Dan Rather Interview Saddam Hussein right before the invasion of Iraq
Transcript: Saddam Hussein Interview, Pt. 1
This interview was taped on February 24, 2003, by Iraqi TV crews, as is standard practice for Hussein, and the Iraqis delivered a tape that combined all three cameras into one composite feed. However, as far as we can determine, the content of the interview is intact. There are places in the tape where two people are talking at once and there are repetitions. This is a transcript of that composite tape and we apologize if it is confusing in places.
Note: in almost every case, the translator is translating what Saddam Hussein has just said in Arabic. In a few minor cases, the translator is speaking for himself to Dan Rather.
Rather: I want to ask questions in two categories, please. Category one would be those questions that I think many, if not most, of Americans would like to have answered about the news of right now. And in category two, more philosophical questions.
Translator For Saddam Hussein: The news are with you. News are almost (UNINTEL) (Editor’s Note: “UNINTEL” refers to a sound or word that the transcriber finds unintelligible.) different way. But the facts news are there, with you.
Rather: Mr. President, do you intend to destroy the Al-Samoud missiles that the United Nations prohibits? Will you destroy those missiles?
Translator For Saddam Hussein: We have committed ourselves to Resolution. We're implementing that resolution in accordance with what the United Nations wants us to do. It is on this basis that we have conducted ourselves, and it is on this basis that we will continue to behave. As you know, it a-- is allowed to produce - r- r- land-land rockets, with a range of up to 150 kilometers. And we are committed to that.
Rather: I want to make sure that I understand, Mr. President. So, you do not intend to destroy these missiles?
(SKIP IN TAPE)
Rather: Mr. President, I do appreciate your agreeing to spend an hour, because I want to ask questions in two categories, please.
Rather: So, you do not intend to destroy these missiles?
Translator For Saddam Hussein: Which is that? Which missiles are you talking about? We do not have missiles that go beyond the prescribed ranges, by the…U.N. The inspection teams have been here. They have inspected every place. And if there is a question to that effect, I think the question should be addressed to them.
Translator For Saddam Hussein: I think the United States and the world also knows that there is - I think the U.S. and the world know that Iraq is - no longer has the (UNINTEL)-- weapons. And--
Translator For Saddam Hussein: You have started your questions with the sort of (UNINTEL) and (UNINTEL), but not with the - However, you're free to (UNINTEL) whichever way you'd like.
Translator For Saddam Hussein: May I translate?
Rather: Yes, please.
Translator For Saddam Hussein: Thank you. The President says, the United States - the world - knows that there is nothing in Iraq of… whatever the noise has been made about. And I believe that that noise and the fleets that have been brought around and the mobilization that's been done were, in fact, done partly to cover the huge lie that was being waged against Iraq about chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.
And it was on that basis that Iraq actually accepted Resolution - accepted it, even though Iraq was absolutely certain that what it had said, what the Iraqi officials…had kept saying, that… Iraq was empty, was void of any such weapons, was the case. But Iraq accepted that resolution… in order not to allow any misinterpretation of its position.
And, indeed, in order to make the case absolutely clear that Iraq was no longer in possession of any such…weapons. Iraq accepted to agree to deal with that resolution. That is why, when you talk about such missiles, these missiles have been destroyed. There are no missiles that are contrary to the prescription of the United Nations in Iraq.
These missiles were des - missiles that were proscribed - have been destroyed and are no longer there.
Rather: What do you consider to be the core issues? You said that I had started - and indeed, I started with the news of the day. But what do you consider to be the core issue, the basic issue?
Translator For Saddam Hussein: In all divine religions, god, the Almighty, has reiterated to man in all his Holy Books and to humanity, in general, that there are two basic, most important things in life, that is, after the issue of the creation and of the issue of faith.
These two important things are food and peace. This is in Islam, this is also in Christianity and in all the other religions. So, the most important thing for man in his life and the preservation of his life and preservation of the lives of others is to establish peace and security for himself and, through that, his right to life.
Not only to obtain food, but also to obtain - to insure peace, and so that man can exercise his right in life and exercise his role towards others in the same way as he would like others to exercise their roles.
Rather: Mr. President, do you expect to be attacked by an American-led invasion?
Translator For Saddam Hussein: We hope that the attack will not take place. But we are bracing ourselves to meet such an attack, to face it. I'm sure you've observed the general life in Iraq. You've been here for a few days now. We hope that such a possibility doesn't take place, but you've been here. You've been here for a few days, and you've seen how the people live. They live normally. They get married. They establish relationships. They visit each other. They visit their neighbors.
They travel around Iraq. They are enjoying life in the manner that life is provided. But at the same time, they also hear the news…because the officials in the United States keep talking about attacking Iraq, about the possibility of attacking Iraq, which is why the people are in Iraq, which is only natural - that they get prepared for such a possibility.
Even though, God Almighty invites us…and we hope that -- we pray to him that -- the Americans will refrain from such an eventuality -- to avoid both the Americans -- to spare the Americans from committing such a mistake -- and also to spare Iraq and the Iraqi people from being involved in such an experience. And those who would like to ride the bandwagon of evil, it's up to them.
Rather: Are you afraid of being killed or captured?
Translator For Saddam Hussein: Whatever Allah decides. We are believers. We believe in what he decides. There is no value for any life without imam, without faith. The believers, while taking caution and care and trying to veer out and avoid any dangers and any traps that may be prepared by his enemies, in order not to fall on them, the believer still believes that what God decides is acceptable.
Translator For Saddam Hussein: When we were--
Translator For Saddam Hussein: Bear with me. I - my - my answers are (UNINTEL) long.
Rather: Mr. President, I have all night. (LAUGHTER)
Translator For Saddam Hussein: When we were young, ordinary people in… Iraq, before, the Iraqi people had suffered a lot of deprivation and backwardness. People did not even find - many people did not even find.
Male Voice: Are you satisfied with translation?
