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2003-12-16

Former Jordanian Ambassador Discusses Saddam’s Capture, WMDs and the U.S. Occupation of Iraq

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We go to Amman to speak with former Jordanian Ambassador to the United Nations Hassan Abunimah. He recently returned from Cairo, Egypt where he met with Arab officials from across the Middle East. [includes transcript]

  • Hassan Abunimah, former Jordanian ambassador to the United Nations.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Hassan Abunimah has also just returned from Egypt to his home in Amman. He is the former Jordanian Ambassador to the United States. Welcome to Democracy Now!

HASSAN ABUNIMAH: : Thank you very much. It’s good to be with you.

AMY GOODMAN: : Can you share with us your response to the events over the weekend and the discussion now about what should happen to Saddam Hussein? Who should be trying him?

HASSAN ABUNIMAH: : Okay. May I make just a slight correction. I was Ambassador to the United Nations, not to the United States?

AMY GOODMAN: : Yes.

HASSAN ABUNIMAH: : Is that okay?

AMY GOODMAN: : Yes, okay.

HASSAN ABUNIMAH: : Now, what Saddam — the feeling that people are — the way that Saddam was captured less than two days ago, it, of course, for me, it’s a very significant development in the history of the region because Saddam was in a way obstructing the normal development of the region for almost three decades. He initiated many wars. He made things difficult not only for the people in his country, but for most of the people in the countries in the region, and I think it was due to his behavior that we had two major wars in which the United States was involved. I’m not endorsing the war in any sense, but I think that with such behavior, sometimes consequences get out of hand and get out of control. He should bear a lot of responsibility for what happens regardless of how wrong or right the war — the first war — the first war was actually more justified because it was necessary to liberate Kuwait, the second war is more controversial, but regardless, the capture of Saddam Hussein is the end of an era, a very dark era in the history of the this region. It is important. We all hope here that it will put an end to a situation which was utterly abnormal, and we hope we would be heading towards better days for Iraq and for the region. Just to make myself very clear, that doesn’t mean at all that this will solve the difficulties and the problems of the occupation, of the war, but it’s — its necessary in its own — for its own sake, I should say.

AMY GOODMAN: : What about the reaction in general both in Egypt from where you have just come and where you are right now in Amman, Jordan?

HASSAN ABUNIMAH: : Well, people were reacting as probably they did everywhere else. How was he caught? Why didn’t he shoot himself? Was he gagged? Was — would he cooperate? You know, these are the central questions. Some simplistic interpretations. spoke about the possibility of his being held in American custody for longer than people thought, and it was just — the news was just released at the times there were, you know, all of these kinds of interpretations. There are a lot of people who believe in conspiracy theories and — they used to talk about Saddam and Bin Laden as being allowed to escape by the Americans, because they were cooperating with them earlier. I mean, all of this nonsense. But on the question of what will happen — to tell you the truth, people are not sure. Now, everybody is talking about what kind of a trial he will get. Will it be in Iraq? Will this be a fair trial or the justice of the victor? Will this be in the Hague? These are the kinds of questions. But, honestly, I mean, people know that Saddam Hussein is not the kind person who would find many people to be sorry for what happens to him. He brought this upon himself, upon his country, upon his family, upon his people, upon the region. He has been really a dark stain on the history of this region for the last two or three decades.

AMY GOODMAN: : And what about when you were Jordan’s Ambassador to the United Nations? What was the period of time that you served?

HASSAN ABUNIMAH: : I was there from 1995 until 2000.

AMY GOODMAN: : Your reaction at that time? You were then dealing with the Iraqi Ambassador to the U.N. You were dealing with Iraq. You were dealing with the sanctions against Iraq. Can you talk about Saddam Hussein at that time from a diplomatic perspective, and where he had come from, where he had gotten his support from?

HASSAN ABUNIMAH: : I dealt with the Iraqi Ambassador at the United Nations at the time, a very — very reasonable man who was earlier Ambassador in Washington. Unfortunately, he is not alive anymore. He died due to terminal illness a year ago. We were dealing with sanctions, yes. We didn’t think at that time that sanctions were the best way to deal with the conflicts, delicate, difficult situations in Iraq. There was a lot of feeling amongst diplomats there that sanctions were hurting the wrong people. They were hurting the innocent people of Iraq, and they were, in fact, benefiting the regime from 1995, late 95 when the oil for food program was initiated and started to be implemented. It helped the regime to blame the United Nations and the United States for the hardships to which the Iraqi people were subjected, and that’s a way for the regime to say "it’s not us. We are being targeted by the United States, by Britain and the United Nations. That’s why we are having these difficult times." So, I think in hindsight now one could say, I’m not claiming that this is the ultimate wisdom, that the sanctions helped the regime and helped Saddam. So, and they hurt a lot of the Iraqi people, and that’s why the policy of maintaining the sanctions indefinitely with the targets as the regime, not the targets as disarming Iraq, because Iraq was actually disarmed, and the result of the war has proven that. This was a feeling. It helped Saddam, and also he was helped by the cruelty of the sanctions which made him and his people not only from the Iraqi perspective, but from a general perspective look like victims.

AMY GOODMAN: : Well, I want to thank you very much for being with us. We have been speaking with Hassan Abunimah, the former Jordanian Ambassador to the United Nations, speaking to us from Amman, Jordan.

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