There's been a story making its way around the web, to the effect that Saddam wasn't really captured by the Americans, but was actually captured by the Kurds, drugged, and then and dropped off somewhere where the US Army could find him. In the background is some sense that there were negotiations perhaps for money or possibly to augment the Kurds' standing in post-war Iraq.
Nor is the story only in obscure publications or conspiracy sites. It's been picked up by Agence France Presse and Bloomberg. It's even linked now on Drudge's site.
So, I've had a slew of readers write in to ask, Is there something to this story?
In a word? No.
Obviously a single word seldom covers things adequately. So permit me a few more.
I've been far too busy to do any reporting on this. But I have looked at the published stories. And I've seen nothing that makes me think this is true.
First, the fact that the story ran in AFP means little in this case. Because if you look at the AFP story they seem to have done no original reporting. They only reported what ran in the original story which appeared in Britain's Sunday Express. (The Bloomberg wire story picked it up from AFP. So same difference.)
So what about the original story in Sunday Express? Among other problems, it reads as based on shaky sources, and it includes this passage ...
The Sunday Express was told: "There was no question of the tribe claiming the GBP 16million reward from the US.
Apparently it was a question of honour. The Kurdish Patriotic Front held him while they thrashed out their own deal. It didn't just involve the reward but it involved gaining some sort of political advantage in the region."
What's this group, the Kurdish Patriotic Front? Good question. As far as I know, there is no such group.
a lot like the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan
(PUK), one of the two main Kurdish political factions. And later on in the article it refers the 'Front's' leader as Jalal Talabani. He is
the head of the PUK. So the author of the piece, Yvonne Ridley (reporting from Qatar), on the face of it seems not to know what is literally the first thing
about Kurdish politics. And that, shall we say, doesn't inspire a lot of confidence in her reporting.
(Responding to the post you're reading now, another TPM reader provides some very interesting additional details
on Ms. Ridley.)
Meanwhile, this article
from an Australian paper, picks up on the story and adds some details which seem to stem from the fact that someone from the PUK apparently reported the story before the US officially announced Saddam's capture.
Talabani was asked about this yesterday by Al Jazeera
and the following is a translation of the exchange provided by the BBC world service ...
Jalal Talabani, member of the Iraqi Governing Council and leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), has denied that the Peshmerga forces were responsible for arresting the former Iraqi president, Saddam Husayn, as reported by a British newspaper (Sunday Express) on Sunday (21 December). In an interview with Al-Jazeera in Moscow, Talabani said that the arrest of Saddam had been carried out by the Americans alone. Talabani arrived in Moscow prior to the start of an official visit by an Iraqi Governing Council delegation to Russia. (Talabani - recording) We contributed to trailing and pursuing Saddam Husayn when he used to go from one place to another. We provided the coalition with important information about these places. However, the arrest was carried out by American hands. The American forces carried out the arrest and none of the Peshmerga members took part in the arrest. Therefore, this report is regrettably false. It could be meant to justify the low spirits of the former president and the shock on his face following the arrest so as to say that he was drugged. He was not drugged because four members of the Iraqi Governing Council met him and he was fully conscious and traded insults with them.
(Al-Jazeera correspondent in Moscow Akram Khuzam) Why was the PUK given the right to announce the arrest of the former president, Saddam Husayn?
(Talabani) The truth is that no one gave it the right. We were one of the parties hunting down the ousted president. A PUK surveillance unit was present in the area. On the night of the arrest, it seems that a member of this unit learned about the arrest. He telephoned us and told us about the arrest of the former president, Saddam Husayn. We asked him to confirm the report because it was important news. He came back after one hour and confirmed that the news was true. I was on my way to Iran. When I met with an Iranian journalist, he asked me about the latest news. I told him: I have important news for you, which is the arrest of Iraqi president Saddam Husayn. The Americans had confirmed to us the truth of this report before I left for Iran.
So, I think this all adds up to no reason to believe there's anything to do this story, at least not based on what I've seen in published accounts. What I think we've got here is a rumor which got picked up by an inexperienced reporter and then made its way on to some mainstream newswires.
There've been other rumors flying around -- like this one
. But Debkafile
is about as reliable as raw intelligence and should be treated with the same skepticism. Actually, it's not just that it should be treated like
raw intelligence, it ... well, that's for another day.
Let me be clear: I'm not saying there's nothing to this. I haven't had time to make any calls. Anything could be true. And it's entirely possible that there are dimensions to the intel leading to Saddam's capture, which haven't yet been revealed. But none of the publish accounts I've seen strike me as credible or even close to substantiated. So until I see more I assume there's nothing to it.