He’s the man with the most to tell the interrogators. Now it’s just a matter of getting him to talk.
“It may be that playing to his rather profound and swollen ego could lead him to revealing some matters, but I don’t think a coercive breaking will lead to anything but defiance,” according to George Washington University Professor Jerrold Post.
It’s a delicate matter, because at the time of his capture Saddam was at his most vulnerable. He was disoriented and disgraced. But his outlook could improve in captivity. In fact, we’ve already learned Saddam was talking back to captors — so-called “trash-talking.”
And one veteran military commander, retired four-star general and NBC News consultant Wayne Downing, worries that the U.S. might have already made a mistake. I asked him if there is any way that he could be mishandled, to get his back up to get him feeling: “I do have value? Hey, look, I used to be a dictator. I killed guys like you.”
“I think probably one of the worst things we could have done is what we did. And that was go out and have that official visit with him, where we took several of the U.S. leaders out there,” Gen. Downing answered. “And then four of the opposition leaders. You know? They had a banter. Apparently, he got — he got his dander up, argued back. That’s exactly, I think, the wrong thing that we want to put out to the Iraqi people and the Arab world,” the general said.
Unlike those terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the world is watching to see how Saddam is treated. His captors are barred from using physical torture, but they can use psychological tactics common to interrogation.
“If he wishes not to answer, that’s the end. We can continue to question him, but we can’t threaten him, retaliate against him or mistreat him in any way,” said University of Pittsburgh Law Professor John Parry.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said:“He is an individual who is representative of a regime that has been replaced. And it’s terribly important that he be seen by the public for what he is, a captive, without question. And if lives can be saved by physical proof that that man is off the street then we opt for saving lives.”
All the pictures, so far, show Saddam getting that initial basic medical checkup. And there’s at least one group that wants to make sure he remains in good health. The International Red Cross says it considers him a prisoner of war. It is asking to visit him to make sure his treatment is humane.