risking their lives. So some people who do not know what they are talking about give these guys a bad rap. But Task Force 20 is composed of professional, dedicated and smart people, and yes, they are very tough, and yes they are the best on the world. They have character.”


“These Islamophobes, Koran-burning, no Mosques or community centers. They betray America. I feel I have to speak out because this is not the America I know and love. They are not the Americans I believe in. I went through some events where after 9/11, security concerns were raised about me while I was a soldier because I am a Muslim. But my team, the people who I served with knocked that down right away,” said Ibrahim, referring to the post-9/11 days that sent him at his request to forward combat units, ultimately with Task Force 20.

“You get these people who say America is only this way. Only this belief. And if you don’t like it, ‘leave.’ That’s not America. You find your way in America, you pursue what you believe: That’s America and if you don’t like that, you can leave.”

This Mosque controversy in New York is so ridiculous. I’m willing to move the Islamic center to another location, but what is next; we need to identify what is the end game for these guys who are yelling hate. To equate all Muslims with terrorists is beyond foolish. Is Christianity a terrorist religion because of the KKK and the like? No. But I do not fear anti-Islamic bigotry. It’s nothing to me in the sense it is so foolish and so gutless that it presents no threat to me at all. But I speak against it now because I stand up against it as a proud American who has been challenged in other ways as a solider and a man.”

Ibrahim is a military man and his comments on the capture of Saddam Hussein are punctuated with references that are heavy on his belonging to a team.

But even now, seven years after the capture of Saddam, Ibrahim begs off precise details on Task Force 20 operations.

Ibrahim does say that one Iraqi walking away with a $25-million reward for the capture of the man who became known as the “Ace of Spades” are incorrect.

Warrior for Peace

“There is one instant in under fire where you can freeze or you can draw adrenalin from what is happening and in some ways love it, and crave it. I love it, and these Islamophobes are dangerous, but they are very weak and fearful people as individuals,” said Ibrahim with seeming contempt.

The vast majority of Muslims speak proudly of the tolerance of Islam that regards as prophets— Abraham, Moses and Jesus.

Listening to Ibrahim, I thought about the contradictions of being simultaneously religious and being an elite warrior for a state. But coming from Ibrahim, his words seem very convincing.

Ibrahim is a universalist. His commitments are social, concerned with the rights of his fellow human beings, raising in a listener the words of John Donne:

Each man’s death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind … 

Saddam Hussein Task Force 20

Saddam Hussein caught by Task Force 20

Ibrahim blows off specific questions about his present work in Amman, Jordan. Though he is undoubtedly intently focused on whatever he is doing, his words come back to the topic of America, Islamophobia and the growing scent of outright fascism.

So I ask Ibrahim speficially about Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, Christian Zionists, and near-constant fear-mongering of the specter of a world Islamic mission of a presumably Sunni-Shia alliance imposing their will onto America.

Said Ibrahim, “I ask these haters who think they speak in the name of our beloved Prophet Jesus, please do as he preached and do not be a Bin Laden and interpret as you like to promote your own agenda of hate.” 

America and Americans are better and deserve better than being labeled as haters and racist people. They should not follow those few preaching hate as their moment will go away. But world perception will last, we need to protect our country from all those hateful people inside and out.”


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