Rather: Yes, no, the translation is excellent. It's superb.
Translator For Saddam Hussein: Did you - people - generally did not even find - shoes to wear, in those days. And - people in the countryside were deprived of most essential things in life. And people even in the city were deprived of the most basic - requirements for a decent life. For a simple life.
We, those days, decided to place ourselves to the service of our people, and I'm not going to indulge in a story about what we did for our people and the sacrifices that we made and the dangers that we went through in order to insure for our people the dignity that our people deserve, because this is a story well known, and I am not going to indulge into that.
But in those days, we did not ask the question whether we were going to live or die, but we simply relied on Allah and we moved ahead. We relied on God because we decided that what Allah brought will be acceptable.
The important thing, the basic thing, is that whatever Allah accepts will be in the service of the people and now, after having achieved all this march, having reached what we have reached, now we've become leaders of the country. Some of my comrades are ministers and vice presidents and the rest. We're not going to ask ourselves now whether we should change our course or whether we should ask about life and death.
MALE VOICE: It's morally unacceptable to ask such a question.
Translator For Saddam Hussein: How could we ask such a question when we, basically, as freedom fighters, did not ask it at the beginning? The people accepted us and accepted the fact of our revolution and the principles of our revolution, and they have committed themselves to them. And I do not believe that any officials in this place now should ask a question whether he's going to live or die.
The question should be how deeply in strength he remains to his commitment to the people, to the basic principles from which we proceeded. And whatever the will of God is, then the will of God will be there. Nothing is going to change the will of God.
Male Voice: (UNINTEL) to- to the - Iraqi people, and humanity in general, also.
Rather: I understand. Mr. President, Americans are very much concerned about anyone's connections to Osama bin Laden. Do you have, have you had, any connections to Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden?
Translator For Saddam Hussein: Is this the basis of the anxiety in the minds of U.S. officials? Or is it the basis of anxiety in the minds of the people of the United States?
Rather: Mr. President, I believe I can report accurately that it's a major concern in the minds of the people in the United States.
Translator For Saddam Hussein: This issue, this topic did not appear…amongst the concerns of U.S. officials until - that is, about any relationship between Iraq and Osama bin Laden -- until recently. That is when they realized that what they had been saying about Iraq -- that Iraq was probably in possession of proscribed weapons of mass destruction -- or that Iraq might have manufactured some of those weapons after ….If that was the case, then that would be an embarrassment to the United Nations.
Then they began talking about the possibility of Iraq having relations with Osama bin Laden. Mr. Tony B- (GLITCH) actually asked me the same question, when I (UNINTEL). And I answered him, and I will answer you now very clearly. We have never had any relationship with Mr. Osama bin Laden, and Iraq has never had any relationship with Al Qaeda. And I think that Mr. Bin Laden himself has recently, in one of his speeches, given such an answer -- that we have no relation with him.
Rather: Do you or do you not agree, in principle, with the attack of 9/11?
Translator For Saddam Hussein: Let me tell you absolutely clearly: Our principles are not just national or pan-Arab, but they are humane principles. We believe in humanity. We believe that the world must seek to find opportunities for peace, not opportunities for war or opportunities for fighting or opportunities for venting or harming others. These are principles in which we believed before we came to power. And we started living on those principles and the message and with our people when came to power. But we believe, in accordance with what Allah has -- the Almighty, God Almighty -- has taught us, in the same way that God has taught humanity as a whole -- and whatever religion they may believe in -- that there must be a law governing humanity and governing relations in humanity, that there should not be an aggressor while others are silent about the aggression. There should not be a killer while those who watch and applaud the killing. There should not be an occupier of the land belonging to others while there are those who keep quiet and never move to remove the occupation.
In brief, to sum up: We believe in the charter of the United States (Editor’s note: although the transcription says “United States,” the context suggests that Saddam, or the translator, may have meant to say “United Nations”.) and that gives us the right to say that when we are aggressed. When we are aggressed against, it is our right to face up to the aggression, to confront the aggression. And the charter of the United Nations was not actually drafted by Muslims or the Muslim nation. It was drafted by Christian nations, even though we believe in it and we accept it and we go by its articles.
Rather: Mr. President, have you been offered asylum anywhere? And would you, under any circumstances, consider going into exile to save your people death and destruction?
Translator For Saddam Hussein: I can understand the motive behind your question, which is excitement. This is a very American style, and… it may not be liked by some, but I can understand. However, I will answer your question. Thank you. I was born here in Iraq. And I was born as a genuine (UNINTEL) believer.
I am proud to have been born fearing God, and I have taught my children the value of history and the value of human stands - the stands that are taken on the basis of imam, taken by men, taken by everyone. The whole community, men and women.
Translator For Saddam Hussein: His Excellency also said that I have been teaching my children the importance of -- he's proud to have been born here and he taught his children the importance of -- extreme importance of -- imam and that the part of our - her - imam heritage: That we must maintain the honor of nationalism and pan-Arabism. The importance of that is essential to the nation and to the Arab nation.
And now, I am also teaching this to my grandchildren….I have always talked to the Iraqi people in this sense, since the days of our underground freedom fighting. I believe that any official who talks to his people and to others -- indeed, to humanity, in general, about principles and being honest and genuine in what he says about -- will not be -- will be very strange for him, once he's become in power, to change his stand.
And then we can talk about how to protect himself. We do not change our position. Our position is basic. We have been born in Iraq. This is part of a glorious nation, a great Arab nation, and we have lived here. God has blessed us with -- through the Iraqi people - with a task and the responsibility that has brought us to this position and that we will not change. As for those who talk about asylum--
Male Voice: This is why we will also die in Iraq. Or, within the--
Translator For Saddam Hussein: That is why, talking about asylum, we will -- whoever decides to forsake his nation from whoever requests is not true to the principles. We will die here. We will die in this country, and we will maintain our honor, the honor that is required of -- in front of our people.
You may have asked questions that maybe attribute to some excitement to the press. But, let me ask you another exciting question. Let me say something also exciting. I believe that whoever asks Saddam to - or offers Saddam asylum in his own country - is, in fact, a person without morals, because he will be directing an insult to the Iraqi people, the Iraqi people who have chosen Saddam Hussein, unanimously, to continue to lead the people of Iraq, and because he will be saying to the people of Iraq, 'Let Saddam leave and leave you without leadership.' Whoever offers such asylum.
And, after all, you talk and I understand, as a journalist, this may be important for television. You talk, you ask such a question and, of course, naturally, you seek an answer. But whoever believes in faith, and faith that should not be manufactured by a foreign country…
Transcript: Saddam Hussein Interview, Part 2
Feb. 26, 2003
Read Part II of the Saddam Hussein - Dan Rather interview.
Translator For Saddam Hussein: (??)…It's mistaken. Fate is not made by a foreign country. We believe in Allah, and Allah alone decides what fate is going to be. However strong a country may be, however powerful, they cannot change the will of other people. They cannot destroy or direct the will of other people. I live here and we will continue to defend our freedom. We live here in freedom, and our people will continue to defend their freedom, their sanctity, their honor and their country.
Rather: Again, I have plenty of time, Mr. President.
Translator For Saddam Hussein: You remember that in , when Mr. Tariq Aziz, as Foreign Minister, had a meeting with Secretary James Baker -- that was in January in Geneva. Baker threatened Tariq Aziz with something that he hoped that Tariq Aziz would bring back to…the government of Iraq.
And the fact that was the United States was going to push Iraq back into the pre-industrial age. And you remember that, I'm sure. The American onslaught on Iraq continued for more than a month and a half, using , warplanes with, of course, the Tomahawks hitting Iraq from everywhere including the Naval, you know, naval ships and naval pieces.
And they used more than , helicopters, even though they did not destroy Iraq. They did not push Iraq, as they have threatened, to the pre-industrial age.
They destroyed bridges, they destroyed churches, mosques, colleges, buildings, plants. They destroyed places, houses, palaces. They killed people, and elderly, but they did not push Iraq back into the pre-industrial age.
The Iraqis have subsequently reconstructed everything in determination and having relied on Allah, the Almighty. And then they began, after that, talking about Iraq having -- that is, after UNSCOM had been withdrawn from Iraq on instruction from the U.S. government, they began talking about Iraq…
Translator For Saddam Hussein: They began talking about Iraq possibly having produced WMD, weapons of mass destruction, after and that they have information or data to that effect. We have said that Iraq has not produced any such weapons. What does that mean? It means that what they had threatened with -- pushing Iraq back into the pre-industrial age - had not actually taken place, that they could not do that to Iraq, what they had threatened Iraq with in - through Baker in - had not taken place. So nobody can metamorphosis. Nobody can sort of take Iraq apart. That is not fair to the will of Allah, and it's not fair to the people of Iraq who are facing the difficulties in resolve and through serious work and through creativity.
We hope that war will not take place, but if war is forced upon us, then Iraq will continue to be here, will continue to be there. This country, with a history of over , years, this country, the cradle of the first civilizations for humanity, will not finish just like that, even though a huge power may want it to be like that.
Nobody should accept that Iraq will finish in such a way despite the will of the (UNINTEL).
Rather: Mr. President, you're being very patient with your time, and I want you to know I consider this a solemn moment in history, and, if I may, take time to have you speak to the American people about questions that I know are on their minds. I just want you to know that I appreciate your patience here.
Question: You mentioned, and 'and the Gulf War.’ You fought the father, George Bush the first. He and the forces he led prevailed on the battlefield. Now you face the son who has an even greater, even more modern, even more lethal military force aimed directly at your (UNINTEL). Why would you think that you could prevail this time on the battlefield? Or do you?
Translator For Saddam Hussein: You know that in both situations, then and now, we have not crossed our borders and gone across the Atlantic to commit aggression against the United States, neither by air or by land or by sea. We are (UNINTEL) people and officials in Iraq -
Translator For Saddam Hussein: The officials of the United States have themselves spoken about their intentions to commit aggression against Iraq. Isn't it part of our responsibility and our actions and our morality and, in fact, the basic meanings of faith that we should say to the aggressor that once you commit aggression against us, we are not going to succumb. And if we were to reverse the question and ask any American, any American citizens, any good, honest American citizen in his own country, including Mr. Rather himself, and we say to him, in any subsequent period or state, if another power, another force were to come across the Atlantic to commit a great aggression against the United States, will you do nothing?
Translator For Saddam Hussein: Let me answer.
Translator For Saddam Hussein: I say to the honest Americans that if such a thing happens, do not capitulate, do not give in. You have to defend your country, defend your family and your honor. Do not commit aggression against us. And, as you know, we have not committed any aggression against the United States. The United States intelligence (UNINITEL) against our country, our people, our children.
I am speaking now with you, and maybe airplanes, warplanes, American warplanes, are flying over Iraqi air space, over south or north, and dropping ammunition, weapons that…are destroying property, property belonging to our citizens, our population -- either private property or public property, because public property also belongs to the people. This is happening daily.
So when such a law is wished to prevail in the world, to govern the world, whether it's in possession of huge powers and has the right to destroy others or to control others and then you have to accept their control or their domination, such a law does not possess the basics, the most basic elements or ingredients of morality and the most basic ingredients of faith, whichever this power might be. Regardless of this power, this state of affairs will be the law of the jungle, and we are people who believe in our destiny and we will not accept any law of the jungle. It is our duty, it is our responsibility to defend our country, to defend our children, to defend our people, and we are not going to succumb, neither to the United States nor to any other power.
Even if such a power, however strong as you describe it, even if this power is multiplied by whatever amount or size more than it is now, then we will continue to defend ourselves, to fight such a power if they attack because defeat comes only from God Almighty.
