The FBI has now declassified the details of the Saddam Hussein interrogations, conducted 18 months prior to the former Iraqi dictator’s execution. The emerging information provides an interesting insight into the outlook of the Iraqi regime in the period leading up to the Coalition invasion. It also supplies further evidence – as if any more were needed – of the total and utter wrongheadedness displayed by the US and its allies in the decision to invade Iraq.
Hussein revealed to the FBI investigators that he found himself trapped between UN sanctions and fear of his closest and most dangerous enemy, Iran. Although he claims that he’d already complied with UN sanctions by destroying his stockpiles of WMD, Hussein rejected further weapons inspections in order to create a false aura of strength. Tellingly, Hussein considered Iran’s ambitions in the region to pose a greater danger than any threat of military action from the US. He feared that exposing Iraq’s vulnerability would be tantamout to courting an Iranian invasion. Hussein claims that he actively perpetuated the myth of WMD in order to deter Iranian aggression.
That Hussein actually admits to bluffing about Iraq’s non-existent WMD striking capability tells us a lot about the quality of US intelligence in the build-up to the invasion. It also tells us that Hussein drastically underestimated the extent of US military ambition with regards to the Middle East.
Perhaps most surprisingly of all, Hussein reveals that he planned to actively seek a security arrangement with the US, whereby he would comply with UN weapons inspection requirements in return for the lifting of debilitating UN sanctions and the guarantee of protection against Iranian aggression. If Hussein’s claims are in fact true, it’s one more damning indictment of the total falsehood of the stated aim of the Coalition invasion – which was to get Iraq to disarm. In fact, Iraq was not armed with WMD, and could have complied with the necessary weapons inspections if only diplomatic channels had been pursued. But the decision to invade was already on the cards, and even when Hussein agreed to comply unconditionally with UN weapons inspections, his overtures were ignored.
If Hussein possessed any WMD, he says, he most certainly would have used them to fight back against the US invasion. It’s a point so obvious it barely even needs stating. Yet curiously, it was a point little acknowledged at the time. How much bloodshed, destruction and wastage of resources could have been avoided, if only the US had bothered to exhaust all of the available diplomatic measures before taking military action?
Particularly interesting are Hussein’s comments regarding Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. The notion that the secular Hussein and the devoutly fanatic bin Laden could ever have been allies was always a fallacy, as ought to have been easily recognisable all along. Hussein’s comments only confirm what many observors assumed about the relationship already: namely, that there was no relationship. Hussein says that he did not share the same worldview or beliefs as bin Laden, and brands him as a “zealot”. He says that he never would have sought an alliance with Al Qaeda, fearing that they would eventually turn on him. He never met bin Laden in person.
The interrogation tapes would appear to reveal that Hussein was rather more rational and considered in his outlook than he’s generally been portrayed. There’s little doubt that he was also a thug and a butcher and that nobody is particularly sorry to see him dead. But whether Iraq has actually benefited from Hussein’s forced removal, with the Coalition invasion leaving an estimated 500,000+ Iraqi civilians dead and most of the country in a smoking ruin, is another matter entirely.