- WASHINGTON (UPI) -- What's
clear from the initial video footage of the capture of former Iraqi President
Saddam Hussein is that this is not the evil mastermind at the controls
of the resistance organizations that continue to harass the U.S.-led coalition.
- Thus the immediate benefits enjoyed by the U.S. occupation
from his surprisingly meek capture will be psychological in that it proves
to the Iraqi people that the brutal despot will not return to power. But
little practical or actionable information will come from the arrest to
assist U.S. and coalition forces in their hunt for the anti-occupation
- Found in a 6-foot by 8-foot hole in the basement of a
farmhouse in Adwan -- 10 miles outside his hometown of Tikrit -- Saddam
had an entourage of two bodyguards, a handful of guns and $750,000 in U.S.
currency. Clearly this was an operation designed to avoid capture by American
troops, and not a mobile headquarters unit that has been behind the attacks
that have killed hundred of coalition forces and pro-occupation Iraqis.
- Although the capture might convince former regime officials,
who Iraqi resistance forces say are involved in organizing the attacks,
to cooperate with U.S. forces if captured as they no longer need fear his
wrath, it seems unlikely Saddam has any meaningful information on current
- The leader of an Iraqi resistance cell interviewed last
month by United Press International seemed to have an inconsistent view
of Saddam and his role. In several interviews, Abu Mujahid would alternately
claim to be a former supporter of Saddam's, while arguing he would not
support his return to power. But at other times, he described a resistance
organization that had been put into place before the fall of Iraq and was
operated by former Baath Party officials.
- "We are told that Saddam might be at the top of
the organization," he told UPI in late November. "I don't know
if I believe that, but my colleague has seen Saddam.
- "He comes to tell my colleagues to continue to fight.
But we look at him as a strong leader. But we don't want him back."
- But that colleague who claimed to have seen Saddam --
it was said at the scene of a roadside bomb attack in October outside the
U.S. military base at Baghdad Airport -- also claimed that the former Iraqi
leader had not changed his appearance since abandoning his capital in early
- The initial footage of a gaunt Saddam with wild hair
and a long beard after his capture disproves this claim. But even at the
time of the interview, Abu Mujahid sounded skeptical that Saddam was brazenly
leading the resistance since his ouster.
- "I think Saddam is too busy hiding," he said.
"I think that the leaders above me are former generals who want to
replace Saddam when the Americans leave."
- He also made clear that while Baath Party officials --
who he said led the resistance -- might have, at one time, been loyal to
Saddam, the invasion of Iraq had convinced many former supporters that
though they want the Americans out, Saddam was not a good leader.
- "We actually took a vote at a meeting last week,"
he said during the interview. "If the Americans leave and Saddam comes
back, we will fight him too. Maybe if he were elected we'd allow it.
- "But no one in Iraq wants Saddam back. He turned
into a thief and a murderer who made too many mistakes. We don't want Saddam,
but American cannot occupy us any longer."
- With initial reports calling Saddam cooperative with
his captors there stands to reason this could offer major intelligence
benefits for the occupation, even if not in terms of fighting the resistance
movements. The biggest benefits will come on two questions that have plagued
the Bush administration since the fall of Iraq: What happened to the weapons
of mass destruction that everyone was so convinced Saddam possessed, and
what of the claims that Saddam's regime had serious working ties to Osama
bin Laden's al-Qaida terrorist network.
- On the WMD point, Saddam's capture should lead to answers
almost immediately. Saddam knows his run is over and any trial he faces
at best will lead to life imprisonment. His only major success in 2003
was the embarrassment of the U.S.-led coalition when the much-discussed
biological and chemical weapons were never delivered as promised by the
- For a man with an enormous ego -- facing little chance
of survival -- Saddam will be unlikely to resist the urge to brag about
either how he deceived the world into believing he posed a threat with
his WMD or to brag about how he hid such weapons. So there's little downside
for him to cooperate on this issue, which will lead to an intelligence
coup for U.S. forces.
- On the second point, it seems unlikely he will see much
point in cooperating, particularly when an admission of any substantive
links to al-Qaida would justify an invasion in the first place. Saddam
will have little interest in helping the U.S. justify the invasion on this
front, plus there's a considerable chance that no such links existed and
that his claims to that effect will be ignored.
- However, his capture might lead to Baath officials already
in U.S. custody cooperating more enthusiastically with their interrogators
and could shed additional light on a host of important issues.
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