Translator For Saddam Hussein: With one exception. Might be important to you and the American people. In 1991 Iraq was not defeated. In fact, our Army withdrew from Kuwait according to a decision taken by us. Yes, it withdrew and -But when we were back within our boundaries, the boundaries of Iraq, the Iraqi Army was not defeated. Nor was the people of Iraq.
Iraq was not defeated in 1991. And you will remember that the (UNINTEL) were published, talking about the battles, especially the tank battles that took place in the south, near Basra., and how Bush, the father, came out on a - Mr. Bush. Mr. Bush.
Translator For Saddam Hussein: I actually want to take time to explain to you that we're always gentle, we refer to people as gentle.
Rather: I understand when he calls him Mr. Bush.
Translator For Saddam Hussein: Yes.
Translator For Saddam Hussein: When Khomeini died, bless his soul, and when I heard about his death, the Minister of Information at the time, do not gloat over the death of Khomeini. It is the law of God. That is the law of Allah. Let me tell you, in jest, I didn't used to say Mr. Bush when I addressed him when he was in power. But when -- as soon as he left power – I -- whenever I have referred to him, I refer to him as Mr. Bush. And in any case - And in any case, the law of faith says even your enemy, you have to respect his humanity. For that reason that I refer to Mr. Bush.
Rather: I understand now.
Translator For Saddam Hussein: So when Mr. Bush came out--
Translator For Saddam Hussein: The father came out in his dawn speech, or his speech at dawn, declaring cease fire without preconditions - except for the pre-conditions that if their forces are attacked, they will respond in kind -- he-- it was his decision to — to -
Rather: Cease fire.
Translator For Saddam Hussein: To stop the fighting. And, consequently, Iraq was not defeated. Therefore, Iraq was not defeated.
Rather: Mr. President, respectfully, a lot of Americans are going to hear that and say, what is this man talking about, as all of those Iraqi tanks coming out of Kuwait with the turrets knocked out indicated a beaten army on the battlefield. There's no joy in my saying that. But the point is I'm asking you to explain what you mean that you were not defeated in the - war, because I can report to you with accuracy that, overwhelmingly, the American people believe that that was a resounding defeat for you and for Iraq.
Translator For Saddam Hussein: Let me answer this. You know the (UNINTEL) of Mr. Bush's father, senior. You also know why he repeated his attacks later on against us. I'll be happy to hear the President's view as to why that was true. Why did Mr. Bush, the father, when he was President of the United States - Why did he repeat his attacks on us if we had been defeated? Totally defeated? When there is a military conflict, there is forward and backward. You push forward--
When there is military conflict, you push forward and you retreat and then we saw that when Bush the father and President (BREAK IN TAPE) against us during (BREAKS IN TAPE) Once we saw that whole front against us—(BREAKS IN TAPE) - a military operation against us on the ground against our country, against our people, against our army, we realized that we must take action to--
(BREAK IN TAPE)
Translator For Saddam Hussein: Twenty-eight armies against us. Losing the confusion of (BREAK IN TAPE) When there is military conflict, you push forward and you can retreat. And when we saw that Bush the father, the President, had mobilized armies against us, using the confusion of countries and that onslaught against us, once we saw that whole front against us-
The whole, the whole world, in fact, collaborating in a military operation against us on the ground, against our country, against our people, against our army, we realized that we must take action to - Until we took the decision to (UNINTEL) forces, and throughout a whole month and a half of fierce fighting, we had not lost more than percent -- that is the highest percentage of loss in any (UNINTEL) battlefield concerning our units involved in this war…. So we withdrew our forces inside Iraq in order that we may be able to continue fighting inside our country.
Translator For Saddam Hussein: And we continued to fight.
(BREAK IN TAPE)
Translator For Saddam Hussein: And the tanks that fought us around Basra, near Basra were defeated. And this is confirmed in writing that have been published by military people.
Translator For Saddam Hussein: And then we had - Then we had the statement made by Mr. Bush, the statement about which he didn't consult -- he hadn't consulted any of his allies, the coalition involved in the fighting -- that the fighting, that the war had achieved it's objective and that he was now stopping it.
Translator For Saddam Hussein: Without pre-conditions. Without pre-conditions. So we have not lost the war. And we were not defeated. You know that the fighting that went on continued -- between us and Iran -- continued for eight years. Iran lost battles to us and we lost battles to them. But how do you calculate things? You measure things by the final results.
Translator For Saddam Hussein: If I may continue.
Translator For Saddam Hussein: The United States can destroy - but the question is, why should America destroy? And why should America generate hostility - the hostility of the world -- towards the United States?
Translator For Saddam Hussein: Did the Americans obtain the weapons in order to control and dominate the world? Or did those (UNINTEL) and the taxpayers (UNINTEL). Did they do that in order to control the world?… (UNINTEL) the USA. I believe that the scientists of the United States and the people of the United States and the taxpayers of the United States, when they paid that, when they supported that, that was for the basic defense of the United States. Is it right? Is it right? Is it acceptable that anybody, any official, anyone in power, once he is in possession of a weapon, then he should go and take that weapon to destroy other people?
Transcript: Saddam Interview, Part 3
Feb. 26, 2003
Read Part III of the Saddam Hussein - Dan Rather interview.
Translator For Saddam Hussein: (UNINTEL) because those who are being destroyed are saying that God is our-- Allah is our God, and that we believe in that. And that we must defend ourselves, and defend our right to dignity, and to live in peace and to live in dignity and freedom. What did Iraq threaten the United States with? Iraq has not committed any aggressive against the United States. Nor, nobody in Iraq. Neither an official nor anybody in Iraq says that the United States is our enemy. Or that-- we-- we-- we must fight the United States.
Translator For Saddam Hussein: Or the American people are our enemy. Is it acceptable, that anybody--
Translator For Saddam Hussein: Is it acceptable that anybody with power should go and destroy others? Or anybody who is being pushed or urged by big companies or multinational companies, should go to dominate others and destroy them? Mr. Rather, you are a man of (UNINTEL).
