Assume the Position

Saturday, December 06, 2003
The Unreported Comments of Gen. Hussein Kamel

A portion of Gen. Kamel's 1995 debriefing pours some cold water on two common myths concerning Iraq. The first, from the Gulf War, is that Hussein was solely interested in Kuwait and all the US talk about the threat to Saudi Arabia was a lie. The second concerns Hussein's Iraq as a "secular regime" and where it was headed, which is getting another workout after Stephen Hayes' stories in the Weekly Standard on the Iraq and al-Qaeda connections memo "from Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas J. Feith to Senators Pat Roberts and Jay Rockefeller, the chairman and vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee."

Anybody who has followed Iraq is probably somewhat familiar with the story of Lt. Gen. Hussein Kamel (Husayn Kamil Hasan al-Majid, also sometimes transliterated as Hussein Kamal), former head of Iraq's Military Industrialization Corporation (the main organization responsible for Iraq's military industries and weapons programs, including all the prohibited programs). He and his brother, Col. Saddam Kamel, former head of "special services (jihaz al-khas)" [1], along with their wives (Raghad and Rana, Saddam Hussein's daughters by Sajida, his first wife [2]), defected to Jordan in August 1995. They also brought several crates of documents. Kamel underwent a joint IAEA and UNSCOM debriefing and, apparently, separate briefings by the CIA and MI-6. The defection, directly or indirectly [3], led to uncovering the material and document cache at Kamel's "chicken farm" in Haidar, which included information about an unsuspected 1991 "crash program" to accelerate production of a nuclear weapon. The Kamel brothers and their wives returned to Iraq in February 1996 and the brothers were promptly killed along with other members of the al-Majid clan [4].

In the runup to the war, the IAEA/UNSCOM debriefing was leaked to Newsweek's John Barry and supposedly to BBC Radio 4's Andrew Gilligan.

The lead to Newsweek's March 3, 2003 story, on newsstands (or the web) February 24, 2003:

Hussein Kamel, the highest-ranking Iraqi official ever to defect from Saddam Hussein's inner circle, told CIA and British intelligence officers and U.N. inspectors in the summer of 1995 that after the gulf war, Iraq destroyed all its chemical and biological weapons stocks and the missiles to deliver them.

The lead on BBC Radio 4:

Had Iraq got rid of all its weapons of mass destruction by 1995? That, this programme has learned, was the claim made by the most important defector ever to leave the country - General Hussein Kamel, who fled Iraq in August of that year. Andrew Gilligan reports.

That, and basically only that, was trumpeted all over the place, especially by those opposed to the war. They went to town on the last sentences on Page 13 of the debrief where Kamal says that he had ordered the destruction after the Gulf War: "All chemical weapons were destroyed. I ordered destruction of all chemical weapons. All weapons - biological, chemical, missile, nuclear were destroyed." That last sentence got repeated, over and over. Certainly, the lack of discoveries of large caches of proscribed weapons and/or precursor materials now tends to support Kamal's claim.

While one can credit Kamel with having "ordered destruction" of all prohibited weapons, that does not mean those orders were fully carried out. For example, "In October 1995, Iraq handed over to the Commission 18 gyro-instruments for proscribed missiles, without offering a satisfactory explanation for their continuous holding up to that time. It admitted, however, that in late 1993 an order had been issued to one of its missile facilities to start work on prohibited gyro-instruments." That was always the problem with the inspections in Iraq — the Iraqis first claimed items or programs never existed; then, after evidence refuting that claim was discovered, they would change their tune and say all materials had been destroyed, but rarely provide sufficient evidence of the destruction. Kamal's assertion in August 1995 was no better. Kamal's other claims could be backed up by documentation, especially the flood of material Iraq turned over after his defection.

However, what I found interesting were Gen. Kamel's remarks at the end of the meeting. These were not followed up because they didn't pertain to things the weapons inspectors were interested in, nor were they covered in the news reports. [It seems few people actually bothered to download the PDF file of the debriefing and read it for themselves, although it has been available at CASI (Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq) and FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting)—locations listed with many of the reports, including BBC Radio 4's.]

