Time Magazine has published an exclusive story on its web site on the capture and initial interrogation of Saddam Hussein:
After his capture, Saddam was taken to a holding cell at the Baghdad Airport. He didn’t answer any of the initial questions directly, the official said, and at times seemed less than fully coherent. The transcript was full of “Saddam rhetoric type stuff,” said the official who paraphrased Saddam’s answers to some of the questions. When asked “How are you?” said the official, Saddam responded, “I am sad because my people are in bondage.” When offered a glass of water by his interrogators, Saddam replied, “If I drink water I will have to go to the bathroom and how can I use the bathroom when my people are in bondage?”
Later, the questions become more serious:
The interrogators also asked Saddam if he knew about the location of Captain Scott Speicher, a U.S. pilot who went missing during the first Gulf War. “No,” replied the former Iraqi president, “we have never kept any prisoners. I have never known what happened.”
Saddam was also asked whether Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. “No, of course not,” he replied, according to the official, “the U.S. dreamed them up itself to have a reason to go to war with us.” The interrogator continued along this line, said the official, asking: “if you had no weapons of mass destruction then why not let the U.N. inspectors into your facilities?” Saddam’s reply: “We didn’t want them to go into the presidential areas and intrude on our privacy.”
It is too early to tell whether Saddam’s capture will have an immediate dampening effect on the “insurgency” being staged by the Ba’athists, or even if he had any role in the attacks at all. In fact, the unnamed official that is the source of the story asks a telling question:
The official said it may soon be clear how much command and control over the insurgency Saddam actually had while he was in hiding. “We can now determine,” he said, “if he is the mastermind of everything or not.” The official elaborated: “Have we actually cut the head of the snake or is he just an idiot hiding in a hole?”
Iraqi and Arab supporters of Saddam Hussein are dismayed to find out that Saddam surrendered like the rat that they now know he is:
But for some, his capture was a blow to hopes for Saddam’s triumphant return, and his peaceful surrender was seen as a stain on Arab honor. “He swore before the war that Iraqis would fight America, and then he didn’t fire a single shot,” said Kassem Shelshul, a 28-year-old chauffeur living in Baghdad. “We expected him to commit suicide or resist,” he said after watching video of the captured dictator.
Excuse my incredulity, but it amazes me to see that people actually bought into the heroic persona this evil weasel created for himself. Heroic men do not gas defenseless women and children, nor do they scurry out of their capitol when an army approaches it. Haven’t these people been paying any attention at all?
At Baghdad’s Palestine hotel, where foreign journalists and American contract workers are staying, Abil Daoud was sad. “We lost our only hope and now we are stuck with the Americans,” said Daoud, who is employed by U.S. troops as a security guard.
Note to Paul Bremer: start looking for this guy and prepare the pink slip, mm-kay?
Iraqis were shocked that the man they feared for three decades was found hiding in a hole and gave up without a fight. “For the last 35 years Saddam Hussein presented himself as a lion against the Americans and the West and now today they found him like a mouse,” said Laad Hamadi, an Iraqi civil engineer. “He didn’t fight for his country, he didn’t even fight for himself.”
No, Mr. Hamadi, he spent most of his life finding other people to fight for him, and so when it came down to defending himself, he had no more courage to do so.
Today’s capture reminded me of a scene from Tolkien, although it’s not the Lord of the Rings, it’s from The Silmarillion. I suppose it may be a bit silly to use this as a reference to Saddam Hussein, but it sounds oddly familiar to his capture. This passage comes from the chapter titled Of The Voyage of Earendil and describes the capture of Morgoth, who was Sauron’s leader during the First Age of Middle Earth:
… and all of the pits of Morgoth were broken and unroofed, and the might of the Valar descended into the deeps of the earth. There Morgoth stood at last at bay, and yet unvaliant. He fled into the deepest of his mines, and sued for peace and pardon; but his feet were hewn from under him, and he was hurled upon his face. Then he was bound with the chain Angainor which he had worn aforetime, and his iron crown was beaten into a collar for his neck, and his head was bowed upon his knees.
Unvaliant, indeed … his sons died fighting, a tactically stupid thing to do but a mistake that only hastened their eventual fate. Saddam, who had vowed never to be taken alive, did not even draw the pistol he carried when he was caught, and instead surrendered meekly. The Valar thrust Morgoth “through the Door of Night beyond the Walls of the World, and into the Timeless Void“; I suspect the Iraqis have something similar in mind, if less literary and more literal.
