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saddam's life

This mix of views on Saddam Hussein add up to the specter of a revenge-seeking, destruction-addicted dictator who had -- and may have again -- an arsenal of biochemical weapons he is more than likely ready to use. Here are excerpts from FRONTLINE's interviews with: journalist Laurie Mylroie; Khidhir Hamza, Saddam's former chief nuclear scientist; Sabah Khodada, a former Iraqi army captain who says Iraq has highly secret terrorist training camps; 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.

Laurie Mylroie

Journalist and author of two books on Saddam Hussein
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[Regarding new allegations and evidence of Saddam's ties to Al Qaeda] why would Saddam Hussein get involved in this [the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S.]? Why take the chance of attacking the U.S.?

One can ask, why did Saddam invade Kuwait in 1990? He is a man who takes chances. Moreover, Saddam's view of the utility of violence is entirely different than ours. A Kuwaiti once told me -- he's a professor of political science at Kuwait University -- "There's something very important that you Americans have to understand about the mentality of Saddam and those around him." The Kuwaiti then went on to tell me this little story.

He was a member of a delegation from the Arab Political Science Association -- Arab academics -- who visited Baghdad in the late 1980s during the latter years of the Iran-Iraq war. And they asked Tariq Aziz, the deputy prime minister, "Why is it that Iraq attacks oil tankers carrying oil from Iran, even when those tankers belong to countries that are friendly to Iraq, like France?" And Tariq Aziz replied to them, "Iraq wants more international pressure to end the Iran-Iraq war, and the way to get people to do what you want is to hurt them."

Saddam sees violence as something that can achieve his goals. He sees a utility in violence. In addition, Saddam seeks revenge against the Untied States, to do to us what we have done to Iraq. ...

Khidir Hamza

Saddam's former chief nuclear scientist
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Saddam believes that security starts abroad. Always he thinks that way. Think outside. ... If somebody is endangering you, go after him one way or the other. And Saddam is vengeful. Remember, he tried to kill former President Bush even after he left office. It's his nature. And, I think, it's an impression he wants to leave, "Don't do me a bad turn; I never forget it."

I think Saddam's given up on lifting the sanctions. The U.S. will never lift the sanctions on Iraq, no matter what the French say or the Russians. ...

So the best policy for him, knowing him and the way he operates, is to attack. He cannot get the type of loyalty that people will blow themselves up for him. This is not the type of regime he runs. ...

But ... a guy like bin Laden would be an excellent complement to the operation he wants. They supply him with the foot soldiers ready to blow themselves up. He could train those foot soldiers, support them with his operations, ongoing, including the arm of the military industry, which is very sophisticated, and know-how for acquiring technology, knowing where to go and where to get things. And his intelligence operatives, which can do very tight operations, extremely tight. ...

What is the nuclear capability, at this point, of Iraq?

I believe Iraq now has fully functional design, and complete manufacturing capability for the parts, or parts of the nuclear equipment. The only thing Iraq [needs to acquire] is the nuclear core. ... German intelligence, which I believe made a very good assessment ... is [that] Iraq should be able to acquire this part by 2005, and have three nuclear weapons. It might not be three, though; it might be one or two.

[When] I left Iraq, Iraq had the design for a [nuclear] device, not a weapon. They had not hardened the design and miniaturized it enough to make it a weapon -- a hardy enough weapon for transport, say, a missile. But there was a lot of work going into hardening this design. Meaning making it able to withstand a trip.

Useful on a missile?

Useful on a missile. That was a target. The design we had even then could withstand an airplane trip. ... So the whole effort was directed to hardening and miniaturizing.

You think they have one or two now?


You think they're growing, or have the possibility within the next couple of years ...

Yes. ...

... Of actually building this?


How successful or unsuccessful was the United Nations in eradicating the nuclear and the biological threat that Iraq presents here?

The United Nations inspectors had a very misguided opinion about what is disarmament. ... They thought if you have something, I take it away from you, and you are disarmed. Despite the knowledge you have, the expertise you gained through the years, your contacts that could repurchase parts for you and put the thing back together. They discounted all this.

For example, on the nuclear ... the critical parts that Iraq could not replace easily, we did not tell about -- for example, the molds that you make explosives with, the machines that you make explosives with. Nobody is going to sell you these anymore. Very difficult. So Iraq did not give these up. Not a single explosive was given to the inspectors for the nuclear weapon program. Not a single mold, not a single machine.

