WASHINGTON – Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld sounded intrigued when asked how to get Saddam Hussein (search) talking to his interrogators.
"Does he have any interest in his family? ... I don't know," Rumsfeld told reporters Tuesday, ruminating about the possible pressures that could be applied to the former dictator. "He obviously doesn't care anything about his country or the Iraqi people. ... I'm not a psychiatrist ... I have no idea what might affect him."
Fear of dying might, the defense secretary suggested. President Bush said Tuesday he believes Saddam deserves "the ultimate penalty."
"He had a pistol, but he's alive. That's got to tell you something about him. He's clearly not like the folks who he gave $25,000 to, to go do suicide bombings and kill themselves and be done," Rumsfeld said, referring to reports that Saddam paid families of Palestinian suicide bombers.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said whether Saddam talks or not, he shouldn't be allowed the chance to negotiate for leniency.
"The magnitude of the crimes that this despot, this despicable character, has committed warrant the ultimate penalty in my view, and to give him anything less in exchange for information would not be appropriate," McCain told a television show on Wednesday.
Interrogators are confronting Saddam with evidence that might be used at a war-crimes trial, including videotapes showing the unearthing of mass graves and the torture and execution of prisoners during his reign, USA Today reported Wednesday.
They hope the videotapes will provoke Saddam into making unguarded statements and are watching for reactions that might guide them in future questioning, the newspaper said, citing information from U.S. officials who were not identified.
Intelligence officials said Saddam so far has offered little valuable information. He has denied that his regime had weapons of mass destruction and ties to Al Qaeda (search) terrorists, and that he was running the guerrilla war in Iraq.
Intelligence experts said it will likely take some time before Saddam becomes dependent on his interrogators - for information, for human contact - and begins providing useful information. Whether that process will run into plans for a public trial is unclear.
"Characterizing his general relationship with his captors, probably the best word would be resigned," Rumsfeld said. Other officials have described him as sarcastic.
The defense secretary said Saddam was being "accorded the protections" of a prisoner of war but was not formally designated as such.
Rumsfeld rejected the suggestion that the Pentagon's release of a videotape of a bedraggled Saddam after his capture might violate the rules governing the treatment of POWs. He said it was important Saddam "be seen by the public for what he is: a captive, without question."
The International Committee of the Red Cross (search) said it hopes U.S. authorities will let it visit Saddam to check on the conditions in which he is being held.
The Geneva conventions governing treatment of POWs bans such prisoners from being displayed publicly as objects of ridicule. Some critics have said the Saddam videos did that, but Rumsfeld disagreed.
"He has been handled in a professional way," Rumsfeld said. "He has not been held up to public curiosity in any demeaning way by reasonable definitions of the Geneva convention."
An interagency government group will consider whether Saddam will be given official POW status, Rumsfeld said.
The defense secretary said only time will tell whether Saddam's capture - and other operations launched since then - will crack the resistance.
Brig. Gen. Martin Dempsey, commander of the 1st Armored Division (search) in Iraq, told CNN on Tuesday that some guerrillas kept Saddam apprised of guerrilla activities, looking to him as a patron but not as an operational commander.
After Saddam's capture, the American military temporarily eased up on some raids against his loyalists to give them a chance to surrender, a top Pentagon general said Tuesday.
"There was a period of time that Central Command determined that it was best to not do specific types of raids, to give those who were potentially close to Saddam an opportunity to digest the information ... and perhaps turn themselves in," Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Peter Pace said at a Pentagon news conference with Rumsfeld.
To his knowledge, none had surrendered, Pace said.
Asked what is known about Saddam's life on the run the past eight months, Rumsfeld said he started moving frequently before the start of the war in late March.
"He had a variety of locations where he was able to go and sometimes would spend relatively short periods - four, five, six hours - and then move again, but sometimes he would be staying in motion in vehicles," Rumsfeld said.