CIA officer John Nixon sums up his role in Iraq during the US occupation. His first mission was to gather as much information as possible about Saddam Hussein, and then sent to Baghdad to help search for him.
When the US forces finally captured him, Nixon said that he had prepared “a list of 30 to 40 questions that he felt that Saddam was the only one who could answer.”
“To be honest, the moment I saw him, I knew that it was him and I did not have any doubts about it,” he added.
Nixon has spoken of his history with Saddam during Al Arabiya’s Point of Order program with Hasan Muawad due to be aired on Friday.
Nixon spent all his time in Iraq interrogating Saddam in captivity. He later wrote a book entitled ‘Debriefing the President: The Interrogation of Saddam Hussein’ in which he talked about his experience with the deposed president as a CIA interrogator.
“I think what really mattered to Americans is one or two key issues; everything else was insignificant. The US wanted to know if Iraq had weapons of mass destruction because that was why we first got there,” Nixon said.
However, at the end, they did not find any weapons and Nixon said that “this is embarrassing because what they were searching for turned to be unreal and rather a mere excuse. They were looking for anything that would justify their excuse, and they would disregard everything that would prove them wrong.”
“Saddam Hussein was very compliant during the investigation and most of what he said was true,” added Nixon.
Regarding the secrets and motives behind Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, Nixon said: “Saddam admitted that he made a mistake in this regard, and that was the peak during the interrogation, because Saddam did not like to admit that he was wrong. However, when we started to talk about Kuwait, he held his head between his hands and said that this gives him a severe headache every time. This was a clear message that his invasion of Kuwait was a mistake that weighed on his mind and still does, years after the invasion.”
As for the attack on Iraqi Halabja that was inhabited by Iraqi Kurds, Nixon said: “This subject made Saddam lose his temper, and this scared me. Saddam said that he was not responsible for the attack and asked me to ask Nizar al-Khazraji who was the field commander, in charge of the military operation.”
“Saddam was very angry and when he later on discovered what happened in the land that was under the control of the Kurds’ who were allied to Iran, he was afraid that the latter would fiercely stand up for what has happened and urge the media to cover it, and this alone would have caused great damage to Iraq at the international level.”
Regarding his opinion about handing Saddam to his opponents in the government after the occupation, Nixon said: “I think that was a mistake, I have felt very bad about how they dealt with him. We were all aware that Saddam, and after his detention, will be tried and most likely be sentenced to death. Saddam was also well aware about that, more than anyone else. What happened was the execution was varied out in a barbarian rule at night in the basement of a government building. This was disgusting because it destroyed any prior justification to wage the war.”
When asked about the US forces’ role during the trial, Nixon said: “It was a good time to implement the judicial proceedings in Iraq. However, Nouri al-Maliki’s government had deliberately intervened behind the scenes by threatening the judiciary, withdrawing their bodyguards and expelling them outside the Green Zone, which basically, was equivalent to a death penalty against them. This is what enabled the US forces to get the verdict they wanted.”