- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Saddam Hussein’s capture 11 days ago is still paying dividends, the nation’s highest-ranking military officer said yesterday, with informants readily offering the names of Iraqis leading the insurgency.

“It’s enabled us to pick up lots of former regime elements,” said Gen. Richard B. Myers, Joint Chiefs chairman, who appeared with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld at a Pentagon press conference. “Just yesterday, we picked up 50. Twenty-nine were actually targeted, [were] individuals we wanted. We went after them. Got them. That’s just one day. So we’ve been pretty successful at that.”

Visitors have described Saddam as defiant and uncooperative as CIA and military officers interrogate him in a holding cell at an undisclosed location in greater Baghdad. But when captured, the ex-Ba’athist Party dictator carried a briefcase filled with names of insurgents. Arresting those men has led to the capture of still more fighters, U.S. officials say.

“I think we’ve gotten more insight into a little bit about structure, how the former regime elements are structured,” Gen. Myers said, just back from a trip to the region. “And we’ve had an increase in Iraqis willing to come forward and provide information to coalition forces and to Iraqis.”

The same phenomenon developed after July 22 when 101st Airborne Division soldiers cornered and killed Saddam’s two sons, Qusai and Uday. Both played major roles in enforcing the Ba’ath Party’s hard-line regime throughout the country.

“It probably tells you the role that fear plays in people’s minds,” Gen. Myers said. “So when he’s gone, people are more willing to come forward.”

U.S. Central Command and individual Army units put out a number of press statements in the past 24 hours telling of the capture of more insurgents.

In the town of Baqouba, 30 miles northwest of Baghdad, U.S. soldiers detained an Iraqi ex-colonel suspected of recruiting for the pro-Saddam guerrillas.

Near Fallujah, a persistent flash point in the eight-month insurgency, soldiers apprehended 26 guerrillas, including two former Iraqi generals.

Last night, the U.S. launched a new attack in Baghdad on a suspected insurgent hide-out. Apache attack helicopters and Air Force AC-130 gunships flew over the city, after which explosions were heard. A coalition spokesman said the strikes were part of a counterinsurgency operation code-named Iron Justice.

The question being asked inside the Pentagon now is: Has Saddam’s capture, and stepped-up raids, resulted in a less-potent insurgency that is running out of steam? Officials said it is too soon to draw conclusions.

In the overall global war against Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda terror network, Mr. Rumsfeld reported progress in 2003.

“It’s harder for them to raise money,” he said. “It’s harder for them to move across a border. It’s hard for them to communicate with each other. It is harder for them to assemble. And all of that advantages those of us who do not believe that killing innocent men, women and children is a good thing.”

The CIA and military intelligence shifted gears six weeks ago in Iraq. To catch Saddam, they began collecting the names of the fugitive’s family and tribal members and bring them in for questioning. The tactic led them to more informants. Early Dec. 13, they hit the jackpot, as a Saddam loyalist brought in for questioning knew Saddam’s location on a farm south of Tikrit.


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