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Monday, 10 February, 2003, 12:06 GMT
Saddam Hussein interview: Your verdict
Talking Point: Saddam Hussein interview
Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has denied any links with Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda network in an interview on British television.

"If we had a relationship with al-Qaeda, and we believed in that relationship, we wouldn't be ashamed to admit it," the Iraqi leader said.

He also denied possessing chemical, biological or nuclear weapons.

"These weapons do not come in small pills that you can hide in your pocket," he said.

The interview was conducted by former British MP Tony Benn, who visited Baghdad last week.

What did you think of the interview?

Thank you for your e-mails. This debate is now closed. A selection of your comments is published below.

The interview accomplished nothing.

Shane, USA
The interview accomplished nothing. I don't believe Saddam and struggle to understand how anybody would. How many times does he have to lie before we identify the pattern? Yet it seems that there are ten people willing to believe Saddam for every one willing to believe Bush and Blair.
Shane, USA

I am surprised that many people disapprove of the principles of freedom of speech and justice, entailing that even the worst of criminals should be able to present his case. This is the cornerstone of any democratic society.
Constantine Bogdanos, UK

I respected Tony Benn in the past but he is a habitual oppositionist in danger of becoming a bore. Maybe now he is no longer an MP, he wants to get back into the limelight. Instead, I think it's time he went on an extended fishing trip. And anyone who believes one word Saddam says is either naive or stupid.
Gabriel Hershman, Portugal

As an Iraqi I am angered that Tony Benn chose not to mention Saddam's human rights abuses and history of crimes in his interview. Why is it that he talked passionately about the sanctions, which have indeed cost the lives of thousands of Iraqis, but doesn't ask Saddam about the massacre of Halabja, or the invasion of Iran and Kuwait?
Mohammed Al-Hilli, UK

Does he really believe this will help in any way?

Kye, England
I find it an insult and traitorous that Tony Benn ever did this! Does he really believe this will help in any way? The only thing missing was him landing in the UK, waving a piece of paper and saying "peace in our time"! None of us wants war, but after this, my opinion has changed to being for it, Saddam must be toppled, Tony Blair must be thanking Mr Benn for changing people's minds to being in favour of attack, with his woeful behaviour.
Kye, England

Tony Benn is a hero. The international coalition for peace needs faces to stand up and denounce the mind-boggling logic of war. Interviews with the super-villains fight the war-mongerers only weapons, ignorance and paranoia and therefore contribute to restore equilibrium and a sense of reality to the public mind.
Mike Vorgjard, Germany

How anyone can believe a paranoid man that kills his own relatives because of their "wrong opinions".
Petri Hoikkala, Finland

A good opportunity to challenge a dictator was lost

Daniel M, Birmingham, England
The interview with Saddam acheived nothing but a platform for him to say what ever he liked ! There were no pertinent direct questions about unaccounted for for weapons. A good opportunity to challenge a dictator was lost.
Daniel M, Birmingham, England

Saddam's remarks are about as believable as Bush, Powell and the rest of them over here. What did anyone expect Saddam to say anyway?
Nancy Herring, Missouri, USA

If the point of the "interview" was to give Mr. Benn a platform for his views (developed prior to the "interview"), then I guess it achieved its purpose. Mr. Benn had his platform. There could be no other point. This wasn't about what Saddam Hussein had to say, because he is utterly unbelievable. I still am completely amazed a leader can invade a country (Kuwait)- and get off with the world equivalent of a slap on the wrist. After Hitler's army was pushed across the Rhine, everyone should have stopped - given him 12 years of sanctions - and decided that was enough. We put simple drug dealers in prison for longer than that! Yet people like Mr. Benn give him a platform. Amazing.
Paul, Houston, Tx USA

On this occasion I think he is misguided

Carl, UK
Tony Benn. He's always been the voice of reason and quite often, passionate dissent. However, on this occasion I think he is misguided. It's difficult to know what to do in the current climate, and I imagine Mr Benn thought long and hard about his decision to do what he did. My opinion is that he made the wrong decision, this is a delicate situation and he demonstrated irresponsibility in the face of that.
Carl, UK

Tony Benn is an embarrassment to the British political establishment. He shows us that some British politicians have come no further than Neville Chamberlain over 60 years ago. What a pity, what a failure.
Mark, USA