Translator For Saddam Hussein: You know that battle is not over until-- and only when the guns are stopped - When the national will of the people completely succumbs to all that the aggressor wants to see done. Air supremacy and missile supremacy is not enough. But in the final analy-- analysis, the guns will continue to tell the tale of a courageous people, defending with its own fighters, its own (UNINTEL).
Translator For Saddam Hussein: And in fact, a tale about the--
Translator For Saddam Hussein: The – the - not because the people of Iraq want to - fight the - the United States. But this is a decision made by the people-- of Iraq. That they will maintain their role as people who believe in their role. And they will commit themselves, continue committing themselves to this role, and-- the role that makes them respect themselves as much as they respect others, and respect the world.
So, let us try. For all the people. And pray to Allah, to give people the faith. That will spare them committing harm against others. That will spare them--
Translator For Saddam Hussein: - to be practiced against them.
Rather: Mr. President, Vice President Cheney, Vice President Richard Cheney of the United States says that if and when an American-led Army comes into Iraq, it will be greeted with music. It will be treated as a Army of liberation. If Americans are not to believe that, why should they not believe that?
Translator For Saddam Hussein: If the Iraqi Army were to go to cross the Atlantic, and (UNINTEL) the United States-- would (UNINTEL) receive them -
Translator For Saddam Hussein: There and any other (UNINTEL).
(SKIP IN TAPE)
Rather: Vice President Richard Cheney of the United States says that if and when an American-led army comes into Iraq, it will be greeted with music. It will be treated as a Army of liberation. If Americans are not to believe that, why should they not believe that?
Translator For Saddam Hussein: If the Iraqi Army were to go to cross the Atlantic and occupy the United States-- would (UNINTEL) receive--
Translator For Saddam Hussein: There, and any other (UNINTEL).
(GLITCHES, SKIPS IN TAPE)
Translator For Saddam Hussein: The Iraqi Army were to go to cross the Atlantic, and occupy the United States, would (UNINTEL) receive them - there, and any other (UNINTEL).
Translator For Saddam Hussein: I - I believe it is not - acceptable, from any official, or-- politician, to say such a thing. Because when he says it, morally speaking, he is in fact, (GLITCH).
(GLITCHES, SKIPS IN TAPE)
Translator For Saddam Hussein: I - I believe it is not-- acceptable for any official or-- politician, to say such a thing. Because when he says it, morally speaking, he is in fact telling his own people that they should be prepared one-- when it comes. To greet-- occupying armies with music. If it so happens, (UNINTEL).
(GLITCHES, SKIPS IN TAPE)
Translator For Saddam Hussein: I - I believe it is not - acceptable, from any official or - politician, to say such a thing. Because when he says it, morally speaking, he is in fact telling his own people that they should be prepared one-- when it comes, to greet-- occupying armies with music. If it so happens.
(GLITCHES, SKIPS IN TAPE)
Translator For Saddam Hussein: - his own people that they should be prepared, one-- when it comes, to greet-- occupying armies with music, if it so happens (UNINTEL). That's why I believe a-- absolutely, that there's no-- Iraqi whatsoever, who will-- welcome any American, if that American individual is here in the-- in this capacity, as an occupation force. Or as an occupier.
But all Iraqis will, as they do, welcome all Americans. That is why now you are here, you see that you're being welcomed. Even though you come from a company that is threatening to attack Iraq. Haven't you seen the welcome, the kind of welcome with which you've b-- you've been received? Even though people know that you are--
Male Voice: By officials and (UNINTEL).
Translator For Saddam Hussein: By officials and the ordinary citizens. You can roam about in the town. But if an American soldier is here, trying to roam around and-- walk about as an occupier, he will not be-- he will not be received in-- in this way. He will not be able to do that, in fact.
So, as long as you're not a soldier, an occupying force, you are a guest. And a guest is always treated with the respect and (UNINTEL).
(SKIP IN TAPE)
Translator For Saddam Hussein: Long answer, (UNINTEL). But-- and-- (OVERTALK) Any American, or the-- any other person-- any other. If they want to know the real position of the Iraqi people, the reality about the Iraqi position, they must ask themselves these questions. In --
Male Voice: Five questions.
Translator For Saddam Hussein: In , the Iraqi people elected Saddam Hussein for the position of President of Iraq. And in -- and-- , they re-elected him to the same position. And the percentage of the voting in both elections were respectively, -point--
Male Voice: Six.
Translator For Saddam Hussein: - something.
Male Voice: Six.
Translator For Saddam Hussein: Point-six percent. And percent, in both-- in those two elections.
Translator For Saddam Hussein: percent. Now, this percentage, I know, may sound very strange to you. May sound strange to you, because you're not used to that. And I can understand that you may find that percentage-- strange.
But even if you take out whatever portion you want to take out of that, then the ratio would remain a high percentage in favor of electing-- re-electing-- President Saddam Hussein to (UNINTEL).
Translator For Saddam Hussein: Of course, in the West, observers will--
Translator For Saddam Hussein: No - no suspicion. No suspect comment w-- was made about the validity of the voting. And - Because journalists were invited from all over the world, to go around the polling stations. They actually stood near the polling boxes, and they looked at the papers. They saw people actually doing it, and saying "Yes," and not saying any other thing.
Male Voice: That was - was (UNINTEL) the last-- elections. (UNINTEL)
Translator For Saddam Hussein: And of course-- that-- those elections were done, in the Gulf War, and the embargo. And the - the blockade. Now, what does that mean? It means that the Iraqis have decided to take a-- a national, a patriotic stand. Under the circumstance of war, and circumstance of the blockade. In order to say to the foreign powers that are threatening Iraq, "It is we, the people of Iraq, who decide our way, and who decide our faith and our will, not you, telling us what to do."