Note: this was my 600th post since starting CQ 10 weeks ago. Thanks to all who visit!
Guess who’s crying in their coffee today?
Disbelief and gloom seized many Palestinians Sunday at news of Saddam Hussein’s capture … “It’s a black day in history,” said Sadiq Husam, 33, a taxi driver in Ramallah, West Bank seat of the Palestinian Authority. “I am saying so not because Saddam is an Arab, but because he is the only man who said no to American injustice in the Middle East,” he said. …
Some did not believe news of Saddam’s capture even when images of the bearded figure flashed across television screens. “Maybe they captured someone who looks like him,” said Laila Abusharigh, 55, in the Gaza Strip. “Saddam is a real man and all of us are with him.” Fifteen youngsters from Arafat’s Fatah (news – web sites) movement tagged onto a rally in Gaza for the Islamic group Hamas, holding up posters of Saddam. … “The war will start now in Iraq (news – web sites),” said 16-year-old Yusef Khalil in Gaza. “Saddam helped our people and we will not forget him.”
So far, the Palestinian Authority has had the unusual intelligence not to immediately react to Saddam’s capture, but the same cannot be said for the population that ululated with glee after 9/11. The Palestinians continually hitch their horse to the worst, bloodiest people they can find, and have a talent for picking the losing side in any argument.
Let’s remember this when people insist on sympathizing with the Palestinians.
The Truth Laid Bear asks a question for those who continually argued that the war in Iraq was illegitimate and a violation of international law:
Now that he has been found to be alive, I’d ask this to those who considered this an illegitimate war: will you now stand up and demand that Hussein be placed back in power? He was, after all, the “legal” ruler of Iraq.
And if not, why not?
Bear — and I — will be waiting for an answer and an explanation.
UPDATE: Well, I got my answer from a member of the left, and while I don’t agree with a lot of it, it is certainly a beautifully written, honest, and even patriotic response. See Kynn’s take at Shock and Awe, and I’m also adding her to the blogroll.
What better way, and what more American way, can you commemorate V-S day (Victory over Saddam)?
I love the picture — looks like Saddam’s been without a Ba’ath for a while now … [yes, I stole the joke from someone in the blogosphere, but I can’t remember which site now!] I’ve already ordered mine.
It’s a sad day for American politics when al-Jazeera sounds more intelligent, coherent, and fair than the campaign supporters of a major American presidential candidate. The Arab news agency presents four views on the meaning of Saddam’s capture:
Leading analysts and political commentators agree the capture of Saddam Hussein represents a coup for the US but questions remain about its repercussions. …
Toby Dodge, analyst at Warwick University and International Institute for Strategic Studies, UK: “His capture gives the United States a window of opportunity. If they redouble their efforts and increase their troop commitment, they could contain or even roll back the insurgency. But the temptation of Bush, facing a re-election campaign, will be to call this victory and cut and run. That would be a disaster for Iraq, for the Middle East and for the strategic interests of the United States in the region and beyond.”
Dodge makes a great point here — to paraphrase a bit from Winston Churchill, this is not the end, but it is the beginning of the end. Now is not the time to go squishy. Keep on the offensive and redouble our efforts to track down the leadership of the Fedayeen and other groups. Dodge obviously speaks from previous American action, and one can’t blame him for that. But I think the world understands that this President operates from a different philosophy, and I think that his tenacity will continue to surprise people.
Mustafa Alani, analyst at Royal United Services Institute in London: “”There will be a reduction in operations sponsored by former regime loyalists, but this is not the full story because they are not the only group involved. It won’t affect those by Iraqi or Arab mujahidin and might increase them because those who did not want to be branded as supporters of Saddam might now join a resistance with a more nationalist dimension.
For the Americans, after the failure to capture Usama bin Ladin after so many years, it is a propaganda coup, especially if he were captured alive. It’s an intelligence prize because they can get information from him about cells working now. And it’s a huge victory because he was the head of the regime and not like anyone else on the list of 55 most wanted.”
