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From the President's Desk

Saddam Emboldened by Dan Rather and CBS?

Table of Contents 

Saddam Uses the Media for His Own Message
Saddam’s Anti-war Movement

The Timing Of Saddam’s Interview with Dan Rather Plays Into His Strategy
CBS Interview Was Just Luck Said Rather? 
Saddam’s Deception Game 
The Interview 
Some of Saddam’s Deception Revealed One Week After the Interview — Iraqis Posing As U.S. Troops
Irresponsible Journalism
End Notes

On February 24, 2003, Dan Rather, anchor of the CBS evening news, taped a three-hour interview with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.  An Iraqi television crew taped the interview (which is standard practice for Saddam Hussein) and a tape that combined all three cameras into one composite feed was delivered by the Iraqis.    CBS indicated prior to its airing that the interview would express Saddam’s feelings about his own people, the American public, Osama bin Laden, and what his own fate might be. 

Saddam Uses the Media for His Own Message                               

As I viewed the video, I thought to myself, “What does Saddam have to gain by granting this interview?”   Then the answer was obvious.  For several months, the media had criticized President Bush’s plans to go to war with Iraq if it did not comply with U.N. Resolution 1441 — total disarmament of its weapons of mass destructions.  At the same time, Iraq gave pretense of cooperation with the United Nations weapons inspectors whenever the Security Council met. (1) Saddam also continued his charade of Iraqi disarmament obligations while implementing his very successful strategy of cheat and retreat.  When Iraq projected the illusion of cooperation, the media said that Iraq was doing everything it could to cooperate with U.N. inspectors, although it was still not enough for the U.S.  As the media continued its attacks on the President, Saddam Hussein knew that he could use the U.S. media as a vehicle to continue to divide opinion in the U.S. and the world to come against President Bush’s plans to disarm Iraq forcibly.  He had already been able to bribe France, Germany, Russia and China through trade agreements and the promise to develop the world’s second-largest proven oil reserves in Iraq.  

These countries that had allied themselves with Iraq knew that it possessed weapons of mass destruction because they had supplied Iraq with the material and/or technology to develop these lethal weapons.  Many had also provided conventional weapons to Iraq’s military.  These nations knew, as did the world, that Saddam had already used chemical weapons against his own people as well as in the Iran/Iraq war.  However, in spite of this knowledge, the world had falsely convinced itself that Saddam would not use these weapons against them if they supported him.  

The current anti-war movement by the media has not been about the war against Iraq like it has been about being anti-President Bush and anti-Republican.  The media has had a hard time accepting President Bush to be a popular President despite the fact that the American people have believed in him.  In fact, the media have done everything that can to cause his popularity to dwindle.   Nothing had worked…until now. 

The media continues to convey the message to the American people that if the U.S. goes to war against Iraq without the support of the U.N., it does so unilaterally.  However, how often do the American people hear that even without a second U.N. resolution, more countries would support an American-led war on Iraq now than the 33-strong coalition in the 1991Gulf war?  (2).  Also, where was this same media (as well as the Democrat politicians) when America retaliated against Iraq without U.N. approval on December 16, 1998?  In the face of pronounced objections from U.N. Security Council members (France, Russia, China), the U.S. was joined by Britain in a four-day strike against Iraq without U.N. approval.  With only a report by the U.N weapons inspectors that determined that Iraq had failed to “provide the full cooperation it promised,” this coalition of countries justified an attack against Iraq in 1998 under the leadership of former President Clinton.   

Today, the Bush Administration provides extensive information (as much as it possibly can without compromising how it has obtained it) on how Iraq continues to operate its clandestine chemical and biological weapons program. People are murdered daily by Saddam in Iraq.  Yet this is not enough for the media as well as many Democrats.  In addition to his destruction within his own country, Saddam is also a threat to the stability and peace in the Middle East as well as a threat to the Americans because of his support of worldwide terrorists. Yet the media as well as the Democrats still want to give the Iraqi inspections more time.  They say, “We have contained him for more than 12 years, he is not a threat to the U.S.”  However, where again was the media as well as these Democrats when President Clinton led the United Sates and its NATO partners to start bombing Bosnia to protect Bosnian Muslims without seeking U.N. approval in 1995.  Once again these same groups that condemn President Bush said nothing when President Clinton ignored the United Nations and persuaded NATO to embark on a sustained bombing campaign of Yugoslavia to protect Muslims in Kosovo. 

