Saturday, January 26, 2008

Piro and Saddam

Just got finished reading Ron Kessler's book detailing FBI agent George Piro's debriefing adventure with Saddam. Piro will be on 60 Minutes Sunday to tell his tale. To balance the show, here are some highlights from the book regarding Saddam's views on several topics, some of which might not make the program:

Women.. Saddam fashioned himself the ladies man and gave plenty of advice. "American women are independent".

Literary.. Saddam fashioned himself quite the writer. Piro asked him about one of his novels, "Zabibah and the King" but not about "Get Out, You Damned One", described as follows several years ago:
Abdel Amir said "Get Out, Damned One" describes an Arab leading an army that invades the land of the enemy and topples one of their monumental towers, an apparent reference to the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the World Trade Center in New York by Islamic militants of Osama bin Laden's terrorist network.
Saddam also wrote poetry. He also penned two rambling open letters to the American public after 9/11, now all but forgotten. We'll see if Piro says anything about their meaning. They weren't mentioned in the book.

Food.. we've heard about the Doritos, but Saddam didn't think military coffee was strong enough so Piro let him brew his own using three or four scoops of Folgers instant per cup, proving he was diabolical.

Palestinian cause.. Saddam bragged he was the only Arab leader who never wavered, begging the question as to whether the issue could ever have been solved with him in power.

The Mother of all battles.. he considered the Gulf War still ongoing, something American liberals were never able to comprehend.

Legacy.. his ego prevented him from accepting exile offers. That's believable based on what we know of the man. It could also signify his belief in a final solution of some sort.

The obvious question is whether Saddam was telling the truth and if so, why did he start with Piro? Let's assume for a moment Piro himself isn't lying (his accounts were filed on standard FBI 302 forms and sent back to Washington). Saddam might come clean if he believed there were no tomorrows. But was he resigned to defeat? We know his legacy was important to him.

During the time he was talking with Piro he was also busy going to trial. Throughout the entire affair he kept trying to cause disruptions, most likely with the hope they'd move everything outside the country. The death of several of his defense lawyers, blamed on radical Shias, could have easily also been done by his own Baathist thugs to make things look more unstable. Ramsey Clark was likely there to get the proceedings moved to the Hague, where he might survive.

All of this suggests Saddam was keeping hope alive. According to Said Arburish, Saddam was a survivor and indeed, there were occasional stories about possible deals between the US and Saddam if he'd wave his hand and end the insurgency.

Therefore it seems possible Saddam might not have been brutally honest with Piro. Keep in mind he believed he was talking to a top level security director from the US government (why would they send anybody less) when in fact Piro was just an agent who spoke good Arabic. But at this point you might ask, why would he lie about a lie if he thought he might survive? After all, he admitted to desiring a ramp-up of the program after the sanctions were dropped.

Well, his "WMD was only a bluff" confession conveniently removed some things from the table, such as the notion that he'd violated the UN resolutions (which could come in handy should the trial ever be moved to the Hague) and it also made Bush look like a fool for using WMD as a casus belli. If the WMDs were moved, it maintained their secrecy. Iraqi Air Force general Georges Sada was absolutely adamant that fellow IAF pilots flew WMD materials to Syria in 2002 under the cover of flood relief. Had Saddam ordered that operation it wouldn't have make sense to tell Piro, but apparently he never asked.

There were also the various and sundry chemically-tipped shells found lying around the countryside. Additionally, the WMD bluff negated the need to ask about the Hussein Kamel caper in 1995 or exactly what was destroyed by Operation Desert Fox in 1998.

So we'll have to wait and see what Mr. Piro says. Conservatives are heralding this story as proof that indeed "Saddam lied, people died" but that doesn't remove the Bush lied part, especially since spooks like Tyler Drumheller are still out peddling their wares about Naji Sabri. Ironically, Piro's interviews seem to bolster the notion we had a mole in Saddam's inner circle since the Butcher claimed he was actually at Dora Farms when the pre-invasion surprise attack came, but 'survived'.


During the interview Piro recounts the only time Saddam showed real dictator-like anger--when he described what "really" led to the invasion of Kuwait (and it wasn't April Glaspie):
"What really triggered it for him, according to Saddam, was he had sent his foreign minister to Kuwait to meet with the Emir Al Sabah, the former leader of Kuwait, to try to resolve some of these issues. And the Emir told the foreign minister of Iraq that he would not stop doing what he was doing until he turned every Iraqi woman into a $10 prostitute. And that really sealed it for him, to invade Kuwait. He wanted to punish, he told me, Emir Al Sabah, for saying that," Piro explains.
That's not how General Sada described that very same meeting. According to Sada, Saddam sent his number two man, Izzat al-Duri (along with Chemical Ali) to the meeting in Riyadh, in which the Kuwaitis, together with the Saudis, agreed to pay Saddam 10 billion dollars. Since al-Douri had asked for 10 billion at the outset, he was bound to agree. However, when the Emir brought up their border squabbles Izzat saw his opening, feigned indignation and left in a huff.

Hard to say which Iraqi told the truth but we know al-Duri was not punished for 'failing' at that meeting as would normally be the case. And if Saddam really invaded Kuwait based on a personal insult he was even more dangerous than people thought. Chances are the invasion was set in concrete and Saddam simply wanted to stick one to the Kuwaitis on the way out via Piro.

As to his open letters to the American public in 2001 (the second was linked above) it seems possible Saddam might have been the first 9/11 truther. Here's a line from the first open letter, which also rings rather trutherish:
There is, however, one difference, namely that those who direct their missiles and bombs to the targets, whether Americans or from another Western country, are mostly targeting by remote controls, that is why they do so as if they were playing an amusing game. As for those who acted on September 11, 2001, they did it from a close range, and with, I imagine, giving their lives willingly, with an irrevocable determination.
Didn't Bill Maher say the same thing?! The key here is that, unlike other Arab leaders, Saddam was actually praising the hijackers as heroes. Recall he once threatened that "individual Arabs" could inflict harm on America.

If you have some time to kill try comparing the rhetoric in those letters to bin Laden's 1998 fatwa against America, which mentioned many of the same grievances. 60 Minutes made a point to breathlessly report that Saddam called bin Laden a "fanatic" and disavowed any linkages to AQ, yet in his open letters he talked of the new "crusades" and even quoted Allah. None of which proves he was in league with bin Laden--he could have just been leveraging the events thinking he could gain favor in the middle east. But one has to admit the synergy was mighty suspicious and in the end, pretty stupid.

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