The Saddam Sessions
January 27, 2008 10:33 PM   Subscribe

Saddam's Confessions - Given Saddam Hussein's central place in the American Consciousness over the last couple decades and particularly in recent years, I found 60 minutes' interview with FBI interrogator George Piro pretty fascinating.
posted by kliuless (24 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
There's nothing particularly surprising there, really. His regime could have been contained, as countless critics of the war were saying months before. He feared Iran most, despised bin Laden. The war could have been avoided if the US had allowed him to save face. It's interesting to have that confirmed, but the info's all for naught now.
posted by raysmj at 10:55 PM on January 27, 2008

Hmm. Really liked Reagan, really liked Clinton, but hated both Bushes.
posted by koeselitz at 11:04 PM on January 27, 2008

"So how do you crack a guy like that?" Pelley asks.

"Time," Piro says.

But the clock is ticking! Where are my pliers?!!! Where are my fucking plllliiiierrrrsss!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
posted by oncogenesis at 11:15 PM on January 27, 2008

That guy has good teeth.
posted by Camofrog at 11:17 PM on January 27, 2008

Gah, I hate 60 minutes.

roughly, as I remember it, from link: Piro: He thought it was silly, the way we have a new president every four years, since he thought that such a job required a long time to learn well, and he joked that we'd have to spend the whole four years breaking him in.

Interviewer Scott Pelley: So he really didn't understand our system at all?

posted by koeselitz at 11:21 PM on January 27, 2008 [5 favorites]

Given Saddam Hussein's central place in the American Consciousness [...] particularly in recent years

Actually, since he did the dancing on air bit, he seems to have fallen entirely off the map.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:23 PM on January 27, 2008

"So how do you crack a guy like that?" Pelley asks.

"Newsweek," Piro says.

posted by joe lisboa at 12:23 AM on January 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

Interesting. I wonder what they left out.
posted by jouke at 12:33 AM on January 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

Ruthless bastard and all that, but I have to say he comes off as having been far better adapted to his particular place in the world than Bush is to his. Not the guy that screwed the pooch on this one. I mean at least it was possible to stay out of his way and, barring bad luck, be pretty much left alone. Not like the random "every man for himself and God against all" clusterfuck we unleashed.
posted by Naberius at 1:58 AM on January 28, 2008

Pelley asked Piro why Saddam chose war. I remember Saddam trying harder than the boy king to avoid war. Saddam said he didn't have WMDs. He released a report claiming he didn't have WMDs. He allowed weapons inspectors inside his country to look for WMDs.

Let's face it, Saddam was more honest than the boy king.
posted by wrapper at 5:13 AM on January 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

"And what did he tell you about how his weapons of mass destruction had been destroyed?" Pelley asks.

"He told me that most of the WMD had been destroyed by the U.N. inspectors in the '90s. And those that hadn't been destroyed by the inspectors were unilaterally destroyed by Iraq," Piro says.

"So why keep the secret? Why put your nation at risk, why put your own life at risk to maintain this charade?" Pelley asks.

"It was very important for him to project that because that was what kept him, in his mind, in power. That capability kept the Iranians away. It kept them from reinvading Iraq," Piro says.

Before his wars with America, Saddam had fought a ruinous eight year war with Iran and it was Iran he still feared the most.

"He believed that he couldn't survive without the perception that he had weapons of mass destruction?" Pelley asks.

"Absolutely," Piro says.


What was Saddam's opinion of Osama Bin Laden?

"He considered him to be a fanatic. And as such was very wary of him. He told me, 'You can't really trust fanatics,'" Piro says.

"Didn't think of Bin Laden as an ally in his effort against the United States in this war against the United States?" Pelley asks.

"No. No. He didn't wanna be seen with Bin Laden. And didn't want to associate with Bin Laden," Piro explains.

Piro says Saddam thought that Bin Laden was a threat to him and his regime.


posted by caddis at 5:22 AM on January 28, 2008

I've been confused by this story... does anyone have a reference for Saddam claiming he had WMD post-2000? When was the last time Iraq refused to deny having them?

I thought that was the whole point to the run-up to the war was that Saddam was HIDING his WMD. If Saddam was really saying "We have WMD, maybe..." then why did Colin Powell have to lie to the UN.

This makes no sense to me at all...
posted by twjordan at 5:51 AM on January 28, 2008

well if it's any consolation:
Piro says Saddam told him he himself gave the orders to use chemical weapons against the Kurds in the North. When shown the graphic pictures of the aftermath, Piro says Saddam reacted by saying, "Necessary."

In fact, Piro says Saddam intended to produce weapons of mass destruction again, some day. "The folks that he needed to reconstitute his program are still there," Piro says.

