A former CIA analyst who personally interrogated Saddam Hussein said the U.S. “got it so wrong” on the invasion of Iraq and should have left the now-deceased leader in power.
In an excerpt from a memoir about his time with the agency, Debriefing the President: The Interrogation of Saddam Hussein, former analyst John Nixon—who was the first officer to question Hussein after his capture in December 2003—writes that the Ba’athist president was not “worth removing from power,” and that the decision to do so needs to be viewed in the context of what came next: the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS).
Hussein was known for his cruel and tyrannical leadership. However, Nixon says, “it is improbable that a group like ISIS would have been able to enjoy the kind of success under his repressive regime that they have had under the Shia-led Baghdad government.”
The memoir comes as the U.S. prepares to transition to a Donald Trump administration, with a president-elect known for his unpredictable temperament, lack of government experience, and little understanding of foreign relations. Shaping a new order in the Middle East “will require making tough decisions and, ultimately, recognizing that we may have to deal with people and leaders that we abhor if we want to help bring stability back to the region,” Nixon writes.
And while it’s long been known that there were no Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) in Iraq, the memoir still details an illuminating exchange between Hussein and his CIA interrogators, who asked him whether his regime had considered using WMDs preemptively against American troops. The Iraqi president answered, “We never thought about using weapons of mass destruction. It was not discussed.”
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