But – and - let me say that if this election was taken place not under the circumstances or condition of war, or-- the blockade, or the-- the embargo, maybe the percentage will not be the same. But this tells you something about the behavior of the Iraqi people. So, if you want to know how the Iraqi people will behave, or usually behave, you need to look at the elections, and how they behaved during those elections, and how they decided something.
Male Voice: When - when they are attacked by a foreigner, who wants to deprive them of their honor, sovereignty, and (UNINTEL).
Rather: I understand. Mr. President, if it's necessary for you to forgive me, I hope that you'll forgive me. But I have a couple of - sort of clean-up questions that I'm not clear about. Number one. Will the new proposed United Nations resolution, the one that's just out this week - will this make any difference at all in your position?
The basic-- the basic position, there is no change. We - will continue committing ourselves to the resolutions of the Secur-- And the inspectors came, and they have seen for ourselves that what we have said before has - That they have-- that what we've said is true. We have not pr-- pursued any weapons of mass destruction.
Translator For Saddam Hussein: And have come.. So, what do they want to issue new resolutions about now?
Rather: So basically, no change in your position.
Translator For Saddam Hussein: We've (UNINTEL) in our position as yet. We do not compromise our independence. Or our dignity and our freedom. And at the same time, we will continue to commit ourselves to what has been decided by the Security Council. If new resolutions that are adopted by the Security Council which may infringe upon our dignity, our freedom - Then the position towards such a resolution will be the same, in-- in line with our previous positions.
Rather: And-- and I wanted to ask again, so I'm perfectly clear-- you do not intend to destroy your Al Samoud missiles. The missiles--
Translator For Saddam Hussein: Al Samoud.
Rather: Yeah. Al Samoud missiles. You do not intend to destroy those.
Translator For Saddam Hussein: The-- the missiles you mean, which are within the range of the UN--
(SKIP IN TAPE)
Translator For Saddam Hussein: - 50 kilometers. You mean, those missiles?
Rather: I mean, the missiles that Hans Blix says that he wants a commitment from you that they will be destroyed.
Translator For Saddam Hussein: No violation has been made by Iraq to anything decided by the United Nations. If - what is meant here is to review or, the resolutions of the Security Council, the resolutions that stipulate that Iraq is allowed to produce missiles with a range of kilometers-- if the intention is to rewrite those resolutions, then we will be entering a new framework. A framework in which the United States will be made to forsake its own position.
And (UNINTEL) its own resolutions, and take a new road towards harming Iraq. And-- for-- intending to violate the-- (UNINTEL) position, violate the sovereignty of Iraq.
Male Voice: And (UNINTEL)-- and violating the-- the very-- same resolutions of-- adopted by the Security Council.
Rather: Mr. President, I know you've been very patient with your time. Let me go through a short list of additional things. If-- if there is an invasion, will you set fire to the oil fields? Will you blow the damns? Or your reservoirs of water, to resist the invasion?
Translator For Saddam Hussein: We have answered - We have answered the hypotheses. I've answered the hypothesis. But to indulge in the details-- Iraq does not burn its wealth. Its (UNINTEL).
And-- it does not destroy its-- dams. We hope that, however, that this question is not meant-- as an insinuation, so that the Iraqi dams and the Iraqi oil wells will be destroyed by those who will invade Iraq, in their possible invasion of the country.
Iraq does not destroy its dams or its oil. Iraq protects, defends, maintains those resources, in order to improve life. And in order to (UNINTEL).
And during the war with Iran - Iran used water to fight us. And did not destroy - the dams. We used water, and we didn't - did not destroy the dams.
Rather: Mr. President, I hope you will take this question in the spirit in which it's asked. First of all, I regret that I do not speak Arabic. Do you speak any-- any English at all?
Rather: That's (UNINTEL) This American Life story.
Translator For Saddam Hussein: I am sorry, because I… Yes. But, I do not speak English - fluently. But I can understand, to-- by a certain degree. The English when spoken.
Rather: Well, would you speak some English for me? Anything you choose?
Translator For Saddam Hussein: My language is Arabic.
Rather: I understand. Mr. President, again, you've been patient with your time. What is the most important thing you want the p - American people to understand? What's the most important thing you want the American people to understand, at this important juncture of history?
Translator For Saddam Hussein: First… Convey to them that the people of Iraq is not an enemy of the American people. It is only-- people of Iraq are only opposed to the policy of the United States government, administration, against the people of the world, including the people of Iraq. Iraq hopes and looks forward to living in peace, and in fact, hopes and prays for all others, all peoples of the world, including people of the United States, to live in peace and to live in respect. And-- respect amongst all people.
Male Voice: (UNINTEL) respect the will of others.
Translator For Saddam Hussein: If-- the American people-- would like to know the facts for what they are, or as they are, through a direct dialogue, then I am ready to conduct a direct dialogue with the President of the United States, President Bush, on television. I will say whatever I have to say-- about American policy. He will have-- the opportunity to say whatever he has to say about policy of Iraq. And this will be in front of all people, and-- on television, in a direct—uncensored – hon - honest manner. In front of, as I said, everyone.
And then they will see what the facts are, and where falsehoods are. And I would not object to see this dialogue conducted on-- by-- by Mr. (UNINTEL).
Rather: Are you speaking about a debate?
Rather: This - this is new. You-- you are suggesting, you are saying, that you are willing, you are suggesting, you're urging a debate with President Bush? On television?
Translator For Saddam Hussein: Yes. That's my proposal.
Rather: Well, that's an interesting (UNINTEL).
Translator For Saddam Hussein: The American people, as we see on films - are great. On films, we see that the Americans, when they are challenged for a duel, they will not-- decline the - the offer. As the Arabs would - would (UNINTEL). We are not asking for a duel. But… We are proposing that we should (UNINTEL) support the Americans, and - We are asking for a – a – a - an opportunity to be seen by the Americans, the Iraqis, and all of the people in the world in a debate that is shown on television, between myself and Mr. Bush, directly, to be watched by…
Translator For Saddam Hussein: This will be - This will be an opportunity for him, if he is committed to-- to war, and if he has decided to-- commit to wage war, this will be an opportunity for him, if he's convinced-- to-- to convince the world. If he's convinced in his own position, this will be an opportunity for him to convince the world that he is right in taking such a dec-- (GLITCH). It could also be an opportunity for us - To - tell the world our own side of the story. And why we want to live in peace, and in security.
