The CIA analyst who interrogated Saddam Hussein has told Al Arabiya he had no doubt the person captured and whom he later grilled, was the former Iraqi leader.
“I was certain beyond a shadow of a doubt, it was him when I first set eyes on him”, John Nixon told Al Arabiya.
Nixon was the agent chosen to interrogate Saddam when the ex-Iraqi president was captured by American troops in December 2003.
“My prime responsibility was to amass as much as possible intelligence about Saddam Hussein. When he was captured by the US forces, I had prepared a list of 30 to 40 questions, which I believed no one could answer except Saddam himself.”
Nixon, has authored “Debriefing the President: The Interrogation of Saddam Hussein” about his experience as an agent assigned by CIA to question Saddam Hussein.
“The one or two core concerns for the Americans was to identify whether Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction after being the grounds for why we invaded Iraq, and the locations of where they were hidden,” Nixon said.
Nixon has gone on record saying he believed the US “got it wrong” on that front.
“I believe this was embarrassing because what they were looking for wasn’t existent, but just a pretext. They were looking for whatever they could to sustain their arguments, ignoring and ditching whatever contravened it”.
Nixon said Hussein was very cooperative during interrogation and believed most of what he said to be true.
On invading Kuwait being a ‘headache’
As for the secrets and motives behind his invasion of Kuwait, Nixon stated: “Saddam admitted it was a mistake even though he was not a type of person who would concede he was in the wrong... When we started discussing the issue, he held his head in his hands saying: ‘I suffer from a severe headache as a result of this issue’”.
Nixon told Al Arabiya that he believed Washington was in total bewilderment with George Bush’s administration lack of interest on Middle East issues, which applied to Iraq and Kuwait.
“If he (Saddam) knew the US would send 50,000 to confront his army, and form an international coalition to kick him out of Kuwait and adopt a Security Council resolution denouncing Iraq, and impose sanctions on him, I’m confident, he would not have opted to invade in the first place. A path he said as taken to teach Kuwait a lesson,” Nixon said.
Concerning the attack on Halabja, inhabited by majority of Iraqi Kurds, Nixon noted: “This topic drew ire from Saddam, which enraged him and he lost his temper and litreally frightened me. He said Halaja’s decisions was not at his behest and he requested that I direct this question to Nizar al-Khazraji, who was the field commander in charge of the Anfal military operation at the time.”
Nixon called it a “grave mistake” when asked his opinion regarding the United States handing over Saddam to his opponents who formed a government following the invasion.
“I believe it was a grave mistake, I felt extreme humiliation by the way he was treated. We are all aware that Saddam’s trial, after his arrest, would likely end up with a death sentence. He, more than anyone else, was conscious of this fact. I believe, his trial and execution would have been an indication for Iraqis for the rule of law and the way their country would move forward,” Nixon said.