CAIRO, Egypt – Iraq's former information minister Wednesday defended the airing of footage of five U.S. POWs on Baghdad (search) television in the early days of the war, saying it was ordered by the armed forces general command.
The U.S. administration was shocked by the March 27 footage of the POWs and accused Iraq of violating the Geneva Conventions. The soldiers had been arrested four days earlier in southern Iraq together with Jessica Lynch (search), who was hospitalized with injuries.
Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf (search), speaking on Abu Dhabi Television, denied U.S. accusations that Iraq had violated the Geneva Conventions and accused the United States of showing Iraqi POWs first.
Al-Sahhaf became infamous during the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq for hurling anti-American insults and outlandish claims of Iraqi military victories over the coalition.
"They [the Americans] showed our prisoners with guns pointed at them and they were treated badly, while we treated their POWs better and according to regular criteria." Al-Sahhaf did not elaborate but he was likely referring to network footage of captured Iraqi soldiers during the early days of the fighting, some who were shown bound, blindfolded and guarded by troops.
His comments were broadcast on the third episode of "Al-Sahhaf's War." He is expected to appear on two more episodes of the program.
He also scoffed at the U.S. claims of heroism in Lynch's rescue, saying Iraqi doctors treated her well and there was no Iraqi army in the area when the American soldiers reached her.
"The Americans themselves spoke of a theatrical operation ... they ordered everyone in the hospital to get out and then they started shooting the film," he said.
Lynch suffered multiple broken bones and other injuries when her 507th Maintenance Company was ambushed in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah on March 23. Her rescue on April 1 made her a national celebrity.
Al-Sahhaf acknowledged that some houses were damaged during the war by Iraqi air defense missiles and not by U.S. fire.
"In some houses, we found pieces that belonged to Iraqi air defense fire, but the damage was not big," he said.
Asked how he felt about the fate of his fellow members of the deposed Iraqi leadership, al-Sahhaf said, "I am very sad. Life always carries a lot of changing."
Al-Sahhaf disappeared April 9, the day Baghdad fell, and reportedly hid in a relative's home. He was not included in the list of 55 most wanted Iraqi officials and left Baghdad for the United Arab Emirates on July 10.