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saddam's life

Those who argue for widening the current anti-terrorism campaign to include Saddam Hussein point to an accretion of evidence that he is behind state-sponsored terrorism -- from Iraqi links to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the assassination attempt on former President George H. W. Bush that same year, to accumulating evidence that there are Iraqi ties to the Al Qaeda terrorist network. Here are excerpts from interviews with journalist Laurie Mylroie; Khidhir Hamza, Saddam's former chief nuclear scientist; Richard Perle, chairman of the Defense Policy Board; Richard Butler, former head of the UN weapons inspection agency, UNSCOM; and R. James Woolsey, former director of the CIA.

Richard Perle

Chairman of the Defense Policy Board, an advisory group that advocates laying the groundwork now for overthrowing Saddam
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What must one understand about Saddam Hussein and Saddam Hussein's Iraq, even before entering the debate on how we should deal with Iraq?

Well, about Saddam Hussein, the essential point is that he's a thug who has been willing to murder some of the people closest to him, who has used chemical weapons against his own people, who has invaded his neighbors. He is probably the most dangerous individual in the world today.

Capable of?

Capable of anything. Capable of using weapons of mass destruction against the United States, capable of launching other military maneuvers as soon as he thinks he can get away with it.

You have stated in the past that this is not a fringe issue. What do you mean by that?

The question of Saddam Hussein is at the very core of the war against terrorism. There can be no victory in the war against terrorism if, at the end of it, Saddam Hussein is still in power -- not only because he supports terrorism, not only because he trains terrorists and gives them refuge, but because he is the symbol of defiance of all Western values. He succeeded in throwing the United Nations out. He's violated all of the undertakings that followed the end of the Gulf War. As long as he is there, we are in danger, and we are in danger from terrorist activity.


What is the threshold that needs to be reached before ... action might actually be taken?

I think sensible people looking at the dangers to the United States, recognizing how we failed adequately to contain terrorism before Sept. 11, will conclude that with [Saddam Hussein's] hatred of the United States, with his blood feud with former President Bush -- [which] could extend to George W. Bush as well -- to leave him in place and wait for him to take action against us is simply too dangerous.

So in very practical terms, what does that mean for our policy as of today?

I think we will need a new policy toward Iraq, because the current policy is to leave Saddam Hussein alone, to subject Iraq to sanctions which are ineffective. They're increasingly being violated by other countries. They're certainly not going to change Saddam's policy, and yet that is the policy of the last administration and, I'm sorry to say, has been the policy of this administration.

[Regarding] this war on terrorism, if you were designing it or advising the administration, would you do it differently?

Well, we're conducting this war now in phases. Always bet on phase one, because phase one always happens. Phase two sometimes happens and sometimes it doesn't. I would have gone about this differently. I would have gone after Iraq immediately. I would not have relegated it to some subsequent phase. But it's all right, as long as we get to phase two. Phase two should be overwhelming support for the Iraqi opposition. They're eager, they're ready to go. I believe they can do it. We haven't done that until now, and the State Department opposes doing it.

[This should be] coupled with plans that could involve the direct application of American military power in support of the Iraqi opposition. Bombing targets in Iraq without any connection to a strategy seems to me unwise and ineffective. ...

I think the regime of Saddam Hussein is far weaker than most people believe, and what it would take to topple it is a tiny fraction of what was necessary to expel Iraq from Kuwait in 1991.

Some people will argue, I suppose, that it's not that simple, that it's another quagmire, the INC is not as easy to rely on, and democracy is not an easy thing that you set up quickly.

It's certainly true it's not easy. It's not simple. On the other hand, simply waiting until biological weapons show up in this country because we didn't take action against Saddam when we had the opportunity would be foolish and shortsighted, just as it was foolish and shortsighted to not act with vigor against terrorism in the period in which Al Qaeda was developing into the organization it became.

Ten years ago, Al Qaeda was nothing. We watched it grow, because after each terrorist act, it was stronger than before. We never challenged it. We never took significant action against it. And these acts of terror were regarded as great triumphs and the basis upon which Al Qaeda became a magnet for people who want to destroy us. ...

R. James Woolsey

Former director of the CIA, 1993-1995
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[Some current government officials say we're having a hard enough time trying to deal with Osama bin Laden and the Taliban.] And now you're advocating that we go in and have a proxy army overthrow Saddam?

