This interview was taped on February 24, 2003, by Iraqi TV crews, as is standard practice for Hussein, and the Iraqis delivered a tape that combined all three cameras into one composite feed. However, as far as we can determine, the content of the interview is intact. There are places in the tape where two people are talking at once and there are repetitions. This is a transcript of that composite tape and we apologize if it is confusing in places.
Note: in almost every case, the translator is translating what Saddam Hussein has just said in Arabic. In a few minor cases, the translator is speaking for himself to Dan Rather.
Rather: I want to ask questions in two categories, please. Category one would be those questions that I think many, if not most, of Americans would like to have answered about the news of right now. And in category two, more philosophical questions.
Translator For Saddam Hussein: The news are with you. News are almost (UNINTEL) (Editor's Note: "UNINTEL" refers to a sound or word that the transcriber finds unintelligible.) different way. But the facts news are there, with you.
Rather: Mr. President, do you intend to destroy the Al-Samoud missiles that the United Nations prohibits? Will you destroy those missiles?
Translator For Saddam Hussein: We have committed ourselves to Resolution. We're implementing that resolution in accordance with what the United Nations wants us to do. It is on this basis that we have conducted ourselves, and it is on this basis that we will continue to behave. As you know, it a-- is allowed to produce - r- r- land-land rockets, with a range of up to 150 kilometers. And we are committed to that.
Rather: I want to make sure that I understand, Mr. President. So, you do not intend to destroy these missiles?
(SKIP IN TAPE)
Rather: Mr. President, I do appreciate your agreeing to spend an hour, because I want to ask questions in two categories, please.
Rather: So, you do not intend to destroy these missiles?
Translator For Saddam Hussein: Which is that? Which missiles are you talking about? We do not have missiles that go beyond the prescribed ranges, by the…U.N. The inspection teams have been here. They have inspected every place. And if there is a question to that effect, I think the question should be addressed to them.
Translator For Saddam Hussein: I think the United States and the world also knows that there is - I think the U.S. and the world know that Iraq is - no longer has the (UNINTEL)-- weapons. And--
Translator For Saddam Hussein: You have started your questions with the sort of (UNINTEL) and (UNINTEL), but not with the - However, you're free to (UNINTEL) whichever way you'd like.
Translator For Saddam Hussein: May I translate?
Rather: Yes, please.
Translator For Saddam Hussein: Thank you. The President says, the United States - the world - knows that there is nothing in Iraq of… whatever the noise has been made about. And I believe that that noise and the fleets that have been brought around and the mobilization that's been done were, in fact, done partly to cover the huge lie that was being waged against Iraq about chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.
And it was on that basis that Iraq actually accepted Resolution - accepted it, even though Iraq was absolutely certain that what it had said, what the Iraqi officials…had kept saying, that… Iraq was empty, was void of any such weapons, was the case. But Iraq accepted that resolution… in order not to allow any misinterpretation of its position.
And, indeed, in order to make the case absolutely clear that Iraq was no longer in possession of any such…weapons. Iraq accepted to agree to deal with that resolution. That is why, when you talk about such missiles, these missiles have been destroyed. There are no missiles that are contrary to the prescription of the United Nations in Iraq.
These missiles were des - missiles that were proscribed - have been destroyed and are no longer there.
Rather: What do you consider to be the core issues? You said that I had started - and indeed, I started with the news of the day. But what do you consider to be the core issue, the basic issue?
Translator For Saddam Hussein: In all divine religions, god, the Almighty, has reiterated to man in all his Holy Books and to humanity, in general, that there are two basic, most important things in life, that is, after the issue of the creation and of the issue of faith.
These two important things are food and peace. This is in Islam, this is also in Christianity and in all the other religions. So, the most important thing for man in his life and the preservation of his life and preservation of the lives of others is to establish peace and security for himself and, through that, his right to life.
Not only to obtain food, but also to obtain - to insure peace, and so that man can exercise his right in life and exercise his role towards others in the same way as he would like others to exercise their roles.
Rather: Mr. President, do you expect to be attacked by an American-led invasion?
