- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 16, 2003

U.S. forces yesterday moved to crush the guerrillas who sustained Saddam Hussein while he was on the run, nabbing a Ba’ath Party official who served as Saddam’s paymaster.

As Saddam spent his fourth day in captivity, a clearer picture developed of his role in encouraging an insurgency that has resulted in nearly 200 American deaths since May. 1.

U.S. officials say the fugitive former dictator maintained ties to a number of senior Ba’athists and used stashes of cash around the Tikrit area to bankroll some operations. His role, however, was limited, as he focused on avoiding capture by moving among as many as 20 safe houses.

“He spent the last eight months trying to avoid getting caught,” said a senior U.S. official. “That involved spending days and nights in some horrible places and situations.”

In Baghdad, Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the top commander in Iraq, said the results of Saddam’s early interrogations had done nothing to change his opinion of the ex-dictator’s role.

“Our expectation was that Saddam was probably involved in intent and in financing,” Gen. Sanchez said. “And so far, that is still my belief. And more to follow from the interrogations.”

At the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said, “Sometimes he would be staying in motion in vehicles. Sometimes those vehicles were taxicabs. And sometimes he spent … three or four hours in a taxicab that was not a taxicab, didn’t have the meter running.”

Mr. Rumsfeld appeared ebullient at his first post-capture news conference, taking more questions than usual and playfully sparring with reporters. He said he has asked CIA Director George J. Tenet to take control of Saddam’s interrogation.

“He and his people will be the regulator over the interrogations — who will do it, the questions that’ll get posed, the management of the information that flows from those interrogations,” Mr. Rumsfeld said. “And my instinct is to leave it there.”

The Army’s 4th Infantry Division, aided by CIA officers, practiced some old-fashioned detective work to locate Saddam in a farm compound in the village of Adwar, just south of his birthplace of Tikrit.

For the past two months, the CIA and military intelligence focused on finding Saddam’s family and tribal members, and then using them to gain information on the fugitive’s movements and close allies. The U.S. team hit pay dirt Saturday when one of those allies started talking. By Saturday night, he pinpointed the Adwar farm, where Army soldiers found Saddam hiding in an 8-foot hole.

The soldiers also found $750,000 in cash and Saddam’s briefcase containing the names of anti-U.S. insurgents.

Yesterday, the United States captured Quaiss Hattam and 78 others in a village near the northern town of Samarra, about 25 miles from the Adwar farm.

“We believe [Hattam] was chief financier for getting money from Saddam and his bank accounts to fund attacks against the American soldiers,” Army Capt. Karl Pfuetze told Agence France-Presse. “I’ve been looking for Hattam and his bomb-making cell for six months.”

Gen. Richard B. Myers, Joint Chiefs chairman, appeared with Gen. Sanchez at the Baghdad press conference. Gen. Myers said Saddam is not yet officially a prisoner of war. POW status would give him extended legal rights, including court of appeals review. Al Qaeda and Taliban members detained by the United States in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are classified as “enemy combatants,” not POWs.

“He does not have POW status. … The final status to be determined, as I understand it,” Gen. Myers said.

Both generals expressed hope that pro-Saddam holdouts will look at their leader’s fate and decide further resistance is futile.

“When you take this leader, who was at one time the very powerful leader in this region and find him in a hole in the ground, that’s a powerful signal you may be on the wrong team and you need to be thinking about some other line of work,” Gen. Myers said.

Saddam, who is being held at an undisclosed facility in Iraq, is described as generally defiant when questioned. He denies he hid weapons of mass destruction before the March 20 coalition invasion. No such weapons have been found. However, the U.S. Iraq Survey Group has discovered “programs” that could produce weapons in relatively short time.

Mr. Rumsfeld explained why the coalition on Sunday released video of a disheveled Saddam looking tired and somewhat disoriented as a doctor examined him.

“It’s terribly important that he be seen by the public for what he is — a captive, without question,” the defense secretary said. “And if lives can be saved by physical proof that that man is off the street, out of commission, never to return, then we opt for saving lives.”

Marine Corps Gen. Peter Pace, Joint Chiefs vice chairman, said Gen. Sanchez is taking the opportunity for a pause in some types of raids to “give those who were potentially close to Saddam an opportunity to digest the information that was available to them now that he’d been captured and perhaps turn themselves in.”

Gen. Pace said none had surrendered by yesterday afternoon.

In fact, guerrillas in Samarra south of Tikrit ambushed a 4th Infantry convoy, releasing a flock of pigeons as the signal to start firing. An American officer on the scene said his soldiers killed 11 attackers, while suffering no casualties.

U.S. soldiers also faced sporadic violence in other Saddam strongholds, such as the towns of Fallujah and Ramadi west of Baghdad.

The United States thinks the insurgency is led by Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, a former close aide to Saddam.

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