The opening gives the particulars of the meeting:

      In the evening of 22 August 1995, the Executive Chairman of the Special commission met with General Hussein Kamal in Amman. The meeting was attended by Prof. M. Zifferero (IAEA), N. Smidovich (UNSCOM), and a person from King of Jordan court who served as an interpreter. The meeting started at 1950 hrs and lasted approximately three hours. The General spoke in Arabic with the follow-up translation by the interpreter.

Here is the end, Page 14 (retyped from the PDF image, emphasis added):


      Amb. Ekeus - there might be an opportunity to meet again, especially after we would study documents from the farm.

      General Hussein Kamal - there are three jokes: first, that I was the one responsible for not disclosing past programmes; second, that I am a CIA agent and third, that the documents were hidden at my farm. There is a contradiction in what Tariq Aziz is saying. One day he is saying that he is in charge in Iraq, the next day he claims that I was concealing. there was a decision by the Revolutionary Command Council on the 31 August deadline and the ultimatum. Now they are saying they are working closely with you. Why such a sudden change? Once they follow their policy, results are dreadful.

      Amb. Ekeus - when you left the country, they started to change policy.

      General Hussein Kamal - the current government will never change. Otherwise I would not leave. They will remain as always. Last time they massed the Army in Basrah ready to go into Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. I thought to leave at that time. They might think they might accuse me of being a traitor but I saw all kinds of battles. Until now it was planned to go into Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. If I stop issuing statements to the public for three weeks, they will return to the old policies. Listen again to Saddam's speeches immediately after the Gulf War and now. Still no changes for Iraq: poorer and suffering. They are only interested in themselves and not worried about economics or political state of the country. First I thought to resign but then I decided not to work against regime from inside the country. Now after I left, I can state publicly I will work against the regime. There is a lot of bad writing against me but all Iraqis know that I am a doer, an "implementor". I was not involved in any of their wrongdoings. I led a quiet life. I never tried tea or coffee, smoke a cigarette or drank alcohol. The regime lost the entire Arab area and the Arab world lost Iraq. In 1948, there was a war between Israel on one side and Palestine and Arab countries on the other. Even now, the regime continue to end all statements with a slogan "Long Life Palestine" but the Palestinians signed peace with Israel. In Iraq, huge amount of water is wasted into the sea. Why could not Iraq give water to its neighbours. If there had been trust in the Iraqi regime, the neighbouring countries would have signed agreement, but with this regime, it might decide to stop water supplies. In Europe, there were wars lasting for 300 years. now everyone is enjoying benefits from the policy of cooperation. Problems do exist but they are not solved by force. in 1968, Iraq went to the Soviet Union. The rest of the Gulf States had relations with US. This started the Cold War in the region. if all of us were dealing with one power, there would be no problems inside and outside. But the current regime went to USSR and that rose fears in US, Europe that the Soviet Union might take control. Who lost? Iraq, because they had no longer look into the interest of Iraq and the region. It is most important to be stable and not to go to war with its neighbours. It is this kind of policy this is putting Iraq back into the Stone Age. Nothing forbids good relations between Iraq and USA. Iraq needs it - for stability, for Iraq. If Russia and US are in the area, there will be be problems. The Government of Iraq is instigating fundamentalism in the country. This is of concern for Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Kuwait. It is against Europe and US. Now Baath Party members have to pass a religious exam. This would strengthen Iran. It would be detrimental for the whole region. (The interpreter remarked that Iraq and Iran would have the same mentality.) This will be another world war. Every party member has to pass a religious exam. They even stopped party meetings for prayers.

Notes were taken by N. Smidovich.