Saddam's interview by Mr Benn and telecast by Channel4 is worth receiving credit and appreciation. At least he approached Saddam. If this could have been done earlier by Blair or Straw, life would have been much easier and better than going along with Bush. As far as the interview is concerned it was far better than the evidence show presented by Powell.
John Henry, Singapore

Saddam and all the people that shake hands with him have lost any credibility

Abu Talib, Iraq
I think Saddam and all the people that shake hands with him have lost any credibility, including Tony Benn. Did Tony Benn succeed in getting answers from the biggest liar in the world - Saddam Hussain about the poisoned children of Halabja or the disappeared 300,000 young people in Iraq, or the reason for war, or why Iraq is one of the poorest countries in the world? Did he asked Saddam why he has accumulated weapons of mass destruction? No. So this interview was suspect at best. I support Mr Blair and Mr Bush.
Abu Talib, Iraq

While I agree that Tony Benn should have been more confrontational in his questions to Saddam, he should be applauded for giving Saddam the opportunity to speak to the Western world. Yes, it may or may not be lies, but how can we judge if we have not heard him directly? Well, now we have.
Tommy Wan, Ayr, Scotland

I doubt anyone opposed to the war has any support for Saddam. I certainly don't. For this reason the 'interview' is an irrelevant sideshow. In any case, one would hardly expect Saddam to be candid even if Paxman took him to task. Of course, the same is true of Blair and Bush. I would much rather see Bush meeting Saddam.
Alan Chambers, UK

I would prefer seeing an interview as opposed to coverage of a war at the expense of the taxpayer

Peter McWilliams, Ireland
I believe Mr Benn achieved what he set out to do. He was not there to question the regime, but to explore avenues of peace that may be taken. I know I would prefer seeing an interview as opposed to coverage of a war at the expense of the taxpayer.
Peter McWilliams, Ireland

I have never seen quite a display in my life as seeing Mr Benn leaning forward with compassion with one of the world greatest butchers. I do not know Mr Benn but if he had any credibility before he certainly does not now. He shall always be remember as the man that warmed himself to the devil because they have an enemy in common.
Paul, Australia

Right on! Tony Benn should be the next resident of 10 Downing St! You are an asset to your countrymen, and showed great courage to talk and work with some peaceful solution dialogue with Iraq! Tony, you have better leadership skills than PM Blair! Thank you too for helping to stop a war, possibly!
Andrew McWhillian, UK

I thought Michael Jackson had a far rougher ride than Saddam.

Huw Peach, UK
I support Tony Benn's efforts to stop this war, but I feel he was not tough enough in his questioning of Saddam Hussein. The peace movement in this country is definitely winning the debate about war in Iraq, but it is winning the debate by using the truth. It has highlighted the fact that the US administration is inventing links between al-Qaeda and Iraq to scare its people into going into a war they do not want. It has highlighted the role of oil in the US's strategic aims.

This is pretty well undisputed. But why shy away from the fact that Saddam is a monster? People are increasingly sophisticated. They can see the shades of grey in their own arguments as well as in those of others. Why did Mr Benn not confront Saddam about the gassing of the Kurds and human rights abuses? Why can he not be forced to confront his actions by the people who should be the most vociferous in condemning them? I thought Michael Jackson had a far rougher ride than Saddam.
Huw Peach, UK

I am working in Vietnam, where the chemical agents dropped by the US resulted in the birth of tens of thousands of severely disabled children and Napalm burnt thousands of innocent people to the bone. To me these facts illustrate the hypocrisy of the US to preach about human rights abuses.

Tony Benn's interview is sentimental and he has been criticised for failing to ask some hard questions. However, let us focus on the utter horror of war - I think a little sentiment is justified. It is true that the hard questions need to be debated but I don't think this was the aim of his interview. If nothing else, he helped spread the message that most people in the world want to see a peaceful outcome to this situation. And for this Tony Benn should be commended.
James Titcombe, England

Not once did Mr Benn ask Saddam about human rights in Iraq

Thomas Threlkeld, United States
The passage of time has not been kind to Mr Benn because it is clear the man has lost his wits. Not once in that interview did Mr Benn ask Saddam Hussein about human rights in Iraq. The entire interview is Mr Benn tossing softballs at Saddam Hussein so the dictator can just broadcast his utter lies to the world.
Thomas Threlkeld, United States

This interview reads like an Iraqi newspaper article written by Saddam's son. I can't remember the last time I've read such "softball" questions clearly intended to provide Mr Hussein with a platform. Why didn't we ask what happened to all the weapons we know exist, or where is the proof that Iraq has destroyed its arsenal?

