'As I led him to the gallows, I hoped Saddam Hussein would show remorse. There was nothing' - Dr Mowaffak al Rubaie on the dictator’s last moments

Man who held senior job in post war Iraq tells Paul Martin of dictator’s last moments

As he led Saddam Hussein to the gallows, Dr Mowaffak al Rubaie says he was filled not with hatred but with contempt. “I was not looking for revenge for the three times his security thugs had imprisoned and tortured me,” Dr Rubaie says.

“I was hoping to see him show some remorse for the terrible crimes, the hundreds of thousands of his own citizens that he and his henchmen killed,” he adds. “But there was nothing.  I could see he was not a religious man. We had to remind him to say ‘Allahu Akbar’ [‘God is greatest’] as he was about to die.”

In his Baghdad home is a photo of his Baghdad University class of 1971-2. Of the 340 young doctors smiling out from it, Dr Rubaie says only 10 are alive today – a few died naturally, but most, he says, were killed in various crushed uprisings of the Shia and Kurds or in the Iraq-Iran war, and a handful in the violence that followed the US-British occupation. It was a terrible reminder of the tragedy that Iraq has undergone for over four bloody decades.

Dr Rubaie, who was tortured for his political beliefs, just managed to survive severe renal failure following his electrocution sessions and went on to do a post-doctoral research at Edinburgh University and practise for 24 years in Britain as a neurologist and a surgeon. Ten years ago today, after having fled into exile from Iraq, Dr Rubaie watched in amazement from his home in London as American troops and Shias pulled down Saddam’s huge statue in central Baghdad. 

Soon Dr Rubaie was called by the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq help create the foundations of a new state. It was while trying to piece together the collapsed health services that he was also assigned the role of National Security Adviser, which gave him the grisly responsibility of being  Saddam’s companion in his final moments. He held the post in the last few months of the Coalition’s rule, and then under successive Iraqi regimes until 2009 – after which he was elected as a member of the country’s parliament.

Dr Rubaie believes the world was indeed threatened by Saddam even though no weapons of mass destruction were found.  He explains: “Saddam would have rebuilt his WMD programme once the worldwide sanctions were lifted – for which there was growing international pressure.”

As he openly admits as we sit in his heavily guarded home beside the Tigris: “We made thousands of mistakes. But I am still sure we did the right thing to get rid of Saddam and his murderous Baath Party.”

Bizarrely, a huge bust of Saddam dominates his gold-curtained living-room. Even more macabre is the rope tied around the statue’s neck. “The Americans had removed the bust from one of his palaces and had flown it to a base in Kuwait,” he recalls. “I had it flown back and I am keeping it until we build a proper museum to display all the arrogant relics of the Baathist regime.”

And the rope? “Oh, I had my men bring me back a segment of the rope after they cut Saddam down,” he says. “So I thought it appropriate to put it around the neck of Saddam’s statue.”

Attending Saddam’s trial as the former ruler’s crimes were set out in detail, Dr Rubaie says he found it difficult to sleep at night. The toppled dictator had tried to invoke religion to rally support – yet in the televised hearings, he says Saddam sometimes held the Koran in the left hand, an insult in Islamic thinking.

Dr Rubaie is an opponent of the death penalty, but says it was necessary in Saddam’s case as a means of dampening down the insurgency that was by then ravaging his country. “We are still suffering from that violence, but it goes back much further. The violence stems from the psychological damage Saddam and his Baathist Party inflicted on all Iraqis over 35 years.”

He says Iraq needs now radically to reform its education system, to teach young people tolerance and the acceptance of differing views – the opposite of what Iraqis had learned under Saddam. “Our traumas are far from healed.  We have a lot of work to do. And unless we change our ways of thinking and doing, things can only get worse.”

He feels the West has wrongly abandoned Iraq. He argues that US aircraft should have remained to patrol Iraq’s unprotected skies. Had the US and Iraq’s Shia-dominated government agreed a redeployment of forces in 2011 the Iranian air-bridge into Syria could not have brought President Assad his lifeline, says Dr Rubaie. That would have brought the bloody civil war in Syria to a quick end and seen another dictator fall. “The British and the Americans did the whole region a service in eliminating Saddam’s regime,” he says. “But they still have a duty to keep the Iraqi people secure."

Picture credit: Paul Martin / ConflictZones.tv.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
The two faces revealed by the ultraviolet light
newsScholars left shaken after shining ultraviolet light on 500-year-old Welsh manuscript
News
Rosamund Pike played Bond girld Miranda Frost, who died in Die Another Day (PA)
news
Arts and Entertainment
books
News
newsHow do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? With people like this
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
  • Get to the point
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: In House Counsel - Contracts

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading supplier of compliance software a...

Recruitment Genius: Associate System Engineer

£24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Associate System Engineer r...

Recruitment Genius: Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Executive Assistant is required to join a l...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat