In Letters From Jail, Saddam Hussein Alleged Torture

In letters, Hussein wrote of beatings and sleepless nights amid screams of torture victims.

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BY James Gordon Meek
DAILY NEWS WASHINGTON BUREAU

WASHINGTON—Immediately after U.S. troops captured Saddam Hussein in 2003, Iraq's brutal ex-dictator turned into a crybaby over "beatings" by a "detention gang" and sleepless nights amid screams of torture victims.

Saddam poured out his complaints "to whom it may concern" in two Christmas 2003 letters, handwritten in Arabic, which he gave to his U.S. military jailers, the Daily News has learned.

In one letter, he alleged "beatings that I have received following my capture," in which "not a single part of my body was spared of the severe harm that was inflicted by the detention gang," adding, "some of the traces are still visible on my body."

The tyrant and his family, who maintained their 24-year reign over Iraq by torturing and executing thousands, complained that his lockup—believed to be at Baghdad International Airport—was an American-made chamber of horrors.

"My opportunity to sleep in this place is limited and almost scarce," Saddam wrote. "I don't think there is anyone with a sensitive and humanitarian heart who can sleep amidst the screams of the tortured and the many blows of the doors and the squeaking sounds of the chairs."

Saddam whined that his "total hours of sleep did not exceed four to five hours."

The letters were among 352 pages in his declassified FBI file, which The News requested after his December 2006 execution for crimes against humanity.

Although it is known that other notorious members of his regime were imprisoned nearby, Saddam's allegations of torture at that facility were not addressed in the heavily redacted FBI file - and are not considered credible by U.S. experts.

His first letter—written nine days after being pulled from a Tikrit spider hole on Dec. 15, 2003—demanded an accounting of over $1 million in U.S. cash he had with him in an iron safe and "a Samsonite case."

The prolific poet and novelist also asked for the return of "a number of simple necessities, the most important are notebooks with chapters from a story."

The U.S. wanted Saddam to figuratively drape the noose around his own neck, ordering the FBI "to overwhelm Hussein with the volume of evidence against him and others regarding human rights violations, mass murders and the use of chemical weapons."

A brilliant FBI man, George Piro, was Saddam's sole interrogator. But the Arabic-speaking Lebanese-American agent didn't have to resort to CIA waterboarding techniques to elicit Saddam's confessions of massacring fellow Iraqis. Instead, Piro's now-legendary interrogations relied on another ancient method—conversation.

Saddam became so fond of the G-man, who he thought was a top aide to President George W. Bush, that he spilled his guts. He even ended a hunger strike "for the benefit of Supervisory Special Agent Piro," a 2004 FBI memo said.

The files also show that the agency tracked Saddam and his family since the early 1970s by building dossiers on the dictator.

Saddam was a teetotaling health nut who "enjoys a good Havana cigar" and, though a Muslim, "is not frequently seen in the mosque [but] prays five times daily," a 1990 FBI file stated.

His son Uday—slain by U.S. troops in 2003—was a "ruthless egotist" and a "sadist" who had a "distant relationship" with his dad and enjoyed torturing and murdering his own friends.

"He would shave [their] hair and subject them to fierce guard dogs and electric cattle prods," the FBI file noted.