If you believe Kamel, then the pre-Gulf War claim that Iraq intended to take some or all of Saudi Arabia after Kuwait was correct. (Of course, most people seem to only remember the Gulf War as the coalition's 30-day bombing campaign followed by a 100-hour ground war; they forget the first major ground battle was January 29, 1991, when Iraq attacked, captured, and was later expelled from al-Nhafji, Saudi Arabia [5].)

Likewise, the foolishness that Hussein couldn't possibly partner with al-Qaeda because the Baathists were a "secular regime" should have been scrapped long ago. Hussein's mosque building, having a copy of the Koran written with his blood, "instigating fundamentalism in the country," and reported overtures to al-Qaeda all seem consistent with three concerns: 1) counteract fundamentalism from Iran—better the fundamentalism you control than someone else's, 2) keep al-Qaeda from stirring up trouble in the areas of Iraq still under his control, and 3) provide a means to surreptitiously strike out at his biggest enemy—the US. I don't think Iraq had any direct involvement in the September 11, 2001 attacks, but I won't rule out some level of involvement with al-Qaeda. For the past 15 years Hussein has routinely misjudged the US response to his actions, so I don't think he would have shied away from financing or otherwise aiding attacks like those on the USS Cole and the US embassies in Africa. The common refrain that "there's no evidence Iraq had anything to do with Sep 11" means little when the war against terrorists and terror supporting states is taken to include the millennium bomb plots, the attacks on the embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, the bombing of the USS Cole, the first WTC bombing, and, yes, the assassination attempt on Bush 41—the last definitely having Iraqi fingerprints all over it.

[1] Faleh a Jabar in the Le Monde diplomatique, October 2002:

[The house of] Al-Majid's rise to power in the 1990s posed huge problems since it infringed fundamental party and military norms: efficiency, service record and seniority. Hussein Kamil and Saddam Kamil both married daughters of Saddam. Alongside Ali Hassan al-Majid, they respectively held the military industries, the special services (jihaz al-khas) and the defence ministry. Their cousins, including Rokan, Saddam's aide-de-camp, have also held important posts.

With the rise of Saddam's two sons Udai and Qusai, the house of al-Majid proved itself even less reliable than its predecessors. The conflict came to a head when the brothers Kamil defected to Jordan in 1995, only to return to Iraq. They were executed in February 1996, as were their father, mother and sister. This bloody episode unsettled al-Majid and embarrassed Saddam.

[2] The two daughters and their children currently have royal asylum in Jordan.

[3] Gen. Kamel didn't reveal the the existence of the cache. Paragraphs 24 and 25 of the eighth UNSCOM report to the UNSC by the Executive Chairman of the Special Commission:

24. On 20 August 1995, at the conclusion of the Executive Chairman's visit to Baghdad (17-20 August), the Chairman, in a public statement, complained that, while very significant new information had been provided, not a single document, which could help in verifying that information, had been handed over. Shortly after that statement was made, and while the Chairman's team was preparing for departure to the Habbaniyah airfield, General Amer Rashid al-Ubeidi contacted the Chairman and requested that, on his way to the airfield, he visit a farm which the General stated to have belonged to General Hussein Kamel Hassan, where items of great interest to the Commission could be found. On arrival at the farm, in addition to a number of shipping containers with miscellaneous equipment in them, the Chairman and his team found, in a locked chicken house, numerous metal and wooden boxes which were packed with documentation, together with microfiches, computer diskettes, videotapes, photographs and prohibited hardware components. Orders were immediately issued to the Commission's personnel, who had been brought to the site, to secure this material and transfer it to the Baghdad Monitoring and Verification Centre.

25. Examination of the contents of the boxes at the Centre revealed well over half a million pages of documentation. While most of this related to the nuclear area, a large amount concerned the chemical, biological and missile areas. This documentation has now been inventoried and is being arranged, after scanning, on a priority basis for examination. The initial assessment of the Commission is that the bulk of the material in the missile, chemical and biological fields comes from a number of the sites where Iraq's proscribed programmes had been carried out. The amount of material varies from area to area, being more comprehensive in certain areas than in others. However, documentation from the Headquarters of the Military Industrialization Corporation (MIC) is not included, nor are the relevant archives of the Ministry of Defence. From recent statements made by senior Iraqi officials, the Ministry's records are still intact and detailed.

