Saddam Hussein’s FBI Interviews

Saddam Hussein was questioned by the FBI during 20 formal interviews and at least five “casual conversations” over a four-month period from February to May 2004 after his capture by US troops in December 2003.
Transcripts of the interviews were released last week in response to US Freedom of Information requests. Asked about his greatest achievements, the former Iraqi leader cited social progress for ordinary Iraqis, a temporary ceasefire with the Kurds in the early 1970s, the nationaliation of Iraq’s oil in 1972, and support for the Arab side during the 1973 Middle East war with Israel.

The Saddam Hussein interviews are interesting for what they reveal and what they conceal. Probably right up to the end, Saddam was talking up the Iranian threat to Iraq, knowing that this would confirm American suspicions of Iran. The Iraqi leader would recall that a joint front against Iran had been the basis of Iraqi-American co-operation in the 1980s.

“Hussein explained that Iraq could not appear weak to its enemies, especially Iran,” records FBI special agent George Piro who interviewed him. This is the explanation the Iraqi leader presents for keeping the world guessing if he had weapons of mass destruction. In reality, the Iraqi leader made every effort to prove that he had no WMD.

The anti-Iranian theme is constant throughout, and no doubt Saddam believed it as well as saying it out of political calculation. Of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, he says: “Khomeini and Iran would have occupied all of the Arab world if it had not been for Iraq.”

But US intelligence documents about Iraqi intentions in 1980 show Saddam Hussein and other leaders launching a surprise attack on Iran because they thought it was militarily weak following the Iranian revolution of 1979. In a disastrous miscalculation they believed the war would be over soon and they would win back territorial concessions they had made to the Shah in 1975.

Saddam was astute in his assessment of internal Iraqi politics, but was catastrophically wrong in his calculations of how foreign powers would respond to his actions. This is not surprising for a man who only briefly left Iraq during his whole life. Most importantly, he wrecked his country by his two invasions: Iran in 1980 and Kuwait in 1990.

He denies that the Baath party was Sunni-dominated when it first became a force in 1958-63, though this was true by 1968. He makes the unlikely claim that he was unaware for years that his long-time lieutenant Tariq Aziz was a Christian. Asked about the Shia uprising of 1991 in southern Iraq, in which as many 150,000 people may have been killed, he says the insurgents were “thieves, rebels” and came “from Iran”. Yet thousands of bodies of Shia men, women and children have been unearthed from mass graves south of Baghdad and the few survivors leave no doubt they were killed in a mass punishment because they were Shia.

It is interesting to see Saddam deny that he was ever at the Dora farm in south Baghdad at which the US launched a missile attack at the start of the war in 2003 because of intelligence he was there. It would be interesting to know how many Iraqi civilians died because of such attacks based on dubious tips to the CIA.

Saddam Hussein’s failing was not stupidity, but arrogance and brutality and this impression is confirmed by these interviews. He was a man of intelligence who came to believe that he had semi-divine attributes.

PATRICK COCKBURN is the co-author with Andrew Cockburn of Saddam Hussein: An American Obsession.



More articles by:

Patrick Cockburn is the author of  The Rise of Islamic State: ISIS and the New Sunni Revolution.

Weekend Edition
April 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Ruling Class Operatives Say the Darndest Things: On Devils Known and Not
Conn Hallinan
The Great Game Comes to Syria
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Mother of War
Andrew Levine
“How Come?” Questions
Doug Noble
A Tale of Two Atrocities: Douma and Gaza
Kenneth Surin
The Blight of Ukania
Howard Lisnoff
How James Comey Became the Strange New Hero of the Liberals
William Blum
Anti-Empire Report: Unseen Persons
Lawrence Davidson
Missiles Over Damascus
Patrick Cockburn
The Plight of the Yazidi of Afrin
Pete Dolack
Fooled again? Trump Trade Policy Elevates Corporate Power
Stan Cox
For Climate Mobilization, Look to 1960s Vietnam Before Turning to 1940s America
William Hawes
Global Weirding
Dan Glazebrook
World War is Still in the Cards
Nick Pemberton
In Defense of Cardi B: Beyond Bourgeois PC Culture
Ishmael Reed
Hollywood’s Last Days?
Peter Certo
There Was Nothing Humanitarian About Our Strikes on Syria
Dean Baker
China’s “Currency Devaluation Game”
Ann Garrison
Why Don’t We All Vote to Commit International Crimes?
LEJ Rachell
The Baddest Black Power Artist You Never Heard Of
Lawrence Ware
All Hell Broke Out in Oklahoma
Franklin Lamb
Tehran’s Syria: Lebanon Colonization Project is Collapsing
Donny Swanson
Janus v. AFSCME: What’s It All About?
Will Podmore
Brexit and the Windrush Britons
Brian Saady
Boehner’s Marijuana Lobbying is Symptomatic of Special-Interest Problem
Julian Vigo
Google’s Delisting and Censorship of Information
Patrick Walker
Political Dynamite: Poor People’s Campaign and the Movement for a People’s Party
Fred Gardner
Medical Board to MDs: Emphasize Dangers of Marijuana
Rob Seimetz
We Must Stand In Solidarity With Eric Reid
Missy Comley Beattie
Remembering Barbara Bush
Wim Laven
Teaching Peace in a Time of Hate
Thomas Knapp
Freedom is Winning in the Encryption Arms Race
Mir Alikhan
There Won’t be Peace in Afghanistan Until There’s Peace in Kashmir
Robert Koehler
Playing War in Syria
Tamara Pearson
US Shootings: Gun Industry Killing More People Overseas
John Feffer
Trump’s Trade War is About Trump Not China
Morris Pearl
Why the Census Shouldn’t Ask About Citizenship
Ralph Nader
Bill Curry on the Move against Public Corruption
Josh Hoxie
Five Tax Myths Debunked
Leslie Mullin
Democratic Space in Adverse Times: Milestone at Haiti’s University of the Aristide Foundation
Louis Proyect
Syria and Neo-McCarthyism
Dean Baker
Finance 202 Meets Economics 101
Abel Cohen
Forget Gun Control, Try Bullet Control
Robert Fantina
“Damascus Time:” An Iranian Movie
David Yearsley
Bach and Taxes