CIA analyst goes public with revealing testimony about Saddam Hussein

Samir, a 34-year-old Iraqi-American military interpreter who helped find Saddam and pull him from his hideaway in December 2003.

The CIA analyst who interrogated Saddam Hussein gives a rare glimpse into the late dictator’s psyche in his new book, showing a side of the late dictator that revealed he wasn’t really all that involved in Iraq’s rule prior to the invasion.

Former CIA analyst John Nixon was alerted when a homeless-looking Hussein was pulled from a spider hole in the small town of Ad-Dawr near Tikrit. Identifying him by a few wounds and two tribal tattoos, Nixon would be tasked with questioning the then-confirmed man behind the Baath party regime.

However, it would be the interrogation -and later execution- of Saddam soon after that would change the CIA man’s perspective of the dictator.

In Debriefing the President: The Interrogation of Saddam Hussein, Nixon takes the reader step-by-step through the questioning -and the very mind- of the beret-wearing man behind one what was then one of the most reviled countries on Earth.

Initially smug and defiant, Saddam held his authoritative demeanor even in captivity.

“Who are you guys?” replied a still-arrogant Saddam when Nixon asked him about his sons, Uday and Qusay. “Are you military intelligence? Answer me. Identify yourselves.”

Despite mass graves turning up all over Iraq and other evidence of his treachery, he would remain defiant and ineffectual, instead complaining about a few scrapes he had endured during capture.

However, when the conversation turned to his 1988 gassing of the Kurdish town of Halabja (which planted the seed of proof that Saddam once had weapons of mass destruction), Saddam went silent on Nixon, focusing his rage in quiet defiance.

Nixon would later write that Saddam’s glare held “such murderous loathing” that it was “frightening even though he was under lock and key.”

Through his questioning, Nixon would discover that Saddam had essentially “checked out” in his later years as leader of Iraq and had very little understanding or involvement of the day-to-day details.

“Saddam was busy writing novels,” Nixon reports. “He was no longer running the government.”

In short, the dictator had no real interests in attacking the West, let alone any of his nearby neighbors. When the coalition invaded in 2003, Hussein was caught off-guard.

“Saddam appeared to be as clueless about what was happening inside Iraq as his British and Americans enemies were,” writes Nixon. “He was inattentive to what his government was doing and had no real plan to prepare for the defense of Iraq.”

While he was being held in Iraq, the sound of distant bombings of US troops by insurgents only empowered him.

“You are going to fail,” Saddam predicted in 2003. “You are going to find it is not so easy to govern Iraq.”

According to the New York Daily News, Saddam also exposed his personal side to Nixon. He hated talking about his wives and was often concerned about his psychotic “mama’s boy” son Uday, calling him “a particular problem.”

Saddam had a soft spot for his daughters, who defected with their husbands in 1995 to Jordan after a drunken Uday shot up his sister’s residence.

Saddam admitted to missing them “terribly.”

“They loved me very much and I loved them very much,” he said, voice quivering.

During his internment, other US personnel would notice the softer side of Saddam Hussein. In 2005, a handful of Pennsylvania National Guardsmen previously assigned to guarding Saddam reported that the dictator was a friendly and talkative “clean freak” who loved Raisin Bran and could eat a large bag of Doritos in ten minutes. He would give single soldiers mildly lewd advice on what kind of woman to marry and always maintained that he was still president of Iraq.

In the end, though, Nixon says it was the turning over of Saddam to a “lynch mob” of Shiites for execution that changed his view on the man.

“I was struck that Saddam looked like the most dignified person in the room,” Nixon writes. “This is not what our young men and women were dying for. This is not what President Bush had promised a new Iraq would be.”

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  • Andy Wolf

    Andy Wolf is an Appalachian native who spent much of his youth and young adulthood overseas in search of combat, riches, and adventure- accruing decades of experience in military, corporate, first responder, journalistic and advisory roles. He resides in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains with his K9 companion, Kiki.

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