Gen. Kamel may not have even known the cache was there according to UNSCOM Chairman Amb. Richard Butler's report to the UNSC in June 1998.

The second item pertains to the Haidar Chicken Farm itself. Iraq has undertaken systematic efforts to move around, reclassify, destroy or retain documents related to its past proscribed weapons programs. Iraq has admitted such. Iraq has declared to the Commission a program from April 1991 until February 1993 to hide documents from the Commission, destroy duplicate sets of documents, and microfiche documents. Iraq claims that this effort was ordered by one man, Hussein Kamal, and that it was done in secret from the rest of the Iraqi leadership. The Iraqis claim that the Chicken Farm cache is the product of this secret effort. However, the Iraqi story does not stand up to close scrutiny.

Establishing the veracity of the Chicken Farm story is critical to the verification of all current Iraqi declarations. The events of August 1995 uncovered major aspects of concealment on the part of Iraq.

In order to accept Iraq's current declarations that the Haidar Farm cache represents the totality of the Iraqi retained documentation and material, the Iraqi version of events leading up to the discovery of this material needs to be accurate and verifiable.

What will now be shown are photographic images which cast doubt on what was found at the Haidar Farm represented all of Iraq's retained proscribed documentation and material. Furthermore, Iraq's declaration that the mechanism used to safeguard and conceal the Farm cache from the Commission was the act of a single man, vice the actions of a centrally orchestrated campaign on the part of the Government of Iraq, is also brought into question.

The first slide shows an image of the Haidar farm, commonly known as the chicken farm. You see on this picture, taken on 26 July 1995, that containers have been brought to this farm, which belongs to Hussein Kamal, the son-in-law of Saddam Hussein. The containers can be seen there, between two sheds. There are about ten of them. Iraq has since claimed that these containers were used to transport the annual potato harvest. However an examination of imagery for previous years, as well as the years since 1995, revealed no indication that such containers or for that matter any like them, were present for his purpose at the Haidar Farm.

On 8 August 1995, Hussein Kamal left the country.

On 9 August, as seen on the next slide, there are no more containers in front of the farm. A lot of trucks are coming in and out. Boxes and crates are stacked up in this location, near where the Commission eventually discovered boxes and crates of similar dimensions containing documentation relating to Iraq's past proscribed weapons programs.

On the third slide, you see a picture taken on 19 August, a day before the arrival on the spot of the Executive Chairman and his team. You can see that there are no more trucks or containers. In one of those containers present when UNSCOM inspected the site, documents on the biological program were found, along with documents pertaining to all areas of Iraq's proscribed weapons programs.

We have some concern that the Chicken farm might have been cleansed before the arrival of the team. The Farm manager himself stated that he was taken into custody by the Special Security organization on 9 August the same day that we see considerable activities on the farm. Iraq denies any involvement on the part of the Special Security Organization with the Farm. Iraq claims the arrest and subsequent investigations into the Chicken farm were carried out by Military Industrialization Commission Security. The political leadership of Iraq concocted stories to tell UNSCOM, what actually occurred at the Farm. The current story, that the investigation was carried out by Military Industrialization Commission Security personnel who themselves were relieved of their duties in October 1995 due to their close ties with Hussein Kamal, is difficult to accept. The Commission is expected to believe that MIC Security became aware of the document cache on 9 August and forgot to report it until late 18 August. The reality of the matter might be, as reported by the Farm manager, that the Farm was seized by Special Security on 9 August, and that material was brought to the site at that time. The Farm had been used to store material earlier. This material was probably contained in the containers observed in July 1995. Special Security, concerned about the revelations of data expected to be made by Hussein Kamal brought material back to the farm for the purpose of discovery by the Commission. However, this material was not at the Haidar Farm on 8 August 1995. High-level defectors have informed the Commission that this material was, on 8 August, stored at a number of locations throughout the Baghdad area to include residences associated with several high-ranking Iraqi Government officials. The Special Security Organization might have quickly acted to consolidate those caches, and from 9 August until 18 August, worked to sort the material into two categories: what was to be turned over to the Commission, and what was to be retained.