"And that was his intention?" Pelley asks.

"Yes," Piro says.

"What weapons of mass destruction did he intend to pursue again once he had the opportunity?" Pelley asks.

"He wanted to pursue all of WMD. So he wanted to reconstitute his entire WMD program," says Piro.

"Chemical, biological, even nuclear," Pelley asks.

"Yes," Piro says.
posted by kliuless at 6:16 AM on January 28, 2008

I saw that. There was one ridiculous bit of spin where Piro and 60 Minutes claim that Saddam invaded Kuwait not to redress Kuwaiti resource violations and secure economic stability, but out of being personally offended.

Why was Saddam offended? Because the ruler of Kuwait said he was going to turn every Iraqi woman into a 10 dollar whore. Because, y'know, it's not like the head of state of a country stealing your oil saying that actually has any foreign policy implications. Strictly personal, right?

Saddam was a bad man. But the thing that should be understood is that there was a logic in everything he did, and we should ask ourselves why, exactly, being a murdering butcher was in fact logical, studied foreign policy and what can be done to keep that from being the best possible option for leaders.
posted by mobunited at 6:53 AM on January 28, 2008

He also said Iraq didn't have WMD or links to Al Qaeda in an interview with Dan Rather. "I believe that that noise and the fleets that have been brought around and the mobilization that's been done were, in fact, done partly to cover the huge lie that was being waged against Iraq about chemical, biological and nuclear weapons...Iraq was empty, was void of any such weapons." "We have never had any relationship with Mr. Osama bin Laden, and Iraq has never had any relationship with Al Qaeda."

His regime could have been contained, as countless critics of the war were saying months before.

And Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice publicly stated in 2001.

He released a report claiming he didn't have WMDs.

Which was drastically edited to remove references to US government and corporate support of Iraq's 1980s weapons program.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:50 AM on January 28, 2008

As I watched this, I couldn't help wondering why we should believe word one of Piro's stories. The man is a highly-trained, seemingly unconflicted, professional liar and he's telling us the "truth"?
why now? He's up for promotion?
This just seems like a big, sloppy blow job from one of the most credulous "journalists" ever.

Cause I, for one, always believe people when they tell unverifiable stories that make them look ultrasmart and supercapable and invaluable to the very people to whom they still owe allegiance.
I'm even more likely to believe them when they manage to make all of their employer's "mistakes" look justified.
because Mr Piro says he is sure (unlike Rumsfeld, etc...) that Saddam was totally gonna be planning on remaking all of those nasty WMD, so we're only guilty of being too smart, too fast. Surely, this report can be trusted and history can be rewritten?!

I almost fell off my chair when the interviewer, after this whole magically fantastic story, seems shocked, SHOCKED, that Saddam, after everything, showed no remorse.
as though Piro is the "Saddam-whisperer" and not only managed to Dr. Phil the whole truth out if the evil dictator, but also may have helped Saddam process thru all of his anger issues so he could have some sort of "Good Will Hunting" epiphany followed by a final, tearful plea for forgiveness as the barriers to intimacy all fall away, leaving only a frightened little dictator who only ever wanted to be loved.

guess you're right
since Piro's story stops just short of having Saddam convert to Catholicism so he could confess his sins and be must be so.
posted by mer2113 at 8:27 AM on January 28, 2008

Based on Piro's claims that it was five months before Saddam admitted to lying about his dismantled WMD program (which, as mentioned above doesn't make sense anyhow)...I'd be interested in knowing how many times *after* this admission did the Bush Admin claim that Saddam actually *had* WMD.

I bet they still spun the lies, and I imagine this feeble PR campaign by Piro could backfire.
posted by mr.curmudgeon at 8:53 AM on January 28, 2008

I cannot stand Scott Pelley. What a douche-nozzle.
posted by Tullius at 9:25 AM on January 28, 2008

This reminded me of the recent story about the WWII interogators at Fort Hunt, who used the same approach to get information from Nazi prisoners.
posted by homunculus at 9:28 AM on January 28, 2008

Yeah, sorry but I saw this last night on the t.v. and couldn't help but feel...underwhelmed. Might have been a semi-interesting interview if the questions weren't
posted by jotrock at 10:41 AM on January 28, 2008

This is how we should treat all of our prisoners in the War on Terror (especially considering how the majority of prisoners at Guantanamo were rounded up at random or sold for bounties). The United States used to be able to claim that, if we weren't better than others, we at least tried to be. I started watching Judgment at Nuremberg last night, and turned it off because of the contrast of what we stood for then and how we act today.
posted by kirkaracha at 10:59 AM on January 28, 2008

Advocates of "enhanced" interrogation, torture, et al, please note that the way to get one of the world's hardest hardasses to just blab on and on and on was not to torture him.

And anyone who's interested in what is true and what is not true, please note that 60 Minutes have become a bunch of unabashed propagandists.
posted by Western Infidels at 12:02 PM on January 28, 2008

“does anyone have a reference for Saddam claiming he had WMD post-2000? ... then why did Colin Powell have to lie to the UN.” - twjordan

He did, in fact, rattle that sabre at the Iranians. Not so publicly, but he did cultivate that air and the state department, dutifully reported it. *All* of it. That is, they reported not only that he was saying (and he was) he still had chemical and biological weapons and was getting pretty close to having a nuke, but also reported that this was all pretty much a fabrication to save face. Pretty much. Except he still might have had some stuff and if he did, the state department concluded, that was a good reason to continue sanctions. I’ll stress - sanctions

Powell was pretty clearly suckered, otherwise he would still be on board.

It’s easy to see some of this and say “hey, maybe he’s got WMDs, and maybe he’s going to use them” given the past history, etc. The big indicator of that whole ‘loose cannon’ rep he got was when he set fire to the Kuwaiti oil feilds.
So from a national defense POV - it’s doable. Zip in, take him out and prevent him from f’ing up the whole region, handoff the government, zip out.

But this was never about foreign policy, in retrospect. I mean you can say “the plan sucks/sucked” but the fact of the matter is the war plan is working perfectly if you remove from the design serving any national interest or, really, any altrusitic cause at all.

The big Magilla here is to nest business interests within (and so they’re secretly controlling) foreign policy decisions.

Coocoo birds do this, slip an egg into another bird’s nest so another bird has to raise it, meanwhile the coocoo hatchling muscles all the other baby chicks out of the nest to die (did I mention I’m also very accurate with a pellet gun? ‘cause, y’know, I’d never harm a robin).

Dig - Cheney was the secdef in round one (that is, the first Gulf War).
So, he (and others) set up the economic embargo to isolate Iraq. In 1995 he goes to head up Halliburton.
In ‘98 he aquires Dresser Inc which exports equipment to Iraq (with Ingersoll-Rand - they all make sewage treatment pumps, spare parts for oil facilities and pipeline equipment) through French affiliates (those damned French - remember the ‘food for oil’ scandal?).
So crude exports increase ($4 billion in ‘97 to $18 billion in 2000) and, while folks are eating more (oil for food) Hussein is buying up all sorts of stuff and skimming from the proceeds (see the linked state dept report).
Well, whitey hates this.
Meanwhile, folks are getting wise to Cheney’s deals and starting to ask questions. So the company divests itself, slowly, not before they could make and sign $30-odd million in contracts and sign off a controling share of subsidiaries - of dealings with Iraq (that is, Dresser and Ingersoll Rand).
So Cheney becomes the Veep (strangely - still has stock options worth ab. $8 million in Halliburton) and new policies are pushed to prevent “black market” dealings...basically - so Halliburton can sell oil equipment to Iraq and so the oil industry can do business out there without Saddam skimming the proceeds or threatening to set stuff on fire if he doesn’t get a cut.
To do that they need stalking horses - such as Powell.

It only seems to make no sense twjordan.
You have to consider lines of interest rather than people. People are often unpredictable. Their desires, beliefs and interests however are very dependable. Tell Colin Powell “this is for America!” and he’ll dance to whatever tune you play (within reason - that’s why it requires the ambiguity and appearance of ‘mistake’).
In Powell’s case he didn’t come on board - but who cares? He’s already compromised himself, so opposition isn’t an option. And indeed, he might still believe enough of the operation is good for America and so won’t seek to damage it.
In some respects, it is great for the U.S.
Just depends on what you believe “the U.S.” is. If your yacht buddies are “the U.S.” then maybe.
Those of us who adhere to the ideals of truth, justice and liberty don’t particularly think so.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:30 PM on January 28, 2008 [2 favorites]

mer2113 writes "because Mr Piro says he is sure (unlike Rumsfeld, etc...) that Saddam was totally gonna be planning on remaking all of those nasty WMD, so we're only guilty of being too smart, too fast. Surely, this report can be trusted and history can be rewritten?!"

I watched the 60 Minutes episode last night, and the only thing Piro said was what was told to him. He didn't make any claims as to the veracity of the information Saddam gave him. The only thing the FBI wanted him to do was to interview Saddam and get information from him. That's what he did. Your idea that "history can be rewritten" doesn't make much sense. That said, I don't see any reason to doubt Saddam. There's nothing he said that doesn't fit. Really, the only thing Bush got right about him is his intention to restart his programs. The WMD were never there. That's not enough to start a war, and Bush knew it.
posted by krinklyfig at 1:53 PM on January 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

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