This guy spoke like the Pope, but his history of death and destruction, even against his own people is unmatched in the world. As for the Iraqi people, I have had the honour of speaking directly with numerous Iraqi people, and they are all praying for liberation from this man. They would not lack for food, or medicine if Saddam would spend 10% of his nation's oil wealth on his people, instead of his palaces.
Jim Williams, USA

It is unrealistic to expect such an interview in a society which has no culture of free speech

Nick Fraser, Berlin, Germany
It is sad that so many argue Saddam should not have a platform to make his comments. Unlike the citizens of Iraq, we in the West have a system of government that affords us the opportunity to listen to all sides of a debate and we should respect the mainstream media when it has the courage to present arguments directly challenging those of our governments. We are under no compulsion to accept Saddam's (or indeed Bush's) arguments if we believe they are false. We should have confidence to judge for ourselves, but only if ALL the opinion and evidence is presented to us.

The word 'softball' has been used many times to refer to Benn's interview of Saddam Hussein. Undoubtedly, it was not an aggressive, searching interview. It is totally unrealistic to expect such an interview in a society which has no culture of free speech and journalistic independence. How different was the tone of Benn's interview from those conducted by the Washington press pack when interviewing Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld? It is clear we need greater journalistic independence, access and rigour - but on all sides of the debate!
Nick Fraser, Berlin, Germany

Something tells me Saddam would not have any qualms about telling a fib, so the interview means very little. However, it would be wrong to attack Iraq. It was right to go into Afghanistan, because the threat from there was direct, and had already taken effect.
Jonathan Kerr, UK

Absolutely nothing this man says has any credibility

John, USA
It seems as though we will give any crackpot, despot, raving lunatic, or any combination of the above, access to the press in order to prove that Western Democracy is open and fair to all points of view. Saddam has lied, deceived, ignored resolutions, and lied again. Absolutely nothing this man says has any credibility, and in fact I would go so far as to say that whatever Saddam says, the opposite must be true. One unfortunate side effect of a free and open society is that it gives even the worst liars some credibility - and inevitably some poor misguided souls will be duped into believing those liars.
John, USA

The peace lobby seems to be confusing support for Saddam with opposition to a war, they are very different. They must not destroy their cause by allying themselves to a dictator. Remember that Saddam initiated a war of aggression only 12 years ago against Kuwait and also used nerve gas against his own people. Hardly a great spokesman for the global peace movement.
Chris, U.K

The "interview" beggars belief - Mr Benn has a history of being one of the awkward squad but this really takes the biscuit. It reminds us of the cowardly approach taken by Neville Chamberlain at Munich in 1938 and then look what happened. A simple look at Saddam's body language and Benn's slavish acceptance of the drivel fed by him just about said it all. Remember Edward Heath and the human shield children in 1991? I actually have had great respect in the past for Tony Benn for his principles, regardless of political viewpoint, but he has done no favours for anyone on this one, least of all himself.
Stephen l, UK

If Benn can arrange to interview Hussein, surely the almighty Bush could arrange a date to talk the crisis out?

Sabine, UK
If Benn can arrange to interview Hussein, surely the almighty Bush could arrange a date to talk the crisis out?! Why are Bush, Blair, and several European diplomats talking amongst each other only? Their answer to everything seems to be 'let the weapons speak'. Shame that so many people claim Benn's interview is biased, for it was a brave and good cause!!!
Sabine, UK

It is unbelievable, given new information from House of Lords member Baroness Emma Nicholson concerning Saddam Hussein's recent orders to support his build-up of weapons of mass destruction, that anyone in the world would believe anything this tyrant says for public Western consumption. Does the British press have no shame, in running his fabric of lies?
Freda Saul, USA

I think Mr Benn has made no attempt conceal the fact that he is not out there searching the truth but rather waging a anti-war propaganda. And it is a good thing to do!! That's why he chose and didn't choose the different questions. It doesn't matter if he believes Saddam. I think his point is that whatever we do, war is not the way to do it. I am thankful that at least some people remember the preamble of the UN Charter.
Yifan Zhang, China

Don't appease the mass murderer any more.

