a remarkable set of 20 structured interrogations and several informal
interviews during the time he was in U.S. custody -- between his
capture and his being handed over to Iraqi authorities -- Saddam
Hussein went on the record with a number of statements that shed light
on his personal beliefs and strategic motivations. His answers to
direct questions contradicted much of the Bush Administrationís
Saddam Hussein (known as High Value Detainee #1) was interviewed in
Arabic by FBI agent George L. Piro. Formal interrogation took place in
a military detention facility at Baghdad International Airport.
Informal conversations were in his cell. Saddam Hussein was not
waterboarded nor were any other illegal or coercive techniques used,
Piro has said.
Declassified transcripts of the interrogations were obtained by a
private research organization in Washington D.C., the National
Security Archive, under the provisions of the Freedom of Information
CONTEMPTUOUS OF POLITICS AND POLITICIANS
The interviews read more like a "stream of consciousness"
discourse between two acquaintances than like a police log. They cover
a wide range of topics and issues including politics, political
history, security in the Middle East, Arab imperatives, international
relations, religion and philosophy, and the UN. Israel, he claimed, is
a threat to the entire Arab world, not only to Iraq.
He was contemptuous of politics and politicians -- surprising for a
politician -- and he insisted: "If I wanted to be a politician, I
could. But, I do not like politicians or politics." When it was
pointed out to him that in the view of some observers he had played
politics with the UN, he retorted: "We abided totally by all UN
Unlike most contemporary leaders almost anywhere in the world, Saddam
Hussein wrote his own speeches. This was probably because he did not
trust anybody on his staff to match his thoughts with compelling
prose, and not because he enjoyed speech writing. He actually disliked
He also disliked delivering speeches -- another surprising claim for
somebody who was known to deliver long and sometimes rambling
exhortations to a captive audience. Drafting a speech and delivering
it, he said, gave him the feeling of sitting for an exam. So he often
had his speeches read out by others such as newscasters.
Saddam Hussein disclosed that he was cautious about inter-personal
communications. He communicated primarily through the use of trusted
couriers, or he would personally meet government officials for
consultation on key issues.
"IíLL LEAVE THIS FOR HISTORY."
At one point he shares with Piro a poem he had written in his cell. On
an issue that must make sense to the FBI, Piro asks him whether he
customarily travelled in a long motorcade. Saddam Husseinís
enigmatic reply? "Iíll leave this for history."
He was obviously moved but not sentimental when talking about his
sons. "Do not think I am getting upset when you mention my sons.
I still think about them and the fact that they were martyred. They
will be examples to everyone throughout the world." Both sons
fought against Iran in the 1980s when they were "underage".
The late Iraqi president displays an almost encyclopedic knowledge of
UN resolutions concerning Iraq, sometimes challenging Piro as to which
specific resolution has greater force, legitimacy, and precedence than
others. He displayed a sense of grievance bordering on anger with a
tinge of petulance when claiming that the UN system was manipulated
against him and Iraq.
Saddam Hussein flatly asserts that Iraq did not possess weapons of
mass destruction when President George W. Bush decided to invade Iraq
on the ground that it possessed such weapons. Hussein pointed out
somewhat wryly that in this U.S.-Iraq war, Britain was the "only
ally" of the U.S.. "All other major countries, including
France, China, Russia, and Germany, were against the war."
U.S. WAS NOT HIS ENEMY
Saddam Hussein said that the threat from Iran was the major factor as
to why he did not allow UN inspectors to return to Iraq, when they
could have verified his claim that Iraq had destroyed its stockpile of
WMD. He believed that UN inspectors would have directly identified to
the Iranians where to inflict maximum damage to Iraq.
Iran, he insisted, was his countryís real enemy, and it was bent on
annexing southern Iraq. The U.S. was not his enemy, only a country
whose policies he opposed. He was, in fact, interested in reaching a
security agreement with the U.S.. He reiterated that he had wanted to
have a relationship with the U.S. but was not given the chance.
He had never seen or met Osama bin Laden, had never worked with him,
and did not share his beliefs or vision. He provided Piro with a brief
historical account of conflicts between religion, specifically Islam,
and historical rulers. He described himself as "a believer in God
but not a zealot." He believed that religion and government
should not mix. On a personal note, however, he was convinced that
"God creates us, and only he decides when he is going to take
Iraqi newspapers were reported to have commended the murderous attacks
of September 11, 2003 on American targets, and Saddam Hussein was
asked what explanation he had for Iraq being the only country to
applaud the attacks. He denied the charge. He personally wrote
editorials against the attack, but also spoke of the causes which led
men to commit those acts, he said.
PERSONAL LETTERS TO AMERICAN FRIENDS
The facts were never reviewed to determine what could create a level
of hatred that made the attackers kill innocent people. He said as
well that former foreign minister Tariq Aziz had written personal
letters to American friends including former U.S. Attorney General
Ramsey Clark denouncing the attacks.
Would the six-year war (up to now) have been avoided if the facts that
have emerged from the FBI interrogation were known to the Bush
Administration in 2003? Possibly not, because the Bush Administration
already knew that Iraq did not possess WMD when it unleashed
"shock and awe" on Iraq.
On February 14, 2003, Hans Blix, head of the UN Monitoring,
Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), in one of his last
reports, addressed the Security Council as follows: "How much, if
any, is left of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and related
proscribed items and programmes? So far, UNMOVIC has not found any
such weapons, only a small number of empty chemical munitions, which
should have been declared and destroyed."
So the facts did not really matter. As Richard N. Haas, president of
the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations, writes in 'War of Necessity,
War of Choice': "Ö.it is worth noting that the first instinct
of the president was to push the bureaucracy to find a connection
between Saddam and the (9/11) attacks. Paul Wolfowitz, then deputy
secretary of defence, argued at the Camp David meeting convened on
September 14 that the attack was too grand for al-Qaida to have
accomplished on its own and that the U.S. should go after Iraq."
Wolfowitz and his co-conspirators were wrong, says Haas. The war was
launched anyhow. Lives were disrupted. Blood was spilled. People died.
The official tally of U.S. service personal killed is 4323 and, by one
informal count, the number of civilians killed, most of them Iraqis,
is 1,320,110. And over 2250 days after George W. Bush declared
"mission accomplished" in Iraq, the war, in its different
manifestations, has not yet ended.
writer has served as Sri
Lanka's ambassador to Canada, Cuba, Mexico, and the USA. He was
Chairman of the Commonwealth's Select Committee on the media and