... I don't have any quarrel with the notion that we should concentrate first and foremost on the Taliban. But once we bring about a regime change in Afghanistan, I think we ought to very seriously consider moving toward a regime change in Iraq and getting rid of the bad regime of Saddam's. I think his development of weapons of mass destruction, his involvement with terrorists, all of these things are going to make this harder next year and even harder the year after that, and so on.

We should have done it in 1991. If not 1991, we should have done it sometime during the eight years of the Clinton administration. We haven't. It puts current President Bush in a very difficult circumstance. But I don't know any way this is going to get better until we have a change of regime in Iraq. ...

Secretary Powell says don't go after Iraq or don't do anything that's going to screw up this coalition.

The coalition exists in order to support U.S. foreign policy and national security policy, not the other way around. You don't start with a coalition and then end up only doing what the lowest common denominator of the coalition wants you to do. You know, people will support you more if you're clear and decisive than if you're not. ...

Based on Saddam's prior behavior, his potential involvement in, as you've said, the World Trade Center and other acts, as well as the attempted assassination of President Bush, [do] you feel there is ample justification for doing something soon?

We all have our different thresholds. As far as I'm concerned, the fact [is] that he tried to assassinate the first President Bush and nothing really was ever effectively done about it by the U.S. government. ...

Well, we blew up the [Iraqi security service] headquarters.

We shot a few cruise missiles into an empty building in the middle of the night. I think he probably laughed at the time and is still laughing. I think that the fact that he did that and the fact that he's working hard on weapons of mass destruction -- ballistic missiles, nuclear, chemical, bacteriological especially -- that's enough as far as I'm concerned.


And Saddam isn't crying over the World Trade Center and the Pentagon?

No, not at all. I think he's quite delighted. He said he's delighted. I take him at his word. He said he's very pleased that the United States was badly damaged. I think he thinks in terms of revenge. ... Either he or one of his senior lieutenants once said, "The way to get people to do what you want is to hurt them." I think that's the way he thinks. Saddam was a hit man before he was a dictator. That was his profession, sort of like yours is a journalist and mine's a lawyer. He was a hit man. That's what he knows how to do: hurt people and kill people.

And he wouldn't care whether it was a bunch of fundamentalists who did it?

He's, I think, perfectly happy to work with fundamentalists. People who say he would never work with fundamentalists are about 15 years out of date. He's restructured the Iraqi flag in his own calligraphy to show "Allah Akbar -- God is Great" across the face of it. That's roughly equivalent to, if during World War II when he finally decided he needed the Russian Orthodox Church, if Joseph Stalin had written in his own hand across the Soviet flag, "In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit."

Saddam is a very cynical man, and he sees that some of the religious extremists are able to hurt the United States. He likes to see the United States hurt, so he'll make common cause with whoever he needs to.

Richard Butler

Former chairman of UNSCOM, the UN weapons inspection agency
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What's the single thing you would say to the president that he needs to know in order to go after Saddam, or that would cause him to stop?

... I would say, one, forget about your father, forget about the past; that's water under the bridge. We ought to look into the future. Two, the dictator of Iraq is really bad for everybody, starting with the Iraqi people and everyone around, but perhaps above all, as a lightning rod for the disaffected people on the Arab street, 200 million people. Three, as we try to get terrorism out of civilized life and so on, he's going to be a problem; this lightning rod is going to be a problem. So, four, let's try and get him out of the picture.

I've never said this to anyone else. I'm taking your question quite seriously. I would say to "W," as he's called, G. W. Bush, "Let's try to get him out of the picture. But Mr. President, we have to do that, only do that, in a way that will not make a situation where the cure becomes worse than the disease, where the Arab world explodes because we've intervened in an Arab government. We have to do this; it's based on evidence. We have to do it firmly and clearly. We have to take some other Arabs along with us." I would tell him how Arab leaders told me in private a couple of years ago when I was doing that job that they would love to be rid of Saddam. He gives every Arab a bad name. He's bad for business. But they cannot say that publicly. And that's a circle we have to square. ...

Khidir Hamza

Saddam's former chief nuclear scientist
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In your opinion, what is the threat that Saddam Hussein poses at this point? Is it necessary to remove him from power?

