Dr. Khidhir Hamza, from 1987 to 1994, served as the head of Saddam Hussein’s nuclear weapons program. Co-author of the book “Saddam’s Bombmaker,” Hamza defected to the United States in 1995, and testified before Congress on the vast scope of Saddam Hussein’s biological, chemical and nuclear programs.
The following excerpted interview took place on “The Larry Elder Show” on Dec. 19, 2002:
Elder: Colin Powell says we ought to commence interviewing Iraqi scientists.
Hamza: I was one of those who suggested originally in the Senate and the House testimonies, that the scientists should be taken out with their families. It would be the only way we could get some information on what’s going on inside Iraq.
Elder: It appears, Dr. Hamza, that the American and U.K. position is that he is right now – before anything else happens – in material breach.
Hamza: Yes, he is.
Elder: The rest of this is about convincing the other members of the United Nations Security Council.
Hamza: Exactly, because the reports are so far just a compilation of the old reports, and they have not answered all the outstanding questions that remained when the inspectors were forced to leave Iraq in 1998.
Elder: Dr. Hamza, Saddam Hussein is betting what? That there’ll be enough people who don’t want to go to war on the U.N. Security Council, that there’ll be pressure on the United States and Great Britain not to take action?
Hamza: He’s betting on this. He’s not going to let the scientists out, not all of the scientists. In 1993, he let three scientists out to talk to inspectors in Vienna. So he’ll do the same. He’ll allow a very small group of scientists that will be interviewed outside Iraq. His bet is that, even if he is declared in violation, and there is a possibility of invasion, the invasion will not be fully supported by the international community unless there is evidence.
Elder: Members of the U.N., Syria and the Iraqi deputy prime minister say provide the intelligence information (about Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction). What should the U.S. do now?
Hamza: The United States cannot reveal the critical pieces of information because some of it is from inside Iraq. The U.S. government is in a position to reveal some information so that inspectors can do their job. But no critical information to other members of the Security Council, because they jeopardize sources and methods. That is why Secretary Powell today insisted that the next step would be interviewing the scientists, because this is the next card to play, and it is a major one, and it could be the end of the whole game Saddam is playing.
Elder: Dr. Hamza, Pentagon sources speaking anonymously are saying that what Saddam Hussein is going to do is a “scorched earth policy.” Destroy his own oilfields, destroy his food supplies, make a humanitarian crisis so widespread, so vulgar, that it’ll turn international opinion against this country.
Hamza: Surely they did well by saying it now so that it alerts the Arab world, the media, and it alerts the Iraqis to the possibility of a future that awaits them when Saddam loses this war which assuredly he will. [Saddam] destroyed most of Kuwait before he left. He is vengeful, he is evil and he is capable of doing all this. But by saying it, that means the U.S. is giving careful consideration to this. Those who will participate in it will be criminalized and punished to the maximum, both by the future Iraqi government and by U.S. forces who will be there, and this will be announced and made very clear.
Elder: Dr. Hamza, do you anticipate that somebody close to him will rise up and assassinate him?
Hamza: There is no such possibility. They might want to, many people would like to, even around him, but the system is so hermetically sealed in his favor that it is impossible.
Elder: Are there ties between Saddam’s regime and al-Qaida?
Hamza: Yes, I believe there are. I don’t know if you can get proof good enough in court, but there are many connections that, yes, Saddam is connected to al-Qaida in many ways. For example, if you will look at Sept. 11 hijackers, nobody managed to point to any training to a precisely orchestrated operation. You cannot get five guys with practically no weapons into a plane and get them to take over more than 100 people on board in such a precise, well-orchestrated manner. They are extensively trained, and the operation itself became second nature to them. Nobody could find such a place in Afghanistan, and the only intelligence reports so far, three Iraqi intelligence officers who escaped, not knowing each other, who reported such a training in the south of Baghdad.
(To see the entire transcript, log on to www.larryelder.com)