I believe that it is the right of the American people, the Iraqi people, and the world, of honor. Which makes it incumbent-- incumbent upon us to say what we have (UNINTEL), so that-- they-- they will be clear about-- our position.
Don't you call for the truth to be released in the United States? This is how we hear. This is… And what we read, from-This is what we read and hear about the American philosophers, and (UNINTEL)--
In their books, and even in their movies…. So, why should we hide from the people? So, why should we discredit ourselves? Why should not we-- why shouldn't we disclose ourselves to the people? We as President - President of the United States, and President of Iraq, in front of our people.
Translator For Saddam Hussein: (UNINTEL) invite… Then we will either go (UNINTEL) to peace, to choose the path of peace, which is what we look for, and hope-- Then we will spare both our people the harm and the loss. Or otherwise, the-- whoever wants to decide anything other than peace, then he will have to convince his own people, with whatever-- avenues--
Translator For Saddam Hussein: This is the-- the gist of my proposal, my idea.
Rather: This is not a joke.
Translator For Saddam Hussein: No, this is something proposed in earnest. This is proposed out of my respect for the public opinion of the United States. And it is out of my respect to the people of the United States. And to the people of Iraq. And in-- out of my respect to mankind in general. Humanity at large. I call for this, because war itself is not a joke. Whoever chooses war as the first choice in his life, then he is not a normal person. I think the - the debates would be an opportunity for us to insure peace and safety. Then, why don't we--
Why don't we - Why don't we choose to talk, in which we will be respecting our people, as two-- as the two highest authorities in our countries. The two needed to take the decisions, on the basis of their own-- you know, decision-making apparatus.
Here in Iraq, we have our own apparatus, for reaching those decisions. And we know that in the United States, you have your own system. But we, as the leaders of the two countries, why don't we use this opportunity in a debate, so that-- we can show our respect to both our peoples, and to humanity. And then each of us can take the decision that h-- h-- he or - decides to take, according to what goes on.
Rather: Mr. President, where would this debate take place, that you imagine-- what would be the venue?
Translator For Saddam Hussein: It will be in a place, as President of the United States, and Saddam Hussein will be in a place as President of Iraq. And then the debate can be conducted through satellite.
Rather: Oh. So, a satellite television debate. Live.
Translator For Saddam Hussein: And if Mr. Bush has another proposal, a counterproposal with the same basic idea then we're prepared to listen to such a proposal.
Rather: Would you be prepared to come to the United Nations for this debate?
Translator For Saddam Hussein: The basic thing is that as far as debate to be heard in the natural, normal-- in a (UNINTEL) accurate manner. In the United Nations, voices are not heard. Not always. And I do not mean that I go and I make a speech at the United Nations and then that Bush will make his speech at the United Nations. That is not what I mean. What I mean is that we sit-- as we are sitting, you and I, now as-- Here is-- I will address questions to him and he will address questions to me. The position of Iraq and he will - the position of the United States.
He will explain why – ‘I will (UNINTEL) go to war.’ I will explain why we are insistent on peace and we want to maintain peace. And we maintain our (UNINTEL).
Translator For Saddam Hussein: Those people in the United States also - and other people will (UNINTEL).
Without make-up. Without - Without editing. Without – Without - Without prepared speeches which-- which (UNINTEL) do not listen to. The people like listening to live debates. Live debates between--
Translator For Saddam Hussein: I believe people listen to psychological (UNINTEL) about people in the United States (UNINTEL). That they like to see live debate amongst people with - proof and counterproof.
Rather: Well, this surprises me. I want to make sure I understand.
Translator For Saddam Hussein: That this debate should be-- shown--
Rather: A live international debate via satellite--
Translator For Saddam Hussein: That's it. A live, direct debate through satellite.
Rather: How did this-- who-- who would moderate this debate?
Translator For Saddam Hussein: Any (UNINTEL) that you can moderate.
Rather: With respect, Mr. President, I have (UNINTEL) other problems. I've got enough problems already. But I--
Translator For Saddam Hussein: That's another (UNINTEL PHRASE)…. But--
Translator For Saddam Hussein: - the responsibility of - The responsibility of displaying the truth as-- as an outstanding man of the media-- to carry out this responsibility is something that is on-- of course you will do that while maintain - when you can play the truth he'll be sparing people many-- a lot of harm.
Rather: Well-- first of all, I want to be serious that I-- I appreciate-- your confidence - Mr. President. I'm pausing because I'm tempted to ask a favor of the president. (Editor's note: Rather is referring to Saddam Hussein) He has surprised me. I wonder for my good health if he could denounce me? (LAUGHTER)
Translator For Saddam Hussein: Denounce you?
Rather: (LAUGHTER) Well, I - I think this is -
Translator For Saddam Hussein: I met you in 1990. And I'm meeting you now. We have not met-- We are not partners in any enterprise or any - not competing with any people for any other - So this is the basics of--
Rather: I understand. (UNINTEL) I appreciate your remembering that we met in 1990. And I interviewed you in this great building. Given the sober moment and the danger at hand, what are the chances this is the last time you and I will see each other?
Translator For Saddam Hussein: You want me to say what I truly believe as it is?
Translator For Saddam Hussein: Basics-- basis is that (UNINTEL PHRASE) decides the destiny of man. But—and - God almighty says also that it is incumbent upon man to do what should be done on the ground. Then it is there that I can see-- it is now that I can see that (UNINTEL) we have other meetings. No matter what happens. And I hope that Iraq and the United States, the people of Iraq and the United States will live in security and in peace. And in mutual interests, national interests without harm caused by any side to (UNINTEL).