You are having for the first time nuclear weapons coming -- not now, in the near future probably. Even if it is not 2005, 2010 would be for sure. The estimate now [is that by] 2005 Iraq will be nuclear. Say, 2010. We are talking about now the future of the region.

Now, Saddam gets nuclear weapons, and he has already the full range of the chemical and most of the range of the biological probably. ... The expertise are there, all the scientists are there, and he has oil money, to a degree, not as much as before. So what you are getting is a highly weaponized state with a huge terror organ -- the government itself is a terror organ, and several organizations that could be satellites to it, including Al Qaeda. ...

A nuclear bomb would turn Saddam into a huge figure in the region. Islamic fundamentalists and many of the Arab nationalists feel humiliated throughout this century -- the loss of Palestine, the occupation of Arab land by the West, the humiliation of the region throughout the century; they'll be vindicated with Saddam. Here is a man who can stand up to the West, who made it, who has it, who can do it. He will be a huge figure in the region.

And the Arab "street," which we used to think is not very important ... Sept. 11 is telling us, now, is very important, because 14 out of the 19 killer hijackers, 13 or 14, are Saudis, which are basically U.S. allies. So the Saudi street is not stable, is not happy, neither with the government nor with the alliance. So what we are ending with is a breeding ground of groups that would work outside the alliance structure and could support whichever extremist regime they think is attractive to them.

So you seem to be saying that there's no choice.

There is no choice. Absolutely no choice to removing Saddam. No alternative. Saddam has to be removed. Otherwise, what you'll have is the region going down the drain, eventually, with all kinds of extremist groups, possible skirmishes, small wars, all kinds of actions. ...

So what do you assume is going to happen? What is your best guess?

I don't think anything will happen. ... I think the minimum will be done. And I don't think an overt action of a larger scale required to get rid of him will be adopted, for many reasons. The end result will be [to] do nothing. ... This has been the U.S. policy for the last 10 years, and it will be now. ...

If the United States for whatever reason decides that its war on terrorism should not include Saddam Hussein, his long-term goals, does he still feel that this war started 10 years ago, supposedly finished 10 years ago, is ongoing, whether we go at him or not? Is this war for Saddam Hussein continuing?

Yes, it will be continuing to him as long as you keep on him the sanctions. Limit him and how much weapons he can make. Limit his military capability. Limit his ability to domineer the region. Limit his movements. Limit his power. You are his enemies. It makes no difference whether they go after him or not. Not going after him will relieve him from trying to defend himself, but it would not get him out of the box he is in. Because he believes if he stays weak, he's dead. So he'll fight you one way or the other -- through terrorism, all kinds of weaponry he has. ...

Laurie Mylroie

Journalist and author of two books on Saddam Hussein
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Is there any point that you think is essential to know?

Saddam Hussein retains a huge biological weapons program. That's the program that he made the greatest effort to conceal from the U.N. weapons inspectors. Richard Butler, the last UNSCOM chairman, has repeatedly described it as "a black hole." And it's very dangerous, Iraq's biological weapons program. There haven't been any weapons inspectors in Iraq for the past three years.

One of the things that is particularly disturbing about the way that Iraq dealt with that program -- it never turned over any of its stockpile of biological agents to UNSCOM. That's a bit strange, because a biological program is the easiest to reconstitute. Iraq could have given UNSCOM most of its stockpile, kept a few seed germs to regrow at any time, and very quickly reconstituted that stockpile that it had. Why didn't it do that?

One suggestion that has emerged, which is particularly relevant in recent days, [is that], as people all know now, anthrax and other biological agents have DNA. If the U.N. weapons inspectors had part of the stockpile from which any given Iraqi biological agent had come, if there were an act of terrorism carried out by Iraq in this country using Iraqi biological agents, it might be possible on the basis of DNA testing to trace the agents used in the biological attack to Iraq's stockpile. But without Iraq's stockpile, of course, that can't be done.

So by retaining Iraq's entire biological stockpile, Saddam also retained the option of carrying out biological terrorism against the United States.

Because we can't prove it?

We can't prove it. We don't have any evidence whatsoever. If we had, or if more particularly, the U.N. weapons inspectors had Iraq's biological agents; if Iraq had turned over those stockpiles, then we might well be able to link the anthrax attacks to Iraq.

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