How can one learn from one of the most notorious dictators in history? Saddam Hussein, known as the “Butcher of Baghdad,” his government and military forces responsible for killing more than 250,000 of his own people, ruled Iraq with an iron fist. His mother wanted nothing to do with him when he was born, so he was raised by an uncle. Some say it was that lack of motherly love that drove him to be charmingly brutal. Two roads: good and evil — he chose his path. The path that led to his eventual execution.
Lt. Col. Bill Riley (Ret.), author of the book “Baghdaddy: How Saddam Hussein Taught Me to be a Better Father” also faced two roads — the road he chose…the decision he made, led him to be selected to lead the Air Force’s largest Network Operations and Security Center and eventually be awarded the Air Force Combat Action Medal.
Bill’s childhood was far from “Leave It to Beaver.” His mother struggled with mental illness so almost every interaction with her was unpredictable, his dad was absent most of the time and when he was home Bill faced harsh lessons and tough love — but the lesson he took with him when he joined the military was that only the strong survive.
The strong survive on the outside and battle their emotional side daily. Yet Bill was able to channel the tension, overcome his dyslexia and not only have a successful military career but create a strong and loving family. While his deployments took him through combat zones across the Middle East, he played a significant role in helping nations rebuild after war – and that same dedication to helping nation’s rebuild he devotes to his own life and family.
So how did he learn from Saddam? Baghdaddy is Bill’s honest and colorful depiction of his turbulent youth and challenging adulthood. In The Military Wire podcast interview, Riley offers a view of spies at rest and his journey home from a very traumatic war. He shares how he learned from Saddam’s failures and provides some pretty staggering and rarely-seen insight into the U.S.’s stationing in the Middle East during the reign of Saddam Hussein.
Bottom line: Your past does not have to dictate your future. It will shape you — no question — but you have a choice. Bill’s book will give you a new perspective on both the war in Iraq and the war some face because of their past. It will also remind you that one can choose which road to take.
Edmonds resident Mike Schindler is the founder and chief executive officer of Operation Military Family Cares –– a 501(c)(3) veteran service organization and technology provider that combats veteran homelessness, while working to strengthen relationships and equip communities and families for success.