Former Iraqi envoy: Saddam 'belongs to the past'
NEW YORK (CNN) -- Mohammed Aldouri, Baghdad's former ambassador to the United Nations, was a prominent public face of President Saddam Hussein's regime, passionately defending his country against U.S. claims that it harbored weapons of mass destruction. After the war started, Aldouri left New York and virtually disappeared from public life.
On Monday, Aldouri spoke to CNN's Wolf Blitzer via satellite from Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
BLITZER: Are the people of Iraq better off right now without Saddam Hussein in power?
ALDOURI: Well, I think they will be much better if Americans withdraw from Iraq.
BLITZER: Was this war justified, from your perspective, removing Saddam Hussein and the Baath Party from power?
ALDOURI: Well, I already answered such question. I would prefer that Iraqi people did that. Actually, the Iraqi people [are] not happy about what is going on on the ground with the presence of American and British soldiers on their soil.
BLITZER: You recently said in an interview with the Arab news that Saddam Hussein was a tyrant. What did you mean by that?
ALDOURI: Well, I didn't qualify it. I think Saddam Hussein belongs now to the past. And I would prefer to talk about the future of Iraq. It is important for [the] Iraqi people, important for the whole [of] humanity, if we ... discuss the future of Iraq.
BLITZER: Who do you see as the future of Iraq? Who are the leaders that should emerge in the aftermath of Saddam Hussein?
ALDOURI: Well, I think it is up to the Iraqi people to decide, not to Americans, not to [U.S. civilian administrator L. Paul] Bremer or others. I think the Iraqi people [are] capable to choose [their] leaders for the future.
BLITZER: But isn't there a sense that right now there has to be a transition, and that only the United States and Britain, the other coalition forces, can create some semblance of stability that will eventually allow the Iraqi people to form democratic government?
ALDOURI: Well, it seems that is not the case ... There is a lack of security, lack of medicine, lack of food, lack of public services. There's [a lack of] everything in Iraq. So I don't think [the] Iraqi people [are] happy about what is going on with the presence of American and British occupiers.
BLITZER: But can't you blame Saddam Hussein and his Baath Party regime for creating that situation over these 30 years?
ALDOURI: We cannot blame all the time the past. We ... 26, 27 million people [are] regarding the future and would like to have some food, some medicine, some petrol, some decent life.
BLITZER: Is Saddam Hussein right now in any position to be doing anything other than simply running and seeking some sort of security for himself?
ALDOURI: I think Saddam Hussein belongs to the past. And the Iraqi people have to look to the future, to [their] own destiny for the future.
BLITZER: Who do you believe are calling the shots in the attacks against U.S. and British forces in Iraq? Is it al Qaeda, or is it the Saddam Fedayeen [or] remnants of the Baath Party? Who's fighting the United States?
ALDOURI: I think [the] Iraqi people [are] fighting the United States. There's a lot of mistakes. The Americans came as liberators to [the] Iraqi people. Now the Iraqi people see Americans and the British as colonizers.
BLITZER: But Mr. Ambassador, with all due respect, millions of Iraqis are grateful to the United States and Britain for liberating, if you will, their country, for getting rid of Saddam Hussein and the regime that he imposed on them, and they're beginning to breathe a little bit of fresh air of democracy right now for the first time.
ALDOURI: Mr. Blitzer, ... I would love very much to have this democracy, this freedom. We are waiting this democracy and this freedom ... And now you are there. Where is the democracy? Where is the freedom? Where is food? Where is medicine? Where is work?
BLITZER: A lot of our reporting, though, suggests that for the average Iraqis, things ... are getting a little bit better. It's only been a little bit more than 100 days since the end of major combat. You can't expect to turn things around overnight.
ALDOURI: I will read a small report coming from [the] American administration. This is a team of outside experts assessing the reconstruction efforts in Iraq.
"One, that the potential for chaos is becoming more real every day, unless the U.S. provisional authority moves quickly."
They're not moving quickly. That means there is suffering in Iraq. There is a huge problem, especially, first of all, the problem of security, the problem of survival of Iraqi people.
BLITZER: Let me press you on this point: the weapons of mass destruction. Do you believe that the U.S., the British, the international community eventually will find weapons of mass destruction capabilities in Iraq?
ALDOURI: I think that there were not any kind of mass destruction weapons in Iraq. It is exactly the same about the links with al Qaeda and other lies.
BLITZER: It sounds to me, Mr. Ambassador, and we used to listen to your speeches almost on a daily basis when you were at the United Nations, you have not changed your position in the aftermath of the war, that basically the U.S. had no justification to begin this war. Is that still the basic position you adopt right now?
ALDOURI: Oh, yes, [and] this is not [just] my position. This is the position of all Iraqi people, and all Arab people everywhere in the world. Not only in the Arab world.
BLITZER: But you have to admit, I'm sure you must admit that the people of Iraq are better off today than they were under Saddam Hussein.
ALDOURI: I don't think so. If that was the case, I would say [so]. But reading in newspapers, watching the television, listening to others, you know, I am far away from [the] country. I would love to be there. Hopefully I can be there one day. But all information is coming from Iraq, giving us another kind [of] information. There is killing. There is no security. There is nothing in Iraq, absolutely.
Before the war, I think, at least we [had] security and something to eat, some medicine. Now there's nothing.
BLITZER: What about these mass graves that have been uncovered? Thousands of mass graves, the torture chambers that have now been documented inside Iraq. [The] international human rights community is outraged by this.
ALDOURI: I think I have answered such ... These are the most heinous crimes. So all those who are committing these crimes [have] to be judged in a front of criminal courts in Iraq within the Iraqi law.
BLITZER: If the United States captures Saddam Hussein alive, should he stand trial in Iraq for war crimes?
ALDOURI: Well, you know, we are not there, actually. ... He was the president of Iraq, and he's responsible [for] all [that's] happened during his time.
BLITZER: Are you planning on returning to Iraq?
ALDOURI: Well, hopefully, yes. This is my country. This is my people. And I would love to return back once this situation is stabilized. I have nothing to fear. This is my people and this is my country.