December 29, 2006

A personal note on the execution of Saddam Husayn

I wrote this piece for the MSNBC Hardball "Hardblogger." It was teased on the NBC Nightly News blog:

It's not usual for us to send readers to other blogs -- sisterly or not -- on such a regular basis, but this is a fantastic read from Lt. Col. Rick Francona, a regular Hardblogger contributor and former CIA operative. In this piece, Francona writes about his covert work in 1996 to overthrow Saddam Hussein. Three sons of an Iraqi general Francona was working with were captured and killed, so the execution of Hussein has very personal meaning for him.

(link to article)

Saddam Hussein’s rule affected virtually everyone in Iraq. Everyone has a story.

Here’s mine:

In 1995 and 1996, I was involved in the CIA’s covert operations to overthrow Saddam Hussein, operating from several Middle East countries bordering Iraq, as well as inside the Kurdish-controlled area of Iraq itself. One of these operations was to support of the Iraq National Accord (INA) under Dr. Iyad Alawi. One of Alawi’s key colleagues was a retired Iraqi military officer, General Muhammad Abdullah Al-Shahwani. Al-Shawani had relocated outside Iraq, but his three sons were serving in the Iraqi Army Republican Guard.

General Al-Shahwani was in contact with his sons and others in the Iraqi military; together they planned a coup to overthrow Saddam Hussein. By mid-1996, we believed that a coup had a chance of success. We began the infiltration of Iraqi agents we had recruited and trained to support the coup attempt.

Unfortunately, one of the agents was detected inside Iraq. Under severe interrogation, he revealed what information he knew and the whole operation was compromised. Iraqi security officials arrested virtually everyone involved in the coup attempt; most were executed.

As part of the team working directly with Al-Shahwani, I spent a lot of time at his home. I was with the general and his wife when word came that their three sons had been arrested. I was with them when one of their sons was allowed to make a phone call to his mother just prior to his execution.

I told Mrs. Al-Shahwani that someday Saddam would pay for his crimes. Finally, that day is here.