The Survival of Saddam
saddam and a crowd

join the discussion: What are your views on Saddam Hussein, the master survivor?  What should be the U.S.'s and world community's policy on Saddam and Iraq?

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Dear FRONTLINE,

I watched with interest your program on Saddam Hussein. Although it was an excellent presentation, some points need to be clarified.

I served with the Defense Intelligence Agency in the office dealing directly with the Iraqi Directorate of Military Intelligence in the late 1980's, and personally particpated in the close relationship between the two military intelligence services as we cooperated against the Iranians until the end of the Iran-Iraq War.

I later served as General Norman Schwarzkopf's personal interpreter during Desert Shield and Desert Storm, and later served with the Central Intelligence Agency, where I was involved in many of the events you presented in program.

In the discussion of Hussein Kamil, it was stated that he provided important intelligence information on the Iraqi chemical and biological weapons programs. Actually, he provided us with very little information - he was demanding too much money for what he was willing to provide. Assuming that he was telling us everything, the Iraqi government decided to release over 10,000 documents on these programs to the United Nations Special Commission, detailing volumes not only on the chemical and biological programs, but their ballistic missile systems as well.

As far as the return to Iraq, Hussein Kamil and his brother Sadddam Kamil had no illusions about their fate. The message from Saddam Hussein was not that all was to be forgiven - this was merely a public relations ploy. They were told that unless they returned - with their wives (Saddam's daughters) - their entire extended families would be killed. Obviously, the two brothers believed that Saddam would do just that, and returned knowing full well what awaited them.

As you said in the program, the daughters were separated at the border by Saddam's oldest son. The two brothers were killed in a firefight with the Special Security Organization - not members of their family as reported by the Iraqi press. Their bodies were dragged through the streets of Baghdad as a warning to those who would defy Saddam.

The remarks about the effectiveness of the Iraqi opposition were pretty much on target. The groups supported by the United States hold meetings in London, while the Iranian-backed SCIRI engages in actual attacks against Iraqi forces.

The sanctions have been ineffective, and President Clinton's politically-timed four-day operation in December 1998 did nothing but end the United Nations inpections. It's time to reintroduce inspectors and/or put some teeth in the opposition movement.

Rick Francona
Author of "Ally to Adversary - An Eyewitness Account of Iraq's Fall from Grace"
port orford, oregon


FRONTLINE's editors respond:
Thank you for your insightful comments about the program. Regarding your point about the information Hussein Kamel provided after his defection, my understanding is that, as you say, he in fact did not provide much useful information to American agents who debriefed him in Jordan. However, he was then interviewed separated by Rolf Ekeus, the head of UNSCOM, who asked different, more informed questions and received much more specific answers from Hussein Kamel. UNSCOM then used Ekeus' information to raid the biological sites. As you correctly point out, the Iraqis did release considerable information about their biological program after Kamel's defection, and argued the at the entire biological weapons program was Kamel's own idea and that Saddam knew nothing about it. However, it was Ekeus' interview with Kamel that provided the crucial, specific information the inspectors needed to raid the main biological site. Of course, by the time they arrived, the biological agents had already been moved to another location.

With regard to the reason Hussein Kamel and his brother returned to Iraq with their families, much of what we know is second-hand as I have not talked to anyone who was privy to the discussions between Saddam and Hussein Kamel. Perhaps you have access to better information. I'm curious, however, why Saddam waited nine months to threaten Hussein Kamel's family? Also, Hussein Kamel must have known at the outset that his defection placed his extended family inside Iraq in extreme danger, as the regime often punished the families of those who betrayed Saddam. Why the sudden change of heart? My understanding was the Hussein Kamel had expected a better, more welcoming reception in Jordan, but was eventually shunned by the US, the Iraqi opposition, and King Hussein. In the end, he was depressed, had nowhere to go, and was open to Saddam's offer of reconciliation.

Regarding the brother's deaths, my understanding is that the raid was led by one of Saddam's closest and most notorious aides, Gen. Ali Hassan al-Majid. He was from the same clan as the Kamel brothers, and so the attack was both a family "revenge killing" as well as an act of the security services. Members of the extended family took part in the attack and went along with the cover story, knowing the fate that awaited them if they did not show sufficient loyalty towards Saddam.

Thanks again for your comments, and I will be sure to read your book.

Greg Barker
Producer

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