Published December 15, 2003
A defiant Saddam Hussein (search) has shown no remorse and is denying his Iraqi regime had weapons of mass destruction, Fox News has learned.
U.S. officials say the questioning, which began after Saddam was captured Saturday, kicked into high gear Monday. Officials said they have moved beyond early lines of questioning about the attacks against U.S.-led coalition forces and to the question of what types of weapons Saddam had at his disposal.
Saddam said his regime did not have dangerous weapons capable of killing scores of people, officials said. But sources said that Saddam's answers haven't been very convincing.
"He's been fairly defiant," one official said. "While he's talkative, he's provided nothing substantial. His comments are self-serving, lengthy rationalizations of his behavior, and he punctuates a lot of it with wise-ass and deflective remarks."
With Saddam finally in custody, President Bush said Monday the Iraqi people would decide the fate of the former dictator, stressing that "justice needs to be delivered."
"We will work with the Iraqis to develop a way to try him that will stand international scrutiny," Bush said when asked if Saddam would face trial.
The president told reporters at a news conference that he had his own views about what to do with Saddam, but said it was up to Iraqis to decide.
"My personal views aren't important in this matter," Bush said.
"Iraqis need to be very much involved — they were the people who were brutalized by this man. ... We'll work with the Iraqis to develop a process," Bush said. "Of course we want it to be fair and of course we want the world to say, 'He got a fair trial.'"
The president added that the capture of Saddam was a "great moment" for Iraqis.
Bush said that, if given the chance to talk to Saddam, he would say: "Good riddance, the world is better off without you, Mr. Saddam Hussein. I find it very interesting that when the heat got in, you dug yourself a hole and crawled in it."
Bush stressed that in a public trial, "all the atrocities need to come out and justice needs to be delivered … and I'm confident it can be done in a fair way."
Meanwhile, the Iraqi people may seek the death penalty for Saddam, according to several members of the Iraqi Governing Council (search).
Talking, but Not Cooperating
U.S. officials on Monday afternoon told Fox News that Saddam is mounting "filibusters" when questions about weapons of mass destruction come up. Saddam is offering "long soliloquies" and lengthy explanations to justify himself and his regime.
Thus far, they said, Saddam has given up nothing on the weapons issue.
Additionally, he claims to have no knowledge of the whereabouts of long-missing Navy pilot Michael Scott Speicher (search), and he is denying any links to Al Qaeda (search). Speicher was shot down during the 1991 Persian Gulf War and is still missing.
One official said that in this early stage of questioning, Saddam's reactions aren't particularly surprising. He describes Saddam as seemingly "frustrated" with the position in which he finds himself.
U.S. officials, however, that as Saddam settles into the idea that he's got no way out of his situation, they'll be able to determine what kind of approaches will work to soften him up.
Earlier Monday, officials told Fox News that Saddam had been talkative but was not yet cooperating with interrogators who hoped to learn about his ties to ongoing attacks on coalition forces. Saddam was also being questioned about alleged crimes against humanity and alleged pilfering of Iraq's wealth.
"He is talking, but he is portraying himself and his country as victims and is not cooperating," a U.S. official told Fox News.
After Saddam's capture, U.S. Army teams from the 1st Armored Division captured one high-ranking former regime figure, who in turn gave up a few others, said Brig. Gen. Mark Hertling of the Army's 1st Armored Division. All detainees were being interrogated and more raids were expected.
"We've already gleaned intelligence value from [Saddam's] capture," Hertling said. "We've already been able to capture a couple of key individuals here in Baghdad. We've completely confirmed one of the cells. It's putting the pieces together and it's connecting the dots. It has already helped us significantly in Baghdad."
Hertling said: "I'm sure he was giving some guidance to some key figures in this insurgency."
On Monday, car bombings at police stations around the Iraqi capital left eight policemen dead and at least 17 wounded, police officials said. One blast, in the northern Husainiyah district, killed the eight officers and wounded 10 others.
At the Ameriyah station in western Baghdad, a car bomb exploded, wounding seven officers. Iraqi police and U.S. Military police fired on a second explosives-packed vehicle, preventing it from ramming the police station, Hertling said. The vehicle's driver fled.
Maj. Gen. Raymond Odierno said the lack of communications equipment in Saddam's hideout indicated he was not commanding the entire resistance.
Saddam Could Get the Death Penalty
Saddam could be tried "in the next few weeks" and could be executed if convicted, one Iraqi Governing Council member said Monday.
The Dubai-based Arab TV station Al-Arabiya said Saddam was moved to Qatar after his capture but others officials denied that report. U.S. forces said he was in a secure location.
"I can confirm ... that he is still in Iraq and he will stay in Iraq and he will be tried in Iraq" by an Iraqi court in a live, televised hearing, Iraqi Governing Council member Mowaffaq Al-Roubaie told Fox News Monday morning. "And we will follow all the international standards, all the international legal and court standards in our tribunal."
Asked whether Saddam could get the death penalty, Al-Roubaie said if so, he would not be executed until after an interim Iraqi government takes power on June 30, 2004.
Council member Ahmad Chalabi (search) said Saddam would face a public trial "so that the Iraqi people will know his crimes."
One senior administration official told Fox News that the U.S. was leaning toward permitting the Iraqis to try Saddam, nothing that "even for someone like him, there's a process."
'Caught Like a Rat'
The raid by 600 soldiers and special forces took place Saturday night at a farm in Adwar, 10 miles down the Tigris River from Saddam's hometown of Tikrit, and only three hours after a crucial tip was received from an Iraqi whose family was close to Saddam.
"He was just caught like a rat," said Odierno, whose 4th Infantry Division troops staged the raid, called Operation Red Dawn. "When you're in the bottom of a hole, you can't fight back."
Saddam was found armed with a pistol in an underground crawl space and was disoriented as soldiers brought him out. Two other low-level regime figures were arrested at the same location.
"We didn't specifically know he was in a hole," Odierno told Fox News, but after the coalition continued to arrest Saddam's friends and associates, "I think over time, that helped whittle down" his support network.
The U.S. military showed video of the ousted leader, haggard and gray-bearded, as a military doctor examined him. In Baghdad, radio stations played jubilant music and some bus passengers shouted, "They got Saddam! They got Saddam!"
Saddam's capture left 13 of the most-wanted 55 regime officials still at large. The highest-ranking fugitive is Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri (search), a close Saddam aide who U.S. officials say may be directly organizing resistance.
Fox News' Jim Angle, Bret Baier, Ian McCaleb and The Associated Press contributed to this report.