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The Letters to Saddam Hussein

Excerpts from Chapter 25 of "One Hundred Hours with Fidel"

Did it seem to you that the war in Iraq was inevitable?

In February 2003, a few weeks before the war started, I was in Malaysia attending the Non-Aligned Summit and while I was there, in Kuala Lumpur, I spoke extensively with the members of the Iraqi delegation and with the then vice-president Taha Yassin Ramadan. I said to them, "if you really do have chemical weapons, destroy them so as to facilitate the work of the UN inspectors". That was their only chance of avoiding an attack. And I think that they did it, if they had weapons in the first place, that is. It had already been decided that there would be an attack, whether they had the weapons or not.

What is your opinion of Saddam Hussein?

In 1991, after the Kuwait invasion, he got caught up in a chain of thought that led to a serious crisis. We voted in favour of the UN resolution condemning that invasion. I sent two letters to him with personal emissaries, recommending that he enter into negotiations and withdraw from Kuwait before it was too late.

In the first missive, dated August 2, 1990, I wrote:

"It is with great pain that I write to you, having heard today that troops from your country have entered the State of Kuwai".

"Regardless of the motives that led to such a dramatic decision, I feel I must express our concern over the serious consequences that this could have firstly for Iraq and Kuwait, but also for all the countries of the Third World. Cuba, despite the bond of friendship that unite it with Iraq, must oppose a military solution to the conflict between Iraq and Kuwait.

"The immediate reaction of the international community, which learned of the events from the transnational news agencies, creates a very dangerous and vulnerable situation for Iraq.

"I feel it is very likely that the United States and other allies will take the opportunity to intervene militarily in the conflict and deal a strong blow to Iraq. Washington, furthermore, will seek to consolidate its self-appointed role as international and Gulf gendarme.

"In this situation, the time factor is decisive, and I appeal to you to show a willingness to withdraw the troops from Kuwait and immediately work toward a political and negotiated solution to the conflict, using the good offices of the Arab League or the Non-Aligned Movement, to which we turn for help with this. These actions will help to strengthen the international position of the Third World countries in the face of the United States’ role as gendarme, and will also reinforce Iraq's position with regard to international opinion.

"What is essential at this time is to avoid an imperialist intervention carried out under the pretext of defending the peace and sovereignty of a small country in the region. Such a precedent would be disastrous both for Iraq and for the rest of the Third World.

"A clear Iraqi position, followed by decisive and immediate steps towards a political solution,would help prevent and frustrate the United Startes aggressive and interventionist plans.

"Cuba is willing to cooperate with any action that will help to achieve this solution.

"I am certain that my opinions here reflect the thoughts of dozens of countries around the world at this time that have always regarded your country with respect and esteem".

There ends our appeal for a just and reasonable solution.

Shortly afterwards, on September 4, 1990, in response to a message sent from Iraq, I ratified the principled position that I had expressed previously and called for a political solution to that difficult situation that could grow increasingly complex and murky, and bring more serious consequences for the world.

We insisted once again. One of the paragraphs of the second letter read as follows:

"I have decided to write to you this message, which I ask you to read and mull over on account of its content, but also because I feel obliged to share with you my thoughts on a decidedly bitter reality; I hope that they may be of use to you at this time when you should make some dramatic decisions".

Further on I indicated that:

"It is my opinion that the war shall inexorably breakout if Iraq is not willing to find a negotiated political solution on the basis of withdrawing from Kuwait. This war could be highly damaging to the region, and in particular to Iraq, regardless the courage with which the people of Iraq are prepared to fight.

"The United States has managed to create a great military alliance that includes not only NATO but also Arab and Muslim forces; and in the political arena it has shaped a highly negative image of Iraq in the eyes of most of the international community due to the aforementioned events, which have caused a profound reaction and feelings of hostility in the United Nations and in many countries around the world.That is to say, ideal conditions have been created for the hegemonic and aggressive plans of the United States, while military and political conditions couldn’t be worse for Iraq to go to war. In these circumstances, the war would divide the Arabs for many years to come; the United States and the West would maintain a military presence in the region indefinitely and the consequences would be disastrous not only for the Arab nation, but also for the Third World at large.

"Iraq is laying itself open to an unequal fight, lacking a sound political justification and the support of the international community, with the exception, of course, of the sympathies shown by many Arab countries".

These were essentially our thoughts on the matter and we continued to ask Saddam to change his position:

"It should not happen that everything that the Iraqi people have built over the years, as well as their great possibilities for the future, be destroyed by the sophisticated weapons of imperialism. If there were justified and irrefutable reasons for this, I would be the last person to ask you to avoid making this sacrifice.

"To consent to the demand of the overwhelming majority of United Nations member countries that you withdraw from Kuwait should never be perceived as a disgrace or humiliation for Iraq.

"Regardless of the historical reasons that Iraq feels that it has on its side with regard to Kuwait, the truth is that the international community is practically unanimous in its opposition to the methods used. And under this broad international consensus shelters the imperialist plan to destroy Iraq and take control of the entire region's energy resources".

None of these efforts, however, was successful.

Did you ever meet Saddam Hussein in person?

Yes, in September of 1973. I was in Algiers, at a Non-Aligned Summit and was on my way to Hanoi at the invitation of the Vietnamese government. Vietnam was not yet totally liberated. Saddam Hussein came to Baghdad Airport to receive me. At that time, he was vice-president, he wasn’t yet the President of Iraq; he was leader of the Baas Party. It seemed to me that he was respectful man; he was friendly; he showed me the city, a very beautiful city, with many broad avenues, and the bridges over the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers. I stayed there only one day. While I was in Baghdad I learned of the military coup d’état in Chile against Allende…

From a military viewpoint, what is your opinion of the defence system used by the Iraqi forces in that war?

We followed very closely that war from March to May 2003. Why didn’t Iraq resist? It’s a mystery. Why didn’t they blow up the bridges in order to hold back the advance of US troops? Why didn’t they blow up the ammunition depots, and the airports before they fell into the hands of the invaders? It’s all a great mystery. Undoubtedly, Saddam was betrayed by some of his leaders.

All nations closed down their embassies in Iraq before the war breakout, except for you. How long did you stay in Baghdad?

Our embassy was the last to remain in Baghdad, along with the Vatican’s. Even the Russians had left. It was only after the US troops had entered the Iraqi capital that we ordered our people to leave Baghdad. We couldn’t ask the five people who were in our embassy to defend the premises against two armies. Our diplomats received safe-conducts and were able to leave Iraq undisturbed. Their papers were issued by an international organization, not by the Americans.

What is your perception of how the Iraqi situation has evolved?

In my opinion, popular resistance will continue to intensify while the occupation of Iraq persists. It’s going to be a living hell, and will continue to be so. For that reason, the first objective should be an immediate transfer of real control to the United Nations, and the beginning of a process to recover Iraqi sovereignty and to establish a legitimate government, the result of a decision made by the Iraqi people. But this must be an authentic, legitimate decision and not one resulting from elections held under a full neo-colonial military occupation. The scandalous dividing up of Iraqi wealth must also stop immediately. 

(Granma) 01-01-2007

 
 

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