President Bush said Monday the detainment should lead to a fair and public trial where “all the atrocities need to come out.”
“I’m Saddam Hussein,” the disposed dictator told U.S. troops upon his arrest in a so-called “spider hole” hidden by bricks and dirt near a rural farm. “I’m the president of Iraq and I’m willing to negotiate.”
“Regards from President Bush,” a U.S. Special Forces soldier replied according to Maj. Bryan Reed, operations officer for the 1st Brigade, 4th Infantry Division.
Some 600 American soldiers participated in the raid, which occurred just after 8 p.m. local time Saturday without a single shot being fired.
During a Monday press conference, President Bush sent his own message to the former Iraqi leader: “Good riddance. The world is better off without you, Mr. Saddam Hussein.”
The president said that the United States would work with the Iraqi people to develop a way to try him that will withstand international scrutiny.
“I’ve got my own personal views of how he ought to be treated, but … I’m not an Iraqi citizen. It’s going to be up to the Iraqis to make those decisions,” said Mr. Bush.
“There needs to be a public trial and all the atrocities need to come out and justice needs to be delivered,” he added.
Calling Saddam “untrustworthy,” the president appeared skeptical that the interrogation process would help answer questions about the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq or his alleged ties to terrorist groups.
“He’s a deceiver, he’s a liar, he’s a torturer, he’s a murderer. I can’t imagine why he would change his attitude, since he’ll be treated humanely by U.S. coalition, U.S. troops,” said the president.
“He’s a person that was willing to destroy his country and to kill a lot of his fellow citizens. He’s a person who used weapons of mass destruction against citizens in his own country … he is the kind of person that is untrustworthy, and I’d be very cautious about relying upon his word in any way, shape or form,” he added.
The operation that produced Saddam’s capture was triggered by intelligence reportedly provided by a member of his extended clan or tribe, unnamed military officials told media outlets.
Reports vary somewhat as to how much solid intelligence Saddam has provided since his arrest.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told the CBS program “60 Minutes” on Sunday that Saddam “has not been cooperative in terms of talking, or anything like that.”
“He clearly was compliant or resigned, in effect, as he was being examined and as he was being transferred from the hole to the transport that took him away, but I think … it’s a bit early to try and characterize his demeanor beyond that,” said the defense secretary.
Rumsfeld said the former Iraqi leader is being treated “in a humane and professional way,” with the same protections provided to prisoners of war in accordance with the Geneva Conventions and that he’s being held at an undisclosed location “for obvious reasons.”
But a U.S. Army official told the Associated Press Monday that information garnered from questioning Saddam as well as documents found with him have led to the arrests of top officials from his deposed regime.
“We’ve already gleaned intelligence value from his capture,” U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Mark Hertling of the 1st Armored Division told the news service. “We’ve already been able to capture a couple of key individuals here in Baghdad. We’ve completely confirmed one of the cells. It’s putting the pieces together and it’s connecting the dots. It has already helped us significantly in Baghdad.”
A U.S. Army spokesman later confirmed that intelligence from Saddam as well as his personal documents led to the capture of two figures wanted by coalition troops.
“It has led to the capture of two important men,” Capt. Jason Beck of the U.S. 1st Armored Division told Reuters. He did not identify the men arrested but said one of them was a senior figure associated with the ousted Iraqi leader.
Asked on the CBS “Early Show” Monday how Saddam was responding to his captivity, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, commander of coalition forces in Iraq, said he has been “talkative” in responding to questions “in terms of just normal administrative requirements” but indicated that Saddam was less cooperative with interrogators.
“I wouldn’t characterize it either way, cooperative or uncooperative. We still have a long ways to go in this process,” said Sanchez.
The highest ranking of the Iraqis still wanted by U.S. forces is Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, a close Saddam aide who U.S. officials believe may be helping to mastermind ongoing resistance fighting in Iraq.
Four new Iraqi leaders personally questioned Saddam on Sunday about actions he took during the more than 30 years he ruled Iraq during a carefully monitored 30-minute meeting.
“He was quite lucid. He had command of his faculties. He would not apologize to the Iraqi people. He did not deny any of the crimes he was confronted with having done. He tried to justify them,” said Ahmad Chalabi, a member of the Iraqi Governing Council and head of the Iraqi National Congress, who was one of the four to visit Saddam, according to The New York Times.
Despite the arrest, violent attacks continued Monday. Two car bombs exploded outside of Iraqi police stations in the Baghdad area in fresh attacks from the insurgency despite the largely welcomed news that Saddam had been arrested.
In one of the blasts, a vehicle packed with explosives drove through the razor wire protecting the station in the district of Husainiyah, destroying the building’s facade and damaging nearby shops. Eight Iraqi officers were killed and 10 officers and five civilians were wounded.
At the Ameriyah station in western Baghdad, another car bomb exploded, wounding seven officers. Iraqi and U.S. military police fired on a second explosives-packed vehicle, preventing it from ramming the police station and the driver fled, U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Hertling told the AP.