Huw Sayer, UK
What I found extraordinary was the way Saddam was allowed to get away with a blatant lie on camera - that Iraq has already complied with all previous UN resolutions - it hasn't! That's why the UN unanimously passed 1441 - it explicitly says that failure to comply is the reason for the new resolution. He also talked about his respect for the UN yet he was the one who invaded Kuwait and refused to leave until forced out. Tony Benn complains about the no fly zone but conveniently forgets that this was imposed to prevent Saddam bombing of the Marsh Arabs and the Kurds.

Come on Tony this emotional rhetoric impresses no one - don't appease the mass murderer any more. Listen to the Jordanian Foreign Minister (yes really!) instead who only last week categorically said that Bush should NOT back down and insisted that Saddam is the only one who can avoid war by complying with 1441.
Huw Sayer, UK

An incredibly interesting interview, however, I am shocked at the responses of people on this website - they say this is propaganda but then what is all the nonsense that Bush and Blair spout? First weapons of mass destruction. Then, when they couldn't find any, al-Qaeda links. How convenient! This is propaganda in its extreme, to persuade the public that Saddam is this massive threat to us. I'm sorry, but our biggest threat is from people infuriated into terrorist attacks because of this outrageous and totally unprovoked war. How inhumane.
Louise Box, England

I commend Tony Benn in at least providing members of the western public with the opposing side of the argument

David Tod, England
Much as this interview does appear favourable to Saddam, I commend Tony Benn in at least providing members of the western public with the opposing side of the argument to some extent. How are the public supposed to make their own decisions when Blair and Bush tell us that Iraq is linked to al-Qaeda with no apparent evidence. Every conflict should at least offer both sides of the argument.
David Tod, England

Iraq is no threat to the West, it may become a threat in the future if we do go to war. A war may serve as a "springboard" for US imperialism to become morally accepted. Tony Benn is not Anti-American, he is a socialist, and hence anti-Bush. There is a difference between the two and we need people like Tony Benn to illustrate that.

"All my good friends are telling me I'll be ripped apart and called a stooge of the Iraqis, but I would never forgive myself for not trying to bring back something that could stop this war." And how his friends have been proved right!
Graeme Stewart, UK

I don't agree with war. However, I do think Saddam has pushed the UN a bit too far. He needs to be removed. If it takes a war to do that, I will support it. If it take a political assassination, I would support that, too.
Nick, USA

If Blair is Bush's poodle, Benn is Hussein's.

Dave, UK
I cant believe Tony Benn asked Saddam Hussein to offer words of encouragement to supporters around the world of the anti-war lobby. He made Saddam look like a pillar of the anti-war community. Does he not remember Kuwait, Iran, the Kurds? If Blair is Bush's poodle, Benn is Hussein's.
Dave, UK

After watching the interview, it has to be said that the term "useful idiot" is not even close to doing the likes of Tony Benn justice. The MP's anti-Americanism is so deep and virulent that he is simply not able to bring himself to condemn Saddam Hussein, a tyrannical mass-murderer, for anything. He was simply the performing monkey in Saddam Hussein's organ grinder act. Pathetic.
Friso Buker, UK

Saddam Hussein is not convincing in his attempt to deflect accusations that Iraq has ties to al-Qaeda and possesses weapons of mass destruction. He says he wouldn't be ashamed to admit he had a relationship with al-Qaeda. If in fact he did have one, such an admission would warrant an attack. Weapons are to big to hide? Still not convincing me that it can't be done. If David Copperfield can make the Statue of Liberty disappear, hiding warheads shouldn't be that hard to do. Saddam speaks to the global community as if we have confidence and trust his word. Saddam's interview should warrant the same condemnation received by Bush and Blair over their "lack of evidence".
Michael, Canada

Pure propaganda.