Translator For Saddam Hussein: We hope that the attack will not take place. But we are bracing ourselves to meet such an attack, to face it. I'm sure you've observed the general life in Iraq. You've been here for a few days now. We hope that such a possibility doesn't take place, but you've been here. You've been here for a few days, and you've seen how the people live. They live normally. They get married. They establish relationships. They visit each other. They visit their neighbors.
They travel around Iraq. They are enjoying life in the manner that life is provided. But at the same time, they also hear the news…because the officials in the United States keep talking about attacking Iraq, about the possibility of attacking Iraq, which is why the people are in Iraq, which is only natural - that they get prepared for such a possibility.
Even though, God Almighty invites us…and we hope that -- we pray to him that -- the Americans will refrain from such an eventuality -- to avoid both the Americans -- to spare the Americans from committing such a mistake -- and also to spare Iraq and the Iraqi people from being involved in such an experience. And those who would like to ride the bandwagon of evil, it's up to them.
Rather: Are you afraid of being killed or captured?
Translator For Saddam Hussein: Whatever Allah decides. We are believers. We believe in what he decides. There is no value for any life without imam, without faith. The believers, while taking caution and care and trying to veer out and avoid any dangers and any traps that may be prepared by his enemies, in order not to fall on them, the believer still believes that what God decides is acceptable.
Translator For Saddam Hussein: When we were--
Translator For Saddam Hussein: Bear with me. I - my - my answers are (UNINTEL) long.
Rather: Mr. President, I have all night. (LAUGHTER)
Translator For Saddam Hussein: When we were young, ordinary people in… Iraq, before, the Iraqi people had suffered a lot of deprivation and backwardness. People did not even find - many people did not even find.
Male Voice: Are you satisfied with translation?
Rather: Yes, no, the translation is excellent. It's superb.
Translator For Saddam Hussein: Did you - people - generally did not even find - shoes to wear, in those days. And - people in the countryside were deprived of most essential things in life. And people even in the city were deprived of the most basic - requirements for a decent life. For a simple life.
We, those days, decided to place ourselves to the service of our people, and I'm not going to indulge in a story about what we did for our people and the sacrifices that we made and the dangers that we went through in order to insure for our people the dignity that our people deserve, because this is a story well known, and I am not going to indulge into that.
But in those days, we did not ask the question whether we were going to live or die, but we simply relied on Allah and we moved ahead. We relied on God because we decided that what Allah brought will be acceptable.
The important thing, the basic thing, is that whatever Allah accepts will be in the service of the people and now, after having achieved all this march, having reached what we have reached, now we've become leaders of the country. Some of my comrades are ministers and vice presidents and the rest. We're not going to ask ourselves now whether we should change our course or whether we should ask about life and death.
MALE VOICE: It's morally unacceptable to ask such a question.
Translator For Saddam Hussein: How could we ask such a question when we, basically, as freedom fighters, did not ask it at the beginning? The people accepted us and accepted the fact of our revolution and the principles of our revolution, and they have committed themselves to them. And I do not believe that any officials in this place now should ask a question whether he's going to live or die.
The question should be how deeply in strength he remains to his commitment to the people, to the basic principles from which we proceeded. And whatever the will of God is, then the will of God will be there. Nothing is going to change the will of God.
Male Voice: (UNINTEL) to- to the - Iraqi people, and humanity in general, also.
Rather: I understand. Mr. President, Americans are very much concerned about anyone's connections to Osama bin Laden. Do you have, have you had, any connections to Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden?
Translator For Saddam Hussein: Is this the basis of the anxiety in the minds of U.S. officials? Or is it the basis of anxiety in the minds of the people of the United States?
Rather: Mr. President, I believe I can report accurately that it's a major concern in the minds of the people in the United States.
Translator For Saddam Hussein: This issue, this topic did not appear…amongst the concerns of U.S. officials until - that is, about any relationship between Iraq and Osama bin Laden -- until recently. That is when they realized that what they had been saying about Iraq -- that Iraq was probably in possession of proscribed weapons of mass destruction -- or that Iraq might have manufactured some of those weapons after ….If that was the case, then that would be an embarrassment to the United Nations.
