Arnett book to reveal Saddam's inner circle

DUBAI - He was a thorn in the side of the United States Government in the 1960s when he reported the truth about the Vietnam War and he won the 1966 Pulitzer Prize for his efforts. In 1991, he was the sole CNN reporter behind enemy lines in Baghdad, in 2003 he was accused of treason by the right wing American media, but Peter Arnett does not mind and insists he is a patriotic tax paying US citizen and will continue to be a journalist.

By Hani M Bathish

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Published: Thu 9 Oct 2003, 12:30 PM

Last updated: Wed 1 Apr 2015, 11:32 PM

In an exclusive interview with the Khaleej Times, Mr Arnett, who lives in Baghdad, announced his latest project, a book about Iraq, the war and the people of this war-torn country. Crucially, through exclusive sources, Mr Arnett will reveal the inner workings of Saddam Hussain's inner circle, his relations with his family, his sons' womanising and other elements that have not been tackled before in the media.

The book is due out next April. "I am writing a book on the regime, the war and what really happened. How the Iraqi military seemed to collapse in 21 days, to what degree were they prepared, what orders did they get, what was Saddam doing every day and what Qusay was doing. I can tell you what they did every day of the war, the attitude of the military and what happened to the Iraqis at different points," Mr Arnett said.

"Did Saddam believe he was invincible or was he tricked? I spoke to dozens of officers. The book will also includes my own story which starts with the first Gulf war and ends with this war," he added.

The book will include a chapter on media and is being researched with the help of former Baath regime people. He said the Americans have arrested around 40 Baathists but added that there are half a million more Baath party people willing to talk.

The book will shed light on subjects that have never been tackled in media. "Iraq has been a black hole for a decade because of the vaccum, there was a total climate of fear within the country. I know some in the former regime who did not even complain to their wives about Saddam; on the other hand Saddam was very benevolent. He would give houses and cars to people. The book will look into the persecution aspect of the regime and how they tracked down people, monitored people," Mr Arnett said.

In November last year, Mr Arnett spoke to senior Iraqi officials who said that while they admitted they cannot resist a US onslaught, they hinted that the Iraqi people would resist the Americans after the invasion.

"You do have a resistance in Iraq, so I think the issue is still being debated in Baghdad as to what is really behind the resistance and to what degree does Saddam have control.

"The former military officials I talked to suggest that Saddam might be able to communicate to only five to ten per cent with his people, because how can you communicate when there's no telephone, no radio. Yes, he could use runners but it's too dangerous, as there's too much surveillance.

"Generally it seems to me what these former officers are saying is that there is deep discontent (in Iraq) fuelled by some mistaken actions by the US, mistaken killings, that fuelled anger in communities.

"Former Saddam people who were too frightened or not organised before the war, may have said 'let's get an American, we hate these guys'.

"There's a lot of bitterness there. The degree of foreign terrorism, on the other hand, no one seems to know, because, in truth, we don't know who carried out the UN building bombings and the Najaf bombings," Mr Arnett said.

He said that senior generals he spoke to seem to suggest that there's a lot of home-grown resentment. Families on TV state quite clearly their intention to take revenge.

"The Iraqis are an angry people, and they now feel they have the freedom to take action. I think the issue now is will this resistance movement expand into a major guerrilla war or not," he added.

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