My hunch is that we will continue to see attacks for a few weeks while the Fedayeen shoot their magazines dry, but they will not be able to replace lost operatives and will have trouble hanging onto the following they have now. One or two more big captures and it’s probably all over. Iraqi enthusiasm for Saddam’s fall and the removal of that particular Sword of Damocles will exponentially increase their cooperation with Coalition forces to round up the rest of the Ba’ath remnants.
Read the rest; I find al-Jazeera’s open and fair approach refreshing.
You would think that the capture of a known enemy of the United States would be good news for Americans of all mainstream political stripes, but apparently that does not include the Dean campaign supporters, if his weblog is any indication. Here are just a few comments from Dean’s site, Blog for America (via Tim Blair):
HEY GUYS WAKE UP!!! THERE IS NO SUCCESS EXISTS IN THE UNJUSTIFIED WAR WHOEVER WAS CAPTURED!!! IT IS ONLY A DANGEROUS ILLUSION OF SUCCESS WHICH MAY LEAD ONLY TO THE NEXT WRONG JUGMENT AND NEXT WRONG DECISION SUCH AS A NEXT WAR!!! Term “success” in this war should be applied only in the light of bringing international community IN and USA OUT. …
I can’t believe this. I’m crying here. I feel that we now don’t have a chance in this election. …
I am feeling pretty upset as well. I think our chances are dropping fast. …
The damage caused by the Bush administration to our society is unaffected by Saddam’s capture …
In other news this morning — yes, yes, the world still goes on despite Iraq — the AP has a story on Bush’s growing media staff. Yikes. …
If overzealous Bush supporters are murdering people who speak out against the President, then America should know about it. A gun shot to the head. A quick ruling of suicide. Accusations of rape against the President. Prestigious, credible news organizations of Europe are discussing this news story in depth. Why can’t Americans make up their own mind? Why is this story buried in the American media?
I need a shower now … I feel unclean just for reading through this stuff.
Want a peek at how leftist Americans think about Saddam’s capture? Take a look at a couple of these sites:
Eschaton – Check out the comments on this post by Atrios. Guess Atrios hadn’t seen this article before posting.
Metafilter – They’re not too happy over there. There’s one hilarious comment that complains about the “humiliating and degrading” treatment Saddam is receiving by having his examination videotaped. Someone has also started a caption contest with the Saddam picture, and some of the responses are pretty funny.
Democratic Underground – Yes, these “patriotic” folks are celebrating the capture of Saddam by spawning discussion groups with titles like “No one in “Saddam Captured” press conf metioned 9-11 or terra?” and “CNN Reporting that this was a Tip from an Iraqi. Not good analysts”. Not one story or post or discussion group about how good it is to have Saddam in custody. So far, there hasn’t been a lot of comments in these threads, but then again people really haven’t quite woken up yet.
You can find more reaction from both right and left at the Truth Laid Bear.
More later … (some links via Blogs4Bush)
Saddam Hussein was captured by US forces; according to Fox News, with $750,000 in US cash, hiding in a hole like the rat that he is:
U.S. forces have captured Saddam Hussein in a late night raid near his hometown of Tikrit, according to the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority. … Sanchez said the former leader was not injured and has been “talkative and cooperative,” after 4th Infantry Division and special operations forces nabbed him at a “rural farmhouse.”
“Today is a great day for the Iraqi people and the coalition,” Sanchez said.
Not a single shot was fired in “Operation Red Dawn,” carried out based on intelligence gathered over several months, Sanchez said.
The Iraqis immediately broke out into spontaneous celebrations, firing guns into the air and chanting, “Death to Saddam!” Even the Iraqi reporters started screaming and celebrating at the press conference when video of him in custody was played.
This should put a stop or at least severely dampen the “insurgency” in Iraq. Without Saddam as either the symbolic or operational head to their efforts, and with the vast majority of Iraqis opposing the actions of the Fedayeen, it should be rather easy to roll up the rest of their operation.
But that’s later. For now, let’s celebrate a wonderful victory.
UPDATE: Allah is most disappointed in the cowardly and craven way Saddam allowed himself to be captured. He has a suggestion for Saddam, too.
UPDATE 2: Best line of the day, at least thus far, goes to Jon at QandO: “Saddam’s hole was filled with mice and rats. And Saddam Hussein. But I repeat myself.” Read his entire post.
UPDATE 3: Keep checking The Command Post for more reaction to Saddam’s capture.