Greg Palast: Saddam Capture & Iraqi Insurgence

Published: Tue 23 Dec 2003 11:04 AM
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Saddam's Capture Unlikely to End Iraqi Insurgent Resistance to U.S. Occupation
Interview with Greg Palast, BBC-TV investigative reporter, conducted by Scott Harris
Listen in RealAudio:
The U.S. capture of Saddam Hussein, found in an underground hiding place near his hometown of Tikrit, was met with jubilation in Washington and celebratory gunfire on many streets in Iraq, owing to the long list of crimes committed by the deposed dictator. The apprehension of the man who ruled Iraq for 25 years ends a nine-month American effort to kill or capture Saddam that began shortly after President Bush launched the U.S.-led war last March.
Bush, very much aware of the controversy surrounding his premature declaration of a U.S. victory in Iraq last May, was more cautious about the effect Saddam Hussein's capture would have on insurgents attacking U.S. occupation forces. In the hours immediately after American troops took Hussein prisoner, guerrilla fighters launched three suicide bomb attacks, killing 24 Iraqi police officers working with the U.S. occupation.
The White House signaled that Saddam Hussein would likely face the death penalty in a war crimes trial organized by their hand-picked Governing Council in Iraq, rather than a United Nations-run tribunal. Critics expressed concern that such a proceeding could be viewed as a "show trial" with little legitimacy and would likely ignore questions about U.S. support for Saddam Hussein before the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Between the Lines' Scott Harris spoke with BBC investigative reporter Greg Palast, who discusses the history of America's relationship with Hussein and the political repercussions of his capture both for Iraq and the U.S.
Greg Palast: One of the most stunning things to me is when Paul Bremer came out and said, "The people of Iraq have suffered for decades, that he has threatened their neighbors, that he has been a cruel and vicious dictator for decades." Well, we should remember that he was our dictator for decades under U.S. state sponsorship. In 1979 is when Saddam came to power with the blessing and probable help of the United States government. Iraq was a kind of Soviet puppet until Saddam came to power and cuddled up to the USA in the Cold War. Of course in 1980, he invaded Iran with the encouragement and ultimately the arms of the United States. In fact, we effectively came in on his side. American warplanes and warships bombed Iranian oil platforms in the Persian Gulf and in addition, we broke the back of the Iranian embargo of Saddam's ports back in the '80s and tipped the war to Saddam.
In fact, this man who is the butcher of Baghdad in 1982, Ronald Reagan removed Saddam from the list of state sponsors of terrorism. It was Reagan who said, "This guy is fighting terrorism. He is not a terrorist" because, basically, he was supporting our terrorists. In 1984, the U.S. Commerce Department issued an export license for aflatoxin, which is a deadly biological weapon.
I'm giving you this history because Americans are trained to amnesia. They want you to forget. They want you to jump up and cheer and march around the living room waving flags that "We've got Saddam!" We put him there, so of course, if we hired him, I guess we can fire him, right?
It was James Baker, who was secretary of state, who told Ambassador April Glaspie on July 25 of 1990, when Saddam Hussein said, I'm going to take action against Kuwait for stealing my nation's oil, and Glaspie said that Baker had emphasized that there was no concern of the U.S. government over Arab-Arab conflicts, and that the interests of Kuwait were not the interests of the United States. Every diplomat on the planet took that as the OK for Saddam to invade Kuwait. Then a week later, we whipped around and said, "Hey wait a minute, he went too far. He was only being given the go-ahead to enter Kuwait's oil fields. In fact, he went all the way to Kuwait City, which endangered our good buddies, the Saudis. So, you have to understand, we put that guy there and now we're pulling him out.
Between The Lines: The White House has indicated that any trial of Saddam Hussein will take place in Iraq under U.S. occupation and through the Iraqi Governing Council installed by the U.S. rather through the United Nations or international law. What are some of your concerns about the way this looks like it will go for any Saddam Hussein trial?
Greg Palast: I really would love to have Saddam on a witness stand. Let's hear this guy talk about his years on the Bush and James Baker payroll. Remember, we did support him. In fact, Saudi Arabia is looking by the way, to receive another $39 billion from Iraq, which is why Jim Baker was put in charge of that debt. He's basically going to make sure that the Iraqi people get squeezed for all that money sent over by the Saudis. But I think a trial is very important and the reason that they're having the puppet government control the trial is that they don't want anyone without strings attached to let Saddam run his mouth and basically spill the beans about who really backed him.
It's not a question of punishing Saddam. You can never punish this guy enough for the blood he spilled. But what we need from him is the information because he's just -- he himself is a puppet-- we need to know to know who "Mr. Big" is.
So God knows what they're going to do for this little show trial, but I think what we're not going to get is any type of real information about the years of terror imposed on the Iraqi people and the Kurdish people by Saddam at our behest and with American taxpayer subsidy.
Between The Lines: Do you think there's any hope that Saddam's capture will hasten the collapse of the insurgency and end the difficult times for the U.S. military in Iraq?
Greg Palast: You saw that guy. I mean, did you see a guy running an international subterranean network, or did you see a guy babbling to himself in his beard looking like the Unabomber on thorazine? Saddam Hussein was not running any insurgency. We don't know who these guys are, but they're operating with impunity in and out of Iraq. You can capture Saddam, and you can shave his beard and you can hang him upside down and you can put him on a show trial, and that doesn't make either our troops in Iraq safer or Americans safer either.
Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with Sept. 11. An evil rat he was, but Sept. 11, was not his gig and the perps are out there running around free. Osama is still out there and we ain't close to him, and there's many Osamas out there, even if we got that one.
Greg Palast is author of the book "The Best Democracy Money Can Buy." Read Greg Palast's columns online at
Related links on our website at for the week ending 12/26/03:
"You Got Him? Get Out!"
"During Trial, Hussein May Try to Implicate Western Leaders"
"2 Car Bombers Attack Iraqi Police, as Insurgency Continues"
"Saddam capture stuns Arab world"
"Spider's Web: How the White House Illegally Armed Iraq," book by Alan Friedman, New York: Bantam Books, 1993
"Saddam Hussein: Made in the USA"
Scott Harris is executive producer of Between The Lines, which can be heard on over 35 radio stations. This interview excerpt was featured on the award-winning, syndicated weekly radio newsmagazine, Between The Lines (, for the week ending Dec. 26, 2003. Between The Lines Q is compiled by Anna Manzo and Scott Harris.
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