Saddam Hussein has learned valuable lessons from these examples and knows that the media can be an important ally to support his cause.  Saddam’s strategy for the coming war is simple.  If he survives, he has won.  As I came to the end of the video, Saddam gave me the clues that led me to this hypothesis.  In the interview, Saddam said to Dan Rather that it would be important to Mr. Rather and the American people to know that Iraq was not defeated in 1991.  Saddam said through a translator, “In fact, our Army withdrew from Kuwait according to a decision taken by us.  But when we were back within our boundaries, the boundaries of Iraq, the Iraqi Army was not defeated.  Nor was the people of Iraq.”  According to Saddam’s mindset, if he survives he is not defeated.  He feels that he may have lost a battle, but the conflict goes on and he is not defeated.   

Saddam used both CBS and Dan Rather to lay the groundwork for his attempt at survival from the coming war between the U.S. and Iraq.  His strategy is to divide the people of the U.S. and world against the U.S. war effort with the hope that once war does start, world outrage will bring the war to an abrupt end.  The interview was used by Saddam to portray him and Iraq as a victim and George Bush and the U.S. as the aggressor.   

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Saddam’s Anti-war Movement  

Along with his media campaign, Saddam Hussein has been hard at work, planting sources of opposition throughout the world to stir up hatred for America’s so-called aggression.  In January, Iraq sent spies from Canada to New York and Washington to spy and stir up anti-war demonstrations. Ordered to recruit Arabs and other foreigners for espionage missions in the U.S. were Iraqis in Canada.  Operatives were sent with instructions to “intensify spying activities and carry out anti-U.S. demonstrations to stop the war against Iraq by the Iraqi Embassy in Ottawa.” (3) 

The global outpouring of opposition to the threat of a U.S. attack on Iraq was greeted by the Iraqi Administration  with gloat on February 16, 2003, as the nation said anti-war demonstration in dozens of countries on February 15, 2003, signaled an Iraqi victory and “the defeat and isolation of America.” (4) On February 15, 2003, prominent coverage to global anti-war demonstrations was given on Iraq’s tightly-controlled news media.  Under the logo “International Day of Confronting Aggression,” Iraqi television showed footage of millions marching in the world’s cities.  A headline in the government daily Al-Jumhuriya read, “The world said with one voice: ‘No to Aggression on Iraq’.”  A front page headline in the army daily Al-Qadissiya read, “The world rises against American aggression and the arrogance of naked force.  And in a commentary in

Al-Jumhuriya said, “These demonstrations expressed in their spirit, meaning and slogans the decisive Iraqi victory and the defeat and isolation of America.”     

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The Timing Of Saddam’s Interview with Dan Rather Plays Into His Strategy 

It is odd that less than two weeks after what appears to Saddam as a series of successful global anti-war demonstrations, Saddam grants Dan Rather an interview.  The London Guardian reported on February 27, 2003, that when Dan Rather was asked why the interview was granted he said, “I simply don’t know.  He knows the time draws high for an attack.  He takes President Bush very seriously in saying that time is up.  Secondly, he reads the paper and knows what his standing is with the American people.  He probably felt…he had something to lose, but under the present circumstance he might have had something to gain in getting to the American people who he is, what he is, what his position is.” (5) 

If Saddam took President Bush seriously as Mr. Rather has indicated, he would totally disarm revealing all of Iraqi’s weapons of mass destruction and stop its “cheat and retreat” strategy.   To coincide with the run-up to Security Council meetings, Iraq had carefully timed its cooperation with the United Nations weapons inspectors. (6)   

The hidden agenda is revealed by Mr. Rather’s statement that Saddam reads the paper and knows what his standing is with the American people.  Knowingly or unknowingly, Dan Rather and CBS assisted Saddam by interviewing the dictator.   Part of Saddam Hussein’s strategy has been to divide the world against the U.S., and make America look as the aggressor and Iraq look as the victim.  And so far this strategy has been working. 

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CBS Interview Was Just Luck Said Rather? 

