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
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.
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
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.
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