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Last Updated: Wednesday, 17 December, 2003, 15:49 GMT
Transcript: Bush Interview
President Bush gave his first interview following the capture of Saddam Hussein to Diane Sawyer of ABC television's Primetime programme on 16 December.


He began by describing how he heard the news of Saddam's capture:

I was at Camp David. [My wife] Laura and I went up to Camp David to make sure that the remodelled cabins were ready for Mother and Dad [former US President George Bush] and some of my brothers and sister.

And so she was out scouting around the place, and I was at what they call Aspen, which is the presidential cabin [at Camp David], reading a book on Ben Franklin.

The guy at the house came in and said, "There's a secure phone call from [Defence] Secretary [Donald] Rumsfeld." That doesn't happen very often and my first anticipation was something bad had happened. He got on the phone and said, "First reports aren't always accurate, but [General] John Abizaid thinks that we have captured Saddam Hussein."

At that moment, what happened inside you?

At that moment, a cautionary note came, because I had been disappointed before. My instincts were to say, "That is good news, but let's make sure it's true."

It was the next morning when [National Security Adviser Condoleezza] Rice called at 5:15 in the morning, saying, "It has been confirmed out of Baghdad that we have captured Saddam Hussein," that I began to get this sense of joy for the Iraqi people and a sense of accomplishment for our troops.

You know, my dad called me during this series of phone calls I was making to our allies and friends, and he said, "Congratulations, son." I said, "Dad, this is a joyous moment for the Iraqi people."

But did you have a moment just father to son after 12 years in which Saddam Hussein had called you "the son of the viper"?

Right. No, not really. I was busy, believe this or not. Look, I had phone calls stacked up, and... I didn't want to keep other foreign leaders waiting.

It was a touching moment because Dad, I could sense this great sense of pride in his voice, and but it was very important for him to realise that at the moment is it's an important moment, but there's nothing final about it. The only thing that's final about it is that the Iraqi people don't have to worry about Saddam ever again. But there's no finality for me. There's a lot more to be done in Iraq.

You have said, "Wanted, dead or alive." Were you sorry it was alive?

I'm glad that chapter in Iraqi history's over with.

One way or the other?

Yeah, absolutely. And because, see, there were some people who were told that Saddam is coming back and, therefore, shouldn't risk anything for peace and freedom. And now they know he's not coming back, and I look forward to the trial.

We had an interesting discussion yesterday which I'll be glad to share with you my sentiments, if you'd care to hear them, about how I think he ought to be tried by the Iraqis.

And if he does not get the death penalty, will you be disappointed?

Well, I'm...let's just see what penalty he gets. But I think he ought to receive the ultimate penalty for what he has done to his people.

I mean, he is a torturer, a murderer, and they had rape rooms, and this is a disgusting tyrant who deserves justice, the ultimate justice.

But that will be decided not by the president of the United States but by the citizens of Iraq in one form or another.

But you also said in a way that will stand international scrutiny?

Yeah, that's right, and what I meant by that is, you know, you don't want a kangaroo court. I don't know if you saw the instant outburst when [US Administrator Paul] Bremer got up and said, "We got him," and some journalists, I believe they were journalists, started screaming, "Death to Saddam." And there needs to be a process that is transparent and open and people are able to see exactly what's going on.

Does that mean you want an American role in it to ensure some international vantage point?

Well, there is an American role in it already... and it would be during this process that we'll be working with the Iraqis to develop a system that people will say it's open and it's fair.

But in terms of an American presence in the trial itself?

I don't think so. I think the Iraqis are plenty capable of conducting the trial itself.

Would you like to see him?

No. I don't care to see him.

Never?

I have no - I've seen him. I've seen enough of him. I saw him getting deloused and after having been pulled out a rat hole.

His daughter has said that those photos were disrespectful and humiliating to him, but he also seemed sedated, by the way.

Yeah.

Was he sedated? And was it designed to humiliate him?

No, I don't - first of all, I don't know if he was sedated or not. I mean, that's a question you'd ask the folks in the field. Secondly, it was designed to reflect the truth and to show - and to show the world that this barbaric person was found in a hole, hiding, cowering, that - it's also interesting that he's going to receive the justice that he never gave others.

And it's - it's a dramatic moment. And I can understand a daughter being concerned about her dad. I mean, presumably somewhere in this hard, barbaric heart there was some love for his child. And - but he showed no love for the Iraqi people, particularly those that dared express an opinion other than his.

One of the members of one of the congressional intelligence committees said this morning that it would be perfectly all right on Saddam Hussein to use some of the measures - not torture, but sleep deprivation, cold, some of the things that can be induced to make him uncomfortable. Do you endorse this?

I have no idea what - how they're going to interrogate. I do know that this country doesn't torture.

And it's all right if they use the other means?

I have no idea what they're going to do, but we do not torture.

We read that he has already said no weapons of mass destruction.

Yeah. You've read that for many, many years.

But that he is talking. Has he said anything that is new?

I wouldn't trust a word he said. He - he's deceived and lied to the world in the past. He's not going to change his stripes. And I wouldn't - I wouldn't hold much account to the word of Saddam Hussein.

Do you think he was directing the raids on Iraq now that you've seen him, now that you see where he was hiding?

I don't think we know enough yet, and what we do know is that he's a dangerous man who gassed his own people, who murdered people, who invaded Kuwait, and - and that the world is safer without him. And the Iraqi people can now close that chapter, that ugly, brutal chapter of their history, and show the world they can govern themselves.



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