Some have said that “hard work and luck” earned Dan Rather his interview with Saddam. However, further research and a report by the Associated Press will show that Rather obtained the interview with the assistance of former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark who met with Saddam on February 23, 2003. (7) 

The former U.S. Attorney, had been involved in recent demonstrations against President Bush’s policy of disarming Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.  In January, the anti-war activist Clark, having his own agenda, drafted articles of impeachment against President George W. Bush, Vice President Richard B. Cheney and other officials, who he said must “answer to the people.”  (8)  This was not Mr. Clark’s first attempt to advocate anti-American crusades.  For example, participating in a “war crimes tribunal” against the U.S. was Clark and Deirdre Griswold editor of the Workers World (a tiny Marxist-Leninist “Party” that also calls itself International Act Now to Stop War and End Racism; A.N.S.W.E.R. and the International Action Center)  weekly newspaper. (9).  The mantra of both of these individuals was that the U.S. had used germ warfare in the Korean War. (10) Also, in the International Committee to Defend Slobodan Milosevic Ramsey Clark participated with Workers World Party activists John Catalinotto and Sarah Flounders.  (11)   

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Saddam’s Deception Game   

The Los Angeles Times reported on March 5, 2003, that the man who spoke Saddam Hussein words in English during the Interview was an actor using a fake Arabic accent.  (12)  A member of the Screen Actors Guild Steve Winfield bills himself on a Web site called “Fabulous Voices’ as an expert in putting on foreign accents said the Los Angeles Times.  For the accuracy of its translation which was read on air in English in a voice compatible “with the piece” CBS said the network vouched 100 percent. 

“CBS News employed three independent and respected Arabic translators to provide a 100 percent accurate translation of the interview,” said the network in a statement.  A fourth person recorded the actual audio in a voice compatible “ with the piece” added the network. 

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The Interview 

Throughout the interview Saddam presented himself as a kind, polite and courteous gentleman.  He projected himself as a godly man, who prays daily and looks to Allah for wisdom and guidance.  For example, Dan Rather asked Saddam, “Mr. President, do you expect to be attacked by an American-led invasion.”  Saddam’s reply through a translator was that he was a godly man with faith and whatever happens is what Allah decides. Also, during the interview, Saddam stopped for prayer and returned to continue the prayer.  This overt religious activity during his conversation with Rather allowed Saddam to portray himself as a peaceful and holy man while he conveyed the impression that President George W. Bush and his supporters are on the bandwagon of evil.    

When asked about his weapons of mass destruction, Saddam said that the world and the U.S. knows that Iraq does not possess such weapons, and the U.S. does this to cover the huge lie that is being waged against Iraq regarding such weapons.  Saddam, through this statement, tried to establish that the U.S. is a liar. 

Although it was Iraq that invaded its neighbor Kuwait that was later liberated by the U.S., Saddam tried during the interview to established that the U.S. was the aggressor during the Gulf War in 1991.  He said through a translator that, “The American onslaught on Iraq continued for more than a month and a half, using warplanes, Tomahawks, hitting from everywhere.  And they used more than helicopter, even though they did not destroy Iraq.  They destroyed bridges, they destroyed churches, mosques, colleges, buildings, plants.  They destroyed places, houses, palaces.  They killed people, and elderly.”   As a result of these statements, Saddam again tried to establish the U.S. as the aggressor.    

Mr. Rather asked Saddam, “ Do you or do you not agree, in principle, with the attack of 9/11?  Part of Saddam’s reply through a translator was, “Let me tell you absolutely clearly: Our principles are not just national or 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 other.”   Saddam evaded the question and turned his answer to (again) portray himself as a man of peace and President Bush as a man of war. 

Saddam was also asked by Dan Rather, “If there is an invasion, will you set fire to the oil fields? Will you blow the dams? Or your reservoirs of water, to resist the invasion?  Through a translator Saddam replied, “Iraq does not destroy its dams or its oil.  Iraq protects, defends, maintains those resources, in order to improve life.  Iraqi oil wells will be destroyed by those who will invade Iraq, in their possible invasion of the country.”  When the war with Iraq does start Saddam will do exactly what he said he would not do and blame it on the U.S. 

Saddam again established that the U.S. is the current aggressor when he said in the interview through a translator, “The officials of the U.S. have themselves spoken about their intentions to commit aggression against Iraq.  I am speaking now with you (Rather), and maybe airplanes, warplane, 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.” 

Finally, Saddam tried to unit the Arab world against the U.S. by comparing the Palestinian-Israeli conflict similar to what the U.S. is doing to Iraq.  He said through a translator, “ See how the Palestinian 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.”   

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Some of Saddam’s Deception Revealed One Week After the Interview — Iraqis Posing As U.S. Troops  

On March 6, 2003, Jim Wilkinson, director of strategic communication at Central Command in Tampa, Florida said Iraq is acquiring military uniforms “identical down to the last detail” to those worn by American and British forces and plans to use them to shift blame for atrocities. (13) Though he did not say how the information was obtained he said Saddam Hussein had ordered procurement of the uniforms.  

He said, “Saddam intends to issue these uniforms to Fedayeen Saddam troops who would wear them when conducting reprisals against the Iraqi people so that they could pass the atrocities off as the work of the United States and the United Kingdom.” (14)  Founded by Saddam’s son Odai in 1994, the Fedayeen Saddam is a paramilitary force of more than 15,000.  Unit members have been recruited from areas noted for loyalty to Saddam. 

Separate from the regular Army command, the Fedayeen Saddam carries out patrols and anti-smuggling duties.  Referring to the U.S. and British forces who would spearhead an invasion Wilkinson said, “Saddam Hussein is clearly getting ready to wage a campaign of fear and disinformation against those who seek to disarm him.” (15) 

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Irresponsible Journalism  

The interview between Dan Rather and Saddam Hussein portrayed Saddam in a positive light and served Saddam in exactly the way he had intend —  as a propaganda tool for his cause.    It is tragic that the media has come to be so anti-American as well as against the culture and values that have made this nation the greatest nation in the history of this world.  America has been a bastion of liberty and freedom and a nation that has liberated nations of the world from tyranny and oppression.  Yet Dan Rather allowed Saddam to falsely portray America before the world as a hegemonistic, imperialist aggressor nation that wants to conquer Iraq for its resources and remove its “peaceful and caring dictator” that reigns over his people through a police state.  CBS and Dan Rather wrongly allowed and enabled Saddam to portray himself in a humane light.  How can a nation go to war, when the enemy is portrayed as a peace lovingly, kind, polite and godly gentleman that looks to Allah for wisdom and guidance?  How bad can this tyrannical dictator be when he interrupts the interview for daily prayer?!   

One can argue that CBS and Dan Rather have a journalistic right to air such interviews.  However, just weeks before the start of World War Two would such American journalists as Edward R. Murrow or William L. Shirer have accepted an interview with Adolph Hitler or Emperor Hirohito to express their feelings about America, its leadership and its people, and what their fate might be if war breaks out?  If Mr. Rather were a journalist looking to represent the truth as well as factual information, he would have asked Saddam about his infamous political prisons, the Iraq secret police, how political prisoner live in filth, humiliation and the constant fear of torture and execution.  Also, Dan Rather should have asked Saddam why in an effort to conceal chemical and biological weapons from U.N. inspectors as well as spare them from any expected U.S. attack, he has transported these weapons to the borders of Syria and Turkey.   

Saddam Hussein is like all tyrannical dictators.  He tries to convince the world that he is a man of peace. Yet the fundamental problem in Iraq is the nature of his brutal regime.  Saddam has a long history of using terrorism against his neighbors as well as his own people.  It was more than 60 years ago that Adolph Hitler used the same strategy Saddam has used in the Rather interview, trying to convince the world he was a man of peace, but the world soon learned he was not. 

Saddam speaks of the preservation of life and peace, yet he is not concerned about the welfare of his own people.  Although Iraq claims infant malnutrition, the government has ordered only a fraction of the nutrition supplies for vulnerable children and pregnant and nursing mothers recommended by the UN and for which money has been set aside under the Oil-for Food Program, reports the UN.   

According to U.N. reports, medicines and medical supplies worth $200 million remain undistributed in Iraqi warehouses since the initiation of the Oil-for-Food Program, about 50 percent of the value of all the medical supplies that have arrived in Iraq.  As Saddam alleges that children are dying due to sanctions, he moves troops and missiles around Iraq but claims there is a lack of transportation to distribute these medicines. 

Furthermore, malnourished children and pregnant and lactating mothers in Iraq have received reduced allocations of supplemental nutritional support, from $8 million to $6 million. 

