'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.

Life and Style
“What is it like being a girl?” was the question on the lips of one inquisitive Reddit user this week
News
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
beauty
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebookA powerful collection of reportage on Egypt’s cycle of awakening and relapse
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
transfers
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Sport
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
film
News
peopleMario Balotelli poses with 'shotgun' in controversial Instagram pic
News
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Sport
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Sport
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight
tv
Sport
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
News
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
people
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
tech
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

JavaScript Developer (Angular, Web Forms, HTML5, Ext JS,CSS3)

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: JavaScript Dev...

BC2

£50000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Consultant (Fina...

SAP Data Migration Consultant

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client, a FTSE 100 organisation are u...

Programme Support, Coms, Bristol, £300-350p/d

£300 - £350 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice