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
"It is with great pain that I write to you, having heard today that
troops from your country have entered the State
"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
"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
"A clear Iraqi position, followed by decisive and immediate steps towards
a political solution,would help prevent and
frustrate the United Startes aggressive and
"Cuba is willing to cooperate with any action that will help to achieve
"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
There ends our appeal for a just and reasonable
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
"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
These were essentially our thoughts on the
matter and we continued to ask Saddam to change
"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
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
All nations closed down their embassies in Iraq before the war breakout,
except for you. How long did you stay in
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
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.