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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 July, 2004, 19:25 GMT 20:25 UK
Saddam's 'defeated' body language
Saddam Hussein in court
The sloped shoulders are a giveaway sign of defeat
Saddam Hussein's posture during his court appearance suggested studied rather than spontaneous defiance, a US body-language expert told BBC News Online.

According to Patti Wood, an Atlanta-based consultant, the former Iraqi leader projected a sense of defeat - despite occasional fighting gestures.

"He did not appear disoriented, as he clearly was in the videotape of his capture," she said.

But neither did he hold himself like the absolute ruler he was, whose intense stare "penetrated you like a laser beam", Ms Wood added.

"That's gone," she said.

During the hearing he frequently looked down, with his shoulders sloped - which signals lack of power, she argues.

Saddam Hussein in court
[Saddam Hussein] wants symbolically to kill the people who are doing this to him
Patti Wood

"It's as if the rest of world is weighing on you," Ms Wood said.

"The old Saddam's shoulders came straight across".

Saddam Hussein did send strong signals of defiance at times, she said.

"But this happened when he was giving responses that were planned."

She noted that many of his answers appeared clearly rehearsed, because he kept using the same words over and over again.

"When you defend yourself spontaneously you say things in five or six different ways."

During his defiant moments, Saddam Hussein used a variety of postures:

  • Pointed fingers

    This is an attack gesture. "It looks like a symbolic gun shooting at the interviewer," Ms Wood says.

    "He is saying, 'How dare you challenge the head of your country.' He wants symbolically to kill the people who are doing this to him," she adds.

  • Slicing the air with a pen

    The pen is a "symbolic sword", Ms Wood says. "He feels he wants to be perceived as a powerful man who can hurt others."

  • Joining fingertips of both hands

    This is known as a "steeple posture". It is used by men who hold power or have held power when they need to gain control or self-control, according to Ms Wood.

  • Staring

    The so-called "intent listening posture" signals both attention to what the person opposite is saying and also a desire to make them feel uncomfortable.

    "He is trying to make his interviewer frightened," Ms Wood says.

Saddam Hussein in court
The "steeple posture" is typical of men who have held power
However, she adds, when Saddam Hussein stops the planned responses he goes back to a defeated posture, which suggests he knows full well he no longer has power.

The defiance is an act, Ms Wood concludes. "It's not spontaneous."

But Saddam Hussein's gestures were not the only telling signs in the courtroom, she said.

The videotape briefly shows a man sitting near the defendant cross-legged, with his hands covering his nether parts.

"This is a sign that that feels he needs to protect himself against Saddam even though Saddam is a prisoner," she says.

The BBC's Tim Willcox
"Finger-jabbing and defiant, but in court"

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