February 2003 Saddam Hussein interview
The Saddam interview refers to a famous television interview that occurred between President of Iraq Saddam Hussein and American news anchor Dan Rather on February 24, 2003, very shortly before the 2003 Invasion of Iraq. The interview was aired both in the United States and on all three Iraqi television networks. British politician Tony Benn had also interviewed Hussein earlier that month.
Rather and CBS Evening News executive producer Jim Murphy were driven around Baghdad for 45 minutes and switched cars on two separate occasions to keep Hussein's position secret. The interview was held at the Republican Palace. Neither Rather nor Murphy were allowed to bring their own tape recorders. Hussein supplied his own translator, and CBS approved the translation of the recording. Rather and Murphy were treated well in the course of the interview, with Hussein offering Rather coffee at one point.
In the 1980s, Rather had an on-air confrontation with then-president George H. W. Bush over the Iran-Contra Affair. His son, George W. Bush, responded similarly, and declined to give Rather an interview during his presidency. After the Hussein interview, the White House was interested in a rebuttal interview. CBS News would accept President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney or Secretary of State Colin Powell for the interview, but the White House only offered other officials for the interview, such as Ari Fleischer and Dan Bartlett. The CBS network deemed these individuals inappropriate for the broadcast, and an American interview was never done.
- Hussein: ...Bear with me. My answers are long.
- Rather: Mr. President, I have all night.
Hussein invited President Bush to a live TV debate, to which Bush declined.
- Rather: Who would moderate this debate?
- Hussein: Yes, you Mr. Rather.
- Rather: With respect, Mr. President, I have other problems. I've got enough problems already.
On one occasion Hussein interrupted his translator and corrected his use of the term "Bush", instead of "Mr. Bush", which Hussein explained was out of respect.
Saddam Hussein floated an idea of holding a live uncensored unprepared debate televised worldwide where both American and Iraqi Presidents sitting in their respective countries would discuss their nation's problems. He also said Dan Rather could moderate the debate. This never happened.
- Hussein declares his support of Allah, Islam and Palestine.
- Hussein denies possessing weapons of mass destruction, or the possession of arms against U.N. Law.
- Hussein denies association with Osama bin Laden.
- Hussein declares he will not step down from presidency or ever surrender against a stronger opponent.
- Hussein also declares he will not go into asylum, or leave Iraq.
- Hussein claims that his armed forces lost only 10% of their military equipment in 1991's Operation Desert Storm.
- Hussein expressed willingness to participate in a live globally televised Presidential debate before the Invasion in 2003.
- Transcript: Saddam Hussein Interview CBS News. February 26, 2003.
- Video: Saddam Hussein coining Dan Rather about a globally televised Presidential debate.
- Transcript of interview between Tony Benn and Saddam Hussein
- Other interviews with Saddam Hussein