Guy Hammond, England
Pure propaganda. Tony Benn visited Saddam Hussein before - remember when he invaded Kuwait without warning? Now Mr Benn is either naive or so desperate for the limelight now his political career is over that he will do and say anything. History has shown us that there is no "peace in our time" and the only thing worse than fighting a war against a dictator is waiting for that dictator to come and make war on you.
Guy Hammond, England

Tony Benn MP, has achieved something that no other level-headed MP or statesperson would dream of, and that is to provide a badly-timed sounding platform for a globally distrusted dictator who habitually lies and uses such media platforms to fulfil his own ambitions and argument. Mr Benn is not Mr Carter and if this was done to satisfy My Benn's personal ambitions and revive his hitherto drab political career then all of us lose.
Dr M A Williams, Baltimore, USA

I welcome Tony Benn's efforts to provide a more open and informed debate on the emotive subject of war by presenting Saddam's opinions. However, his words should be taken in the context that he is a proven liar and hypocrite with a strong incentive (i.e. his life) to deny any links with Al Qaeda and possessing weapons of mass destruction.
Owen , England

Whatever Saddam Hussein says is not relevant. He has been known to lie before.

Ashirwad, UK
Whatever Saddam Hussein says is not relevant. He has been known to lie before. But for all those who believe in democracy, freedom and justice, war is not an option at the moment. Let a hundred guilty people escape but we simply cannot kill an innocent man. So what if...just what if Saddam does not have these weapons? Does it mean we should slaughter an estimated one million people just because of our suspicions? Get the proof first. I am not a pacifist. If there is sufficient evidence... then let there be war.
Ashirwad, UK

The most amazing thing I thought was Tony Benn's refusal to answer any of the questions put to him by the Channel 4 News interviewer. Even when confronted with the question as to why he did not ask Saddam about him using chemical weapons, he still blamed it on the Americans. For crying out loud Mr Benn, when will you realise that this is the real world, and problems like Saddam that threaten world stability must be stopped!
Jason, UK

Saddam is a real and imminent threat to this and other countries.

John Ballantyne, UK
In my opinion Tony Benn has given Saddam Hussein an outlet to ply his lies and propaganda I have no doubt that Saddam is hiding weapons and will not disarm. Saddam is a real and imminent threat to this and other countries. He should not be given time on air and Tony Benn should be treated as a collaborator until this situation is dealt with.
John Ballantyne, UK

Just seen it. A strange sense of deja-vu. Then I realised where I'd seen it before. It was the infamous Maxwell/Ceaucescu interview back in the 1980s. Bin it.
Bernard, UK

At least Tony Benn is doing every thing he can to avoid a war, unlike Bush and Blair. No one in the peace movement is conned by Saddam. Nor are we conned by our own government.
Zacc, UK

Saddam would of course say that he has no link with al-Qaeda or possesses WMD. The problem is, can we believe him? Can we believe either side in this conflict? I surely don't. The war will go ahead unless Saddam and Bush use the grey matter in their possession wisely. Neither has as yet shown that to be possible.
Andreas, Greece

Tony Benn should be ashamed of himself!

Adrian Smith, Wales
The idea of speaking to a tyrant such as Saddam Hussein is appalling. Quite frankly Tony Benn should be ashamed of himself! I don't want a war and I certainly don't want a 'has been' politician using this terrible situation to make himself look good!!! We all know that if Tony Blair went to Baghdad tomorrow to discuss peace, Tony Benn would probably change sides just to be awkward. To sum up I agree with 'not in my name', that is don't appease a tyrant in my name.
Adrian Smith, Wales

I thought he was much more credible than Bush and Blair. It seems that Saddam has learnt the ways of the West and he's using the same tactics as our 'leaders'.
Anthony, UK

I've heard many words by both Bush and Saddam, but I'm still waiting for the hard evidence from either side.
John, UK

John, UK, is right. Hundreds of thousands - and indeed probably millions - of lives will be lost unless we do or do not accept the word of one liar against another ?

I am not aware that I have ever heard a lie from the Pope, from Nelson Mandela or from Kofi Annan. If people want to find out the truth, then they will have to listen to those who have been truthful in the past. If not, then they should themselves be more honest about actually wanting a war - and stop pretending that there is a search for anything other than an excuse for starting it.
Richard Haut, Nice, France

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See also:

04 Feb 03 | Middle East
03 Feb 03 | Politics
02 Feb 03 | Middle East
03 Feb 03 | Middle East
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