Saddam Hussein builds monuments to himself instead of helping the people of Iraq from revenues generated under the Oil-for Food Program as well as revenue from other sources that Saddam controls.  For example, since the Gulf War, Saddam has spent over $2 billion on presidential places. 

During World War Two, the media dehumanized the enemy and portrayed them as they actually were, “evil”.  Yet  today as America goes to war with Iraq, the media does just the opposite.  It is President Bush who is evil because he is concerned with the clear and present danger Iraq posses to the national security of the U.S. and Saddam Hussein, the tyrannical dictator that has committed crimes against humanity as the victim.     

Both CBS and Dan Rather by accepting this interview with Saddam Hussein demonstrated irresponsible journalism.  Saddam used CBS as his vehicle to spread his propaganda.  In Iraq, the media is controlled by Saddam Hussein.  The Iraqi government regulates what the people of Iraq can view from outside Iraq.  In fact, in Saddam’s eyes, CBS and Dan Rather did such a good job with this propaganda interview he allowed it to be viewed in Iraq.   Saddam knows he cannot defeat the U. S. in battle but in his mindset if he can survive he has won.  Through deceit and deception Saddam’s strategy is to bring the media and as many nations as he can against the U.S.  He feels he has convinced the world that America is a hegemonistic nation that is waging war against peaceful Iraq.   

CBS and Dan Rather have unknowingly created an opportunity for Saddam to exploit once war does begin.  Soon after war breaks out, Saddam will quickly determine he cannot win so he will begin his scorched earth strategy.  To slow the advance of the U.S. military to Baghdad oil fields, he will set fire to dams and bridges, and reservoirs will be destroyed.  If successful, he will blame the U.S. because he told Dan Rather he would not do such a thing but the U.S. would.  To incite the Iraqi population to fight against America, he will use the Fedayee Saddam troops wearing uniforms identical to American and British forces to commit atrocities against the Iraqi people and then will blame U.S. and British forces for conducting reprisals against the Iraqi people.  It is Saddam’s hope that if these strategies are successful the media will come to his aid to show the so called atrocities the U.S. military is committing against the Iraqi people.  Once the world learns of this, the U.S. will be forced to stop the war as world opinion comes against the US.   

Once this conflict does start with Iraq it is the duty of the American people to support President Bush and the brave young men and women of the U.S. military that will be in harm’s way trying to bring this war to a quick end.  The citizens of this nation cannot allow the outcome of this war to be determined by the media as it was during Vietnam.  The silent majority that the media has been repressing must come together and protest these actions if they do occur.   It is unthinkable that the media has more trust for a tyrannical dictator such as Saddam Hussein than it does for President Bush.  It portrays the President as the war hawk but fails to hold Saddam Hussein accountable.  The war can be averted by Saddam simply surrendering Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction.  But the simple fact of the matter is Saddam will never do this. 

The CBS Dan Rather interview with Saddam only emboldens his cause. And tragically, for the sake of gaining rating points, the network has put American military personal that will be fighting this war at risk.  

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End Notes:

  1. Kim Sengupta, “Iraq ‘only co-operates before Security Council meetings’,” Independent News, March 5, 2003.
  2. Oliver Burkeman, “Rumsfeld claims more support than in 1991, “ The Guardian, March 5, 2003.
  3. James Gordon Meek, “Iraqi spies in U.S.,” New York Daily News, January 30, 2003.
  4. “Iraq gloats over global peace protests,” The Associated Press, February 16, 2003
  5. Oliver Burkeman, “White House clash with TV chiefs.  Bush administration claims CBS is allowing the Iraqi leader to set the agenda by refusing them a right to reply,” The Guardian, February 27, 2003.
  6.  Kim Sengupta, “Iraq ‘only co-operates before Security Council meetings’,” Independent News, March 5, 2003.
  7. Jennifer Harper, “Rather’s Saddam interview draws skeptics,” The Washington Times, February 26, 2003.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Herbert Romerstein, “Axis of Evil Acts Up,” Human Events, Vol. 59 No.7, February 24, 2003.
  10. Ibid.
  11. Ibid.
  12. “Hussein Translator on CBS Used Fake Accent-Report,” Reuters, March 5, 2003.
  13. “Official: Iraqi Soldiers Ordered to Commit Atrocities While Dressed as U.S. Troops,” The Associated Press, March 6, 2003.
  14. Ibid.
  15. Ibid.

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