Latest Saddam Address Strongest Evidence Yet He Is Alive
In the speech, Saddam referenced the Iraqi capture of a coalition Apache helicopter, which took place March 24.
“Perhaps you remember the valiant Iraqi peasant and how he shot down an American Apache with an old weapon,” Saddam said.
Iraqi officials claimed shooting down two helicopters that day, but according to U.S. military officials, only one helicopter was lost. They say it was unclear whether the helicopter was shot down, or experienced mechanical failure. The Iraqis captured the Apache’s two crewmen, later showing them on state television.
Also in Friday’s address, Saddam urged the Iraqi people to strike back at coalition forces.
“Hit them with force, resist them, O people of Baghdad, whenever they advance upon your city and remain true to your principles, your faith and your honor,” he said.
Saddam urged Baghdad residents to resist coalition forces, saying they should adhere to “your principles, your patriotism and the honor of men and women.”
The Iraqi leader also mentioned the coalition’s strategy of skirting most Iraqi towns in a push straight toward the capital.
While it was unclear when Friday’s address was taped, a U.S. intelligence official said it provided strong, but not conclusive, evidence the leader survived the March 19 strike intended to kill him. In that attack, coalition cruise missiles targeted a Baghdad building where Saddam was thought to be sleeping. Iraqi television has since shown several speeches from the leader, but none with definitive clues that they were recorded since the war started.
In the address, Saddam wore a military uniform and beret, and had an Iraqi flag behind him.
In his daily briefing Friday, White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer said the speech “does not give us any firm conclusions one way or another.”
Fleischer also said, “In the bigger scheme of things, it really doesn’t matter” whether the address was taped recently or not, as the regime’s rule is coming to a close regardless.
Also Friday, Iraqi television showed what they said was Saddam visiting a residential area of Baghdad. According to Iraqi television, the footage showed Saddam examining buildings that U.S. warplanes had bombed. A cheering crowd of Iraqi citizens surrounded him.
Recent statements suggest Pentagon officials have been attempting to goad Saddam into proving he is alive. Defense Department spokeswoman Victoria Clarke noted on Monday,
“Since the coalition bombed Saddam’s headquarters at the very beginning of the war, the world has neither seen his hide nor hair, only tapes.”
During a news conference Tuesday, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said he wondered why Iraqi Information Minister Saeed al-Sahhaf delivered a televised message purportedly from Saddam.
“The fact that Saddam Hussein did not show up for his televised speech today is interesting,” he said. According to the Associated Press, the government had told Iraqi television Saddam himself would deliver that speech.