Then they began talking about the possibility of Iraq having relations with Osama bin Laden. Mr. Tony B- (GLITCH) actually asked me the same question, when I (UNINTEL). And I answered him, and I will answer you now very clearly. We have never had any relationship with Mr. Osama bin Laden, and Iraq has never had any relationship with Al Qaeda. And I think that Mr. Bin Laden himself has recently, in one of his speeches, given such an answer -- that we have no relation with him.
Rather: Do you or do you not agree, in principle, with the attack of 9/11?
Translator For Saddam Hussein: Let me tell you absolutely clearly: Our principles are not just national or pan-Arab, but they are humane principles. We believe in humanity. We believe that the world must seek to find opportunities for peace, not opportunities for war or opportunities for fighting or opportunities for venting or harming others. These are principles in which we believed before we came to power. And we started living on those principles and the message and with our people when came to power. But we believe, in accordance with what Allah has -- the Almighty, God Almighty -- has taught us, in the same way that God has taught humanity as a whole -- and whatever religion they may believe in -- that there must be a law governing humanity and governing relations in humanity, that there should not be an aggressor while others are silent about the aggression. There should not be a killer while those who watch and applaud the killing. There should not be an occupier of the land belonging to others while there are those who keep quiet and never move to remove the occupation.
In brief, to sum up: We believe in the charter of the United States (Editor's note: although the transcription says "United States," the context suggests that Saddam, or the translator, may have meant to say "United Nations".) and that gives us the right to say that when we are aggressed. When we are aggressed against, it is our right to face up to the aggression, to confront the aggression. And the charter of the United Nations was not actually drafted by Muslims or the Muslim nation. It was drafted by Christian nations, even though we believe in it and we accept it and we go by its articles.
Rather: Mr. President, have you been offered asylum anywhere? And would you, under any circumstances, consider going into exile to save your people death and destruction?
Translator For Saddam Hussein: I can understand the motive behind your question, which is excitement. This is a very American style, and… it may not be liked by some, but I can understand. However, I will answer your question. Thank you. I was born here in Iraq. And I was born as a genuine (UNINTEL) believer.
I am proud to have been born fearing God, and I have taught my children the value of history and the value of human stands - the stands that are taken on the basis of imam, taken by men, taken by everyone. The whole community, men and women.
Translator For Saddam Hussein: His Excellency also said that I have been teaching my children the importance of -- he's proud to have been born here and he taught his children the importance of -- extreme importance of -- imam and that the part of our - her - imam heritage: That we must maintain the honor of nationalism and pan-Arabism. The importance of that is essential to the nation and to the Arab nation.
And now, I am also teaching this to my grandchildren….I have always talked to the Iraqi people in this sense, since the days of our underground freedom fighting. I believe that any official who talks to his people and to others -- indeed, to humanity, in general, about principles and being honest and genuine in what he says about -- will not be -- will be very strange for him, once he's become in power, to change his stand.
And then we can talk about how to protect himself. We do not change our position. Our position is basic. We have been born in Iraq. This is part of a glorious nation, a great Arab nation, and we have lived here. God has blessed us with -- through the Iraqi people - with a task and the responsibility that has brought us to this position and that we will not change. As for those who talk about asylum--
Male Voice: This is why we will also die in Iraq. Or, within the--
Translator For Saddam Hussein: That is why, talking about asylum, we will -- whoever decides to forsake his nation from whoever requests is not true to the principles. We will die here. We will die in this country, and we will maintain our honor, the honor that is required of -- in front of our people.
You may have asked questions that maybe attribute to some excitement to the press. But, let me ask you another exciting question. Let me say something also exciting. I believe that whoever asks Saddam to - or offers Saddam asylum in his own country - is, in fact, a person without morals, because he will be directing an insult to the Iraqi people, the Iraqi people who have chosen Saddam Hussein, unanimously, to continue to lead the people of Iraq, and because he will be saying to the people of Iraq, 'Let Saddam leave and leave you without leadership.' Whoever offers such asylum.
And, after all, you talk and I understand, as a journalist, this may be important for television. You talk, you ask such a question and, of course, naturally, you seek an answer. But whoever believes in faith, and faith that should not be manufactured by a foreign country…