Shortly after his arrest in December 2003, former Iraqi president Saddam Hussain was interrogated by the FBI. The secret interrogation documents, which were made public only recently by the National Security Archive, an independent non-governmental research institute in the US, shed light on the state of mind of Saddam, executed in December 2006.

In this series, Gulf News is running the transcripts of the 20 formal interrogation sessions and five ‘casual conversations’ he had with a senior FBI agent. In the 18th session, Saddam talks about the “disturbances” in the cities of Basra and Wasit in March, 1991.

Session 18
February 7,2004
Baghdad Operations Centre
Interview conduc ted by George L. Piro

Saddam Hussain (High Value Detainee No 1) was interviewed on March 28, 2004, at a military detention facility at Baghdad International Airport, Baghdad, Iraq. Saddam provided the following information:

Prior to the start of the interview, Saddam was advised that today's discussion would be a continuation of the previous meetings-regarding the Shiite uprisings in southern Iraq in 1991.

Saddam stated that it is natural for the leader of a political party, such as the Baath, to attempt to know as many members of the party as possible. For Saddam, however, it was difficult to become acquainted with Baath Party members outside of the senior leadership. Nevertheless, Saddam attempted to know as many members of the Party as possible, just as he tried to meet many individuals of the general population of Iraq.

Channels of communication

The interviewer asked about the communication system between the various levels of the party from the local to the national level and how much information the Iraqi senior leadership actually saw. Saddam stated that the Iraqi senior leaders received information regarding their party much in the same manner as Democrats and Republicans in America. When a directive was issued by the leadership, instructions were sent to all party members. When a party member desired a certain action, a request was submitted through the appropriate channels to the Iraqi leadership. Saddam was questioned about his feelings regarding the importance of party members informing him of the local situation. He stated, "There is a difference between desire and what is possible".

The interviewer stated that a number of documents describing the 1991 uprisings and Baath Party activities during this period were recovered after the invasion of coalition forces in 2003. The translator read to Saddam portions of copies of two documents written in Arabic. One document, dated April 11, 1991, described as report number 7/1/383, signed by Hussain Hamza Abbas, secretary general of the Saddam Section Command, was sent to the secretary general of the Wasit Section Command. According to the document, Abbas wrote the letter to explain and clarify his conduct during the "disturbances" of March, 1991. The second document, dated April, 1991, bearing no report number, signed by Anwar Saeed Omar, secretary general of the Wasit Section Command, was directed to an unstated, but presumably, higher command element. This document explains certain actions taken during "disturbances" in the cities of Basra and Wasit in March, 1991, including the arrest of approximately 700 military and civilian suspects in Basra. In the letter, Omar states that interrogation committees were formed and that he was put in charge of the Second Corps Committee. Omar writes that he personally executed two individuals on the same day he began interrogations. He further states that an additional 42 individuals were executed after four more days of interrogation.

When questioned about the seeming contradiction in the actions described in these documents and Iraq's justice system, Saddam asked, "Where is the contradiction?" He added that committees were formed, questioning occurred, and judgement was passed. Saddam asked, "What was the alternative?"

The interviewer noted to Saddam that the documents appear to describe a situation where individuals were not investigated by a neutral entity. The necessity of a neutral investigative body was previously discussed by Saddam with respect to the situation in Kuwait and crimes reportedly committed by the Iraqi military during occupation of the country in 1991. The interviewer further noted that the individuals appeared not to have the chance to defend themselves, as also previously mentioned by Saddam as being important. Saddam stated, "I did not say anything about Kuwaitis". He commented that Kuwait and this issue are "two different things". These documents discuss acts of "treachery and sabotage". Saddam stated that it appears that the individuals did have a chance to defend themselves. The interviewer noted that it appears the two individuals mentioned were not given the opportunity to defend themselves and were executed on the spot. Saddam responded, "Possibly. Possibly not". He added that this is a report which may not have included all the details. Saddam stated the author may have been simply bragging to show his loyalty and ability to accomplish a task. He questioned the validity of this report. If true, Saddam stated that when the time comes and America decides to place the individuals captured for these crimes on trial and Iraqis have resumed leadership of the country, Iraqis will investigate this matter.

Saddam questioned what right the interviewer had to ask about internal Iraqi events, of 1991. He asked, "Is it because you are an employee of the American government?" The interviewer noted that he is attempting to separate fact from fiction and to record history as it occurred.

Saddam stated that it was difficult to comment on the referenced documents without the full details. He questioned the interviewer's assertion that the two individuals discussed in the one document were not allowed to defend themselves. Saddam further questioned whether the individuals were even executed.