New York Times John Burns January 9, 2007
The courtroom he dominated for 15 months seemed much smaller on Monday without him there to mock the judges and assert his menacing place in history.
But the thick, high-register voice of Saddam Hussein was unmistakable. In audio recordings made years ago and played 10 days after his hanging, Mr. Hussein was heard justifying the use of chemical weapons against the Iraqi Kurds in the late 1980s, predicting they would kill “thousands” and saying he alone among Iraq’s leaders had the authority to order chemical attacks.
In the history of prosecutions against some of the last century’s grimmest men, there can rarely have been a moment that so starkly caught a despot’s unpitying nature.
On one recording, Mr. Hussein presses the merits of chemical weapons on Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, his vice-president, and now, the Americans believe, the fugitive leader of the Sunni insurgency that has tied down thousands of American troops. Mr. Douri, a notorious hard-liner, asks whether chemical attacks will be effective against civilian populations, and suggests that they might stir an international outcry.
“Yes, they’re very effective if people don’t wear masks,” Mr. Hussein replies.
“You mean they will kill thousands?” Mr. Douri asks.
“Yes, they will kill thousands,” Mr. Hussein says.
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