"Given"? I thought they were found.

A little bit found, but not explosives. Iraq claimed that these were destroyed in the war. Other parts were given, or were found and given to inspectors. Not everything the inspectors found, by the way, was given to them. They might find something and it disappears on them. And that happened several times.

Anyway, suppose even they were given? The expertise is there. Iraq kept a very essential part of the program. The computer-controlled lathe machines and machining device ... these are critical in making the high-technology part.

In biology, what do you need in biology? Aside from some equipment, you need to import mostly fermenters, dryers and stuff like that. All these could be re-manufactured in Iraq. And this is what the inspectors took away.

You don't need a high-grade growth media to do biological agents. What you need is a growth media, and a growth media can be done in Iraq. It wouldn't be the high-grade Western standard or your standard growth media. The germs that grow wouldn't be up to standards here, but they would be workable. ...

Why the special interest in biological weapons?

Biological are much less easily detectable than any other. You could have a plastic bag of anthrax in your pocket and take it, if it is well sealed, or doubly sealed, and take it anywhere without being detected.

Chemical is harder. There are always traces of chemicals, which would be a give-away. Nuclear, you have the radiation problem. And I don't believe radiological weapons are effective anyway; we tried them. They don't create the terror that biological weapons can create. ...

Sabah Khodada

Former Iraqi army captain who claims a highly secret Iraqi installation trained Islamic terrorists
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After your service in the army, you worked for a secret part of the Iraqi government?

Some of it is not very secretive. But there's another part, which has a lot to do with international terrorism and this kind of operation -- this is very secretive.

Maybe you could tell me what this section is called, and who runs it. And what did it do?

It's called the Division of Special Operations. ... This whole camp where their training is run by the Iraqi [security service]. ... .

What kind of training went on, and who was being trained?

Training is majorly on terrorism. They would be trained on assassinations, kidnapping, hijacking of airplanes, hijacking of buses, public buses, hijacking of trains and all other kinds of operations related to terrorism.


Non-Iraqis were trained separately from us. There were strict orders not to meet with them and not to talk to them. And even when they conduct their training, their training has to occur at times different from the times when we, the Iraqis, conduct our own training.

So you were training Iraqis, Saddam's fedayeen [Saddam's Fighters], members of the militia in Iraq. And someone else, other groups, were training the non-Iraqis?

They were special trainers or teachers from the Iraqi intelligence and al-Mukhabarat. And those same trainers or teachers will train the fedayeen, the Iraqi fedayeen, and also the same group of those teachers will train the non-Iraqis, foreigners who are in the camp. ...

And the foreign nationals, the Arabs who are there, but who are not Iraqis -- what were they like? Were they Egyptians, Saudis? Do you know where they came from?

They look like they're mostly from the Gulf, sometimes from areas close to Yemen, from their dark skin and short bodies. And they also are Muslims. ...


And the training also included how to prepare for suicidal operations. For example, they will train them how to belt themselves around with explosives, and jump in a place and explode themselves out as part of the suicidal training. I think the training of the Arabs was much harsher, and much stricter, than the training of the Iraqis.


Because we know that Arabs, non-Iraqis who come to train in these kind of camps, are going to be sent to very dangerous and important operations outside Iraq; not inside Iraq. ...

They trained people to hijack airplanes?


For what purpose?

... It has been said openly in the media and even to us, from the highest command, that the purpose of establishing Saddam's Fighters is to attack American targets and American interests. This is known. There's no doubt about it.

All this training is directed towards attacking American targets, and American interests. The training does not only include hijacking of planes and sabotage. ... Some other people were trained to do parachuting. Some other areas were training on how to penetrate enemy lines and get information from behind enemy lines. But it's all for the general concept of hitting and attacking American targets and American interests.

Who controlled this operation?

In terms of training, they will train in this special camp. But after this training, they will go in small groups. These small groups are directly connected with Saddam, or to Saddam's son. ...

Richard Butler

Former chairman of UNSCOM, the UN weapons inspection agency
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Give me a sense of Saddam's biological warfare history, his orientation, goal, how much he amassed, etc.

It's really simple. When I was in Iraq after a little while, I formed this view. It's kind of a theory, but actually very practical. The degree of resistance that Saddam showed to our inspection and arms control was a direct sign of the importance he attached to a given weapon. So when he said, "You can't go there," that means they really wanted to keep that stuff.

The degree of resistance that the Iraqis showed to our investigation of their biological weapons program exceeded all other deceptions and resistances. So I had to conclude that, for Saddam, biological weapons were his weapons of choice. He seems to be really attached to the idea of killing people with germs, because they tried so hard to keep us away from their biology program. What did they have? Everything. Anthrax, plague, botulinum, gangrene, camelpox. Would you believe there's a thing in Iraq called camelpox? I mean, everything. Quantities and qualities, [we're] not absolutely sure, because they threw us out three years ago and we don't know what they now have.

Anthrax, however, [is the] leading biological agent, leading candidate, because of its nature. We know that Saddam loaded this into shells, bombs, and missile warheads. I had in my own hand pieces of a destroyed missile warhead that we swabbed and it had anthrax residue in it. It was a serious program.

The assumption is that, by using DNA, we can find out whether anthrax that's happening here is anthrax that came from Iraq. Do we have [that evidence]?

No. Unfortunately, not readily. ... We have to find out exactly what anthrax was used in these letters in the United States -- crude or sophisticated, and so on -- which would then lead to how it was made, which would then lead to who might have made it. So we funnel down; we narrow the field of candidates for who may have done this.

I suspect that one of the candidates will be Iraq, and, indeed, by the time this goes to air, that may have been proven. Because what is at issue here is crude or weapons-grade anthrax, and Iraq worked quite hard on making weapons-grade anthrax. It meant know-how, it meant investing millions of dollars in special equipment, which they did. Did we bring back samples? No, not particularly. Did we know what they were doing? Not absolutely.

But I want to make this point to you: What we knew would have been an underestimate, not an overestimate, because they took such strenuous measures to prevent us from knowing the truth. What we saw was tens of thousands of gallons, serious stuff. Whether that was all of it or not, I don't know.

Tens of thousands of ...

... Gallons or liters. Quite frankly, I can't remember at this particular moment, but very substantial quantities of anthrax, substantial quantities. Now, no question that our figures, if anything, would have been low, not high. How else could I interpret the degree of resistance that was shown to our investigation of the biological weapons thing?

Tariq Aziz, Saddam's deputy, took me aside once, just once, in private, and said, "Of course we made biological weapons. Of course." One hour prior to that, in a public room, he was saying, "We never did that," but privately he said, "Of course we did." And he went on to say why. He said [it was] to use on the Persians and the Jews. ...

This growth media is the jet fuel of anthrax?

Well, something like that. This stuff exists in every hospital in the United States. If you have some pathology that needs to be investigated, they take a swab or a piece of skin or whatever from you to see if you've got a disease, or cancer, or whatever. Typically the tissue is grown in a growth medium. ... In hospitals, you use a smidgen of it, a fingernail.

These people in Iraq imported tons of it. We begged them, we said, "Why did you do that? Why do you need all that stuff? To grow what?" We knew quite well it was to grow their biological weapons cultures. It's pathetic, but in the end they said, "The order clerk made an error, he put an extra zero on the order and we got 50 tons instead of five," or something like that. That's the nonsense that we were subjected to.

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's your opinion of what the evidence is out there [against Iraq], and why is it relevant?

There's a great deal of circumstantial evidence that Iraq was involved in the 1993 attempt on the World Trade Center. Ramzi Yousef, who sits in jail now, was traveling on an Iraqi passport. There were lots of communications back to Iraq that suggest there were people in Iraq who were at least cognizant of the operation and possibly even directing it. Laurie Mylroie has done some serious work on this, and it's very convincing. It's not conclusive at this stage. It was the view of the chief FBI officer who dealt with the case, who passed away, that Iraq was involved. We may never be able to prove conclusively whether Iraq was involved or not, but there's strong circumstantial evidence that suggests Iraq was indeed involved.

Why is that relevant to the decisions being made today?

I don't think it is relevant to the decisions being made today. What is relevant to the decisions being made today is one simple question: Does Saddam Hussein, in power in Iraq, in possession of weapons of mass destruction, pose a threat to the United States that is of such a magnitude that we had better take action before he takes action against us? That's the issue. It has little to do with the past history.

But we do know that he has connections with terrorist networks, that he has training facilities for terrorists. At Salman Pak, there's a facility that has mock-ups of a variety of aircraft so that hijackers can be trained. We know that he has motive; we know he has capability. It's a question of whether we wait and hope for the best.