Rather: Mr. President, you say that knowing that (UNINTEL) on your brother is a tremendous armada ready to deliver destruction and awe.
Translator For Saddam Hussein: Yes, I understand and I hear and I see. (UNINTEL) find out will be decided - God almighty--Through the Iraqi people here in Iraq and in Baghdad. I do not-- I'm not (UNINTEL) to the destiny of the Americans - in the United States. I'm just talking about the destiny of the Iraqi - And the fate of any aggression committed against the Iraqis while they are in their country.
Rather: I have one last question, Mr. President. Not so long ago, you were clearly hailed by Arabs from Palestinians to Jordanians throughout the Arab world as the great Arab Avenger. Are you still relevant on the Arab street? Or has Osama bin Laden made you what other Arabs irrelevant? If you can understand the question. Thank you.
Translator For Saddam Hussein: This is not our objective. This is not what we seek. It's-- the question is not a personal-- question. What we seek is the gratification of Allah, God almighty. And the satisfaction within our conscience and also the satisfaction of our people and of our-- of our nation. When we-- present ourselves as-- to our people, we seek the satisfaction of humanity at large also.
And - and we hope that humanity will understand our principles as they are. But-- and not as they are falsified or misrepresented by others. This is the basis of-- (BREAK IN SOUND) And we hope that humanity will understand our principles as they are. But-- and not as they are falsified or misrepresented by others. This is the basis of our endeavor. We seek the satisfaction of our people, people of our nation--
(BREAK IN SOUND) This is not our objective. This is not what we seek. It's-- the question is not a personal-- question. What we seek is the gratification of Allah, God almighty. And the satisfaction within our conscience and also the satisfaction of our people and of our-- of our nation. When we-- present ourselves to our people, we seek the satisfaction of humanity at large also.
And-- and we hope that humanity will understand our principles as they are. But - and not as they are falsified or misrepresented by others. This is the basis of our endeavor. We seek the satisfaction of our people, people of our nation and - (BREAK IN SOUND) And not as they are falsified or misrepresented by others. This is the basis of our endeavor. We seek the satisfaction of our people. People of our nation-- (BREAK IN SOUND) Or speak of heroes here and there. The basic thing (UNINTEL) is for something to be said that—(BREAK IN SOUND) person has been - honest and true to his nation. And that is a (UNINTEL) forever. (BREAK IN SOUND) heroes or speak of heroes here and there. The basic thing, maybe, is for something - (BREAK IN SOUND) nation. And that is a right for every citizen in any nation. To seek to be described as a true citizen of the nation.
Rather: (UNINTEL PHRASE) not agree that Osama bin Laden is now-- (BREAK IN SOUND)
Translator For Saddam Hussein: to seek to be described as a true citizen of the nation.
Rather: He does or does not agree that Osama bin Laden is now - the champion of the Arab streets?
(BREAK IN TAPE)
Translator For Saddam Hussein: --or speak of heroes here or there. The basic thing, maybe, is for-- something to be said that this person-- (BREAK IN SOUND) honest and true-- (BREAK IN SOUND) and that is a right for every citizen in any nation. To seek--
(BREAK IN TAPE)
Translator For Saddam Hussein: --as a true citizen of the nation.
Rather: So he does or does not agree that - (BREAK IN SOUND) is now--
(BREAK IN TAPE)
Translator For Saddam Hussein: - as a true citizen of the nation.
Rather: So he does or does not agree that Osama bin Laden is now-- the champion of the Arab streets?
(BREAK IN TAPE)
Translator For Saddam Hussein: - humanity will understand our principles as they are. But-- and not as they are falsified or misrepresented by others. This is the basis of our endeavor. We seek the satisfaction of our people, people of our nation. And we do not talk-- we-- we seek-- we do not seek personal satisfaction that we are heroes or speak of heroes here and there.
The basic thing, maybe, is for - something to be said that this person has been honest and true to his nation. And that is a right for every citizen in any nation. To seek to be described as a true citizen of the nation.
Rather: So he does or does not agree that Osama bin Laden is now-- the champion of the Arab streets?
Translator For Saddam Hussein: How do you see yourself? I am pleased when I see that according to the principles in which we believe that-- in the sense that one is true--
Translator For Saddam Hussein: I believe - I believe you are teaching (UNINTEL) truth and not trying to - indulge any sensation… detract someone as-- detract the speaker from-- into saying that he doesn't want to say. I do not believe that this is what you see.
Rather: This is not true?
Translator For Saddam Hussein: Yes.
Rather: Is-- did the answer finish?
Translator For Saddam Hussein: No, it's not. (OFF-MIKE CONVERSATION) So – the - we are - pleased to see people true to these principles of - of the nation. In the same way as you would be happy to see people true to your principles emerging in the United States. As the heroes, the champions of peace - there and they become more and the champions of freedom are there and become more. And the champions of production and improvement and (UNINTEL) become more.
We're all pleased for it. And the basic objective is to remove injustice from-- imposed on our nation. See how the Palestinians are being treated. See how they're being killed. See how their houses are destroyed. See how their property is being destroyed without anybody trying to do anything to redress justice and to-- to save them from what they're-- suffering. If you, in the United States, see Osama bin Laden as a champion then we are not jealous of him. If our nation sees him as a champion, we are not jealous of him.
As you proposed in your question maybe. Jealousy is not a trait of man. Jealousy is a trait maybe of women but that is another - in that - in that very special-- trait. It's a very special trait. Men do not have jealousy especially if this competition is competition there in the interests of the nation and the-- and (UNINTEL PHRASE).
Rather: Mr. President, you've been so patient with your time. I appreciate you (UNINTEL). And I'm gonna--
Translator For Saddam Hussein: I'm happy. And I hope to see you in the future. I hope--
Rather: I would like very much to see you in the future, Mr. President.
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