While the Commission does not have strong evidence to state with absolute assurance that this was the case, its available data is credible and raises questions to which Iraq should answer. We have informed Iraq that one of the best solutions towards resolving this issue would be to turn over to the Commission for examination the official Iraqi investigation into the Haidar Chicken Farm. Iraq has refused to do so, and claims that no such investigation took place.

[4] Lt. Col. Rick Francona, USAF (Retired), author of "Ally to Adversary - An Eyewitness Account of Iraq's Fall from Grace," January 2000 commentary:

In February 1996, Husayn Kamil announced that he had talked to Saddam on the phone and that he had decided to return to Baghdad. All was supposedly forgiven, however, Husayn Kamil and his brother had no illusions about their fate. The message from Saddam Husayn was not that all was to be forgiven - this was merely a public relations ploy. They were told that unless they returned, their entire extended families would be killed. Obviously, the two brothers believed that Saddam would do just that, and returned knowing full well what awaited them. The two couples returned from Amman, Jordan, on February 20,1996. The daughters were met at the border by their brother, Saddam's eldest son 'Uday. The daughters were put in one helicopter; the two brothers in another. Iraqi press reports claimed that within a few days, the Al-Majid family killed the two brothers to restore their honor. In truth, however, they were killed in a pitched gun battle with officers of the Iraqi Special Security Organization (SSO). After the Sunday morning firefight, the bodies of the two brothers were dragged through the streets of Baghdad as a warning to those who would defy Saddam.

See this discussion at PBS Frontline for somewhat of a rebuttal to Francona. Also, Global Security Org summarizes the event as follows:

The two sons-in-law of President Saddam Hussein, Hussein Kamel and Saddam Kamel, were brutally murdered on 23 February 1996, just three days after they had returned to Iraq apparently believing the President's promise of pardon for their defection to Jordan in August 1995. Shortly after entering Iraq, the two and over 40 relatives, including women and children, were killed in what the official Iraqi press described as the spontaneous administration of tribal justice. Other members of the al-Majid clan were also arrested or disappeared.

[5] Gulf War: January 1991:

In the first major ground confrontation, Iraq mounts a four- pronged raid across Kuwaiti border.

Near Al Wafra, U.S. and coalition forces engage a mechanized battalion with Cobra gunships and fixed wing aircraft, and repulse the attack, destroying 10 tanks, losing 3 light armored vehicles. North of Ras Al Khafji, at just before midnight, another Iraqi battalion crossed the border, with turned turrets--the international sign of surrender--then, attacked. U.S. AC-130s and Cobra helicopters destroyed 4 tanks, 13 vehicles.

Fighting continued for control of Khafji through the night. Forty more Iraqi tanks crossed the border, and engage U.S. Marine light armored infantry. Attack was repelled, but eleven Marines were killed in action, the first ground combat casualties of the operation. Two Marines were wounded. A total of 33 enemy tanks and 28 APCs were destroyed.

AGI's Combat Chronology, 1991:

Battle of Khafji. In the deadliest battle of the war, 26 Americans die: 14 in an Air Force gunship shoot-down and 12 Marines in three "friendly-fire" incidents. Of the Marines, 7 die in an LAV-25 light armored vehicle; 4 in another vehicle ; and 1 in aircraft fire. Most of the fighting takes place 80 km west of Khafji (6 mi. south of the border). Much combat centers on Observation Post 4. Some 33 Iraqi tanks and 29 APCs are destroyed

Also see "The Epic Little Battle of Khafji" for a detailed description of the air response.

Original content copyright © 2002-2005 Lynxx Pherrett. All rights reserved.