We talked to a refugee from Iraq who INC [Iraqi National Congress] has been working with, a gentleman who says he knows what's been happening at Salman Pak. How believable is the evidence that is out there? What we're told is that terrorists are being trained from many Arab nations, some fundamentalists. They're being trained in how to take over planes with knives and/or pens, and how to use them as a terrorist act. Is it believable?

I think it's believable. Look, I don't believe that we will again experience an attack exactly like that of Sept. 11. For one thing, we now know that you never yield control of the aircraft. Instructions to pilots were exactly the opposite, before Sept. 11. So it isn't going to be a repetition.

We're always fighting the last war. I can't tell you what form a new terrorist attack will take. The one that troubles me the most is the use of biological weapons, disseminated not by Iraqi intelligence officials, but by terrorists who are prepared to commit suicide, who would cheerfully kill millions of Americans, if they could do it. All that remains is to organize their entry into the United States together with those biological agents. And that is something that Saddam Hussein and his intelligence apparatus is in a position to do.

So we can either hope he doesn't do what we know he can do, and wait, or we can consider that the threat is large enough to justify action today.

Doesn't evidence need to be compiled so that one understands that there is a tie to Iraq and terrorist acts, before making a move to include them in this war on terrorism?

No. I don't know why we would say to ourselves, "Saddam Hussein has biological weapons. He has a well-known hatred of the United States. He spoke approvingly of the attacks on Sept. 11. But despite all of that, we will not take any action against him until we find evidence that he did what." This is a question of protecting ourselves, and we are in a situation where the only credible defense has to include a strong offense. It is too easy to get into the United States. It is too easy to recruit suicide bombers. It is too easy to disseminate weapons of mass destruction. So either we take this to the enemy, or we wait, and hope the enemy chooses not to take it to us. But if we wait, it will be his choice, and not ours.

R. James Woolsey

Director of the CIA, 1993-1995
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Other than Mr. Yasin [a suspect in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing] who goes to Iraq, and the suspicion that Ramzi Yousef may be connected to a [Iraq] state intelligence operation, what else is there that makes you say that Saddam may be involved in this?

Well, it depends what you mean by "this." If "this" is terrorism against the United States, I think it's pretty clear that we have him dead to rights on trying to assassinate former President Bush in the spring of 1993.

"Dead to rights"?

Yes. President Clinton believed that. That's why he launched the 24 cruise missiles at the empty building in the middle of the night in the summer of 1993, after Saddam tried to assassinate former President Bush and the bomb didn't go off. The CIA looked into the forensics of the bomb and told President Clinton that it was an Iraqi government bomb. He then asked the FBI to double-check and sent an FBI forensics team over; they did the same thing. We both said, "Yes, this is an Iraqi government plot." That was the occasion for the launching of the cruise missiles against the empty [Iraqi security service] building in the middle of the night.

Now, I think that anybody who's looked at the 1993 plot to try to assassinate former President Bush believes that it was an Iraqi government plot. I don't think that President Clinton's response was anywhere nearly as forceful as that terrible plan of Saddam's that happily didn't come off.

So we have possible involvement in the World Trade Center bombing, definite involvement in the plans to [assassinate a] former president of the United States. What else?

If the U.S. government would now go back and look at all of these previous terrorist incidents -- the bombings in East Africa, the Cole, all the others -- and look beyond bin Laden, beyond the terrorists, and see if there is anything anywhere that points toward foreign government involvement -- and by the way, some of these may be Iran and not Iraq; it's not only a possibility of Iraq -- I think they might turn some things up.

We know Saddam is working hard on weapons of mass destruction. We know particularly through Khidhir Hamza and various other defectors that he's put a lot of time and effort in on biological weapons programs, as well as ballistic missile programs and nuclear programs. We know that he guarded more jealously than anything the details of his biological weapons programs, against UNSCOM and Ambassador Ekeus and Ambassador Butler and their inspection teams.

I don't know how many pieces of evidence one needs in the case of someone like Saddam Hussein. We are not, after all, trying to convict him in a court of law beyond a reasonable doubt. We're trying to make a judgment about American foreign policy and national security policy and whether that set of circumstances creates enough material for us to make a judgment that he has been actively involved in terrorist incidents against the United States. ...

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