U.S. Commander Prefers Saddam Dead Over Alive

Published September 13, 2003

| Associated Press

The U.S. commander who led the raid on the hide-out of Saddam Hussein's sons two months ago says the former Iraqi dictator would be given a chance to surrender if found -- but added that he personally would rather see him dead.

"The choice will be his," Col. Joe Anderson, commander of the 101st Airborne's 2nd Brigade (search) in Mosul (search), told The Associated Press.

Anderson said American forces won't hold their fire "if he's got the 14 or so bodyguards he supposedly has and they shoot soldiers."

"He'll always be given the opportunity to surrender," said Anderson, adding, however, "personally, I think the world is better off if he's dead."

Human rights groups and many Iraqis have said they would want Saddam Hussein put on trial for crimes against humanity, including the killing of 4 million people during the Baath Party's 34 years in power. Saddam's forces used chemical weapons to kill 5,000 Kurdish people alone.

But Anderson doesn't see any need for such a trial.

"We don't need to parade him around," he said. "What good is (former Serbian leader Slobodan) Milosevic on trial. ... It's a circus. What in the end does it prove?

"I don't think anybody in the world doubts what this guy's done," said Anderson, 43, from New York City.

But there are many Iraqis, mostly Sunni Muslims, who love Saddam and refuse to believe that their former president carried out mass murders, arrests of political dissidents, torture and ethnic cleansing.

Saddam's devout supporters -- most of whom have only known life under his regime where press freedom was nonexistent -- argue that Western propaganda is behind all the rumors about Saddam's crimes.

Thus, even Saddam's trial before an international court would not change the minds of these Saddam loyalists, said Col. Anderson.

The search for Saddam is taken particularly seriously in Mosul, 240 miles north of Baghdad, because Saddam's sons Uday and Qusay were found and killed here in July. Saddam's vice president, Tara Yassin Ramadan, was also caught in the city by Kurdish forces.

Claims of Saddam sightings, most of them unsubstantiated, flood a hotline the U.S. Army has set up for tips on his whereabouts and arms caches. A $25 million bounty has been offered for his capture.

Anderson said it was difficult to know where Saddam might be hiding. "I think he moves. I think he's fairly mobile. I think he's in the northern third of the country or so, give or take."

He said his forces were looking for Saddam and Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, Saddam's vice-president and No. 6 on the U.S. most-wanted list of 55 regime officials. Also on their list for the Mosul searches is Sultan Hashim Ahmed, the former defense minister and No. 27.

Luck plays a big part in such hunts, he said, recalling the killing of Uday and Qusay Hussein.

"We never looked for them before. First time we acted on (a tip) and we got them," he said.

He said they had gone on searches "a few times" after receiving tips on Saddam, and multiple times for al-Douri and Ahmed. He said troops had gone after al-Douri "about six times" in the last four or five days.

He said the soldiers rely on cooperation from locals, and have been trying to cultivate sources in the city.

"We've been here a long time, we know lots of people. I probably know more about the city than most Moslawis do. But not the intricacies of people: friends, families, tribes, whatever, and breaking into that, to get that kind of information could be virtually impossible," Anderson said.

Kurdish officials said the Americans had been approached by Ahmed's family, who said if his name was taken off the list of 55, the former defense minister would be willing to surrender. The officials said U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld had discussed the issue during his brief visit to Mosul last week.

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