Published December 15, 2003
WASHINGTON – Saddam Hussein will have protections accorded to prisoners of war as U.S. officials try to press him for information on the attacks on coalition forces, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld (search) says.
Rumsfeld said Sunday it was too early to know whether Saddam would take a hardened approach with interrogators or would cooperate, but he described Iraq's former leader as one who projected a tough-guy image but was captured as a wimp, cowering in a hole in the ground.
President Bush said in a brief television speech Sunday that Saddam's capture Saturday was "crucial to the rise of a free Iraq. It marks the end of the road for him, and for all who bullied and killed in his name."
Bush scheduled a meeting with an Iraqi medical delegation at the White House on Monday.
While U.S. officials are waiting to see whether the capture leads to an increase of insurgents' attacks against troops of the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq, there has been no indication that the domestic terror alert level will rise above yellow — the middle of a five-color scale.
Saddam was taken to an undisclosed location where, Rumsfeld said, "he would be accorded the privileges as though he were a prisoner of war — not that he necessarily is one."
If it is found that Saddam was involved in the attacks against coalition troops, he might be placed in a different category, Rumsfeld said, without elaboration.
"One need not worry that he'll be treated in a humane and professional way," governed by the Geneva Convention that spells out the treatment that prisoners must receive, the secretary said in a television interview.
The convention prohibits violence, cruelty and torture of prisoners, while also barring humiliating and degrading treatment.
There were conflicting clues as to whether Saddam was playing a major role in the attacks on coalition forces.
Maj. Gen. Raymond Odierno (search), whose 4th Infantry Division (search) troops caught Saddam, said the lack of communications equipment in his hide-out indicated Iraq's deposed leader was not commanding the resistance.
Conversely, soldiers found $750,000 in U.S. $100 bills in the raid and Rumsfeld said the money was related to the attacks. He accused "the Saddam Hussein family and his clique of intimates" of "providing money to people to go out and engage in acts against the coalition and against the Iraqi people."
During the arrest of Saddam, U.S. troops discovered "descriptive written material of significant value," another U.S. commander told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity. He declined to say whether the material related to the anti-coalition resistance.
Odierno told reporters that his soldiers were led to Saddam by an informant who was a member of a family close to the deposed leader. However, it was not clear whether anyone could claim the $25 million reward offered for information leading to Saddam's capture.
The first task of interrogators is to learn whether Saddam has knowledge of any impending guerrilla attacks planned against U.S. troops or Iraqis, intelligence officials said.
Officials also want to know where Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri and other remaining senior regime officials and insurgent leaders are hiding.
Rumsfeld said Saddam initially was not forthcoming with that type of information.
"He has not been cooperative in terms of talking or anything like that. He clearly was compliant or resigned ... as he was being examined and as he was being transferred from the hole to the transport that took him away. It's a bit early to try to characterize his demeanor," the defense secretary said.
Several U.S. officials portrayed Saddam as a coward, and Rumsfeld joined in.
"Here was a man who was photographed hundreds of times shooting off rifles, showing off how tough he was. In fact he wasn't very tough, he was cowering in a hole in the ground and had a pistol and didn't use it and certainly did not put up any fight at all," Rumsfeld said.
"He resulted in the death of an awful lot of Iraqi people and in the last analysis, he seemed not terribly brave."