Smart Talk is a daily, live, interactive program featuring conversations with newsmakers and experts in a variety of fields and exploring a wide range of issues and ideas, including the economy, politics, health care, education, culture, and the environment. Smart Talk airs live every week day at 9 a.m. on WITF’s 89.5 and 93.3.
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Host: Scott LaMar
Former CIA Analyst John Nixon
In 2003, CIA analyst John Nixon was in charge of interrogating the recently-deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. The former dictator had been captured by US forces following the 2003 invasion, and the intelligence analyst needed to open a dialogue with the high-profile prisoner.
Hussein ruled Iraq as a thuggish despot for 24 years. He rose through the ranks of the ruling Ba'ath Party to take the presidency in 1979. His successful modernization and education programs in Iraq were overshadowed by an oppressive regime that fostered a cult of personality around the man and demanded absolute loyalty to the party.
While America supported Hussein's military campaign against Iran in the 1980's, relations soured following revelations that the US also armed Iran during that war and international condemnation of Iraq's slaughter of ethnic Kurds. This culminated with Iraq's 1991 invasion of Kuwait which was quickly quashed by an international force led by the US.
From 1991 to 2003, the international community heaped sanctions on Iraq in response to Hussein's lack of cooperation in complying with weapons restrictions. Following the attacks of 9/11, the George W. Bush Administration trumped up intelligence to suggest the attacks were linked to Hussein. They were not.
In 2003, the US invaded Iraq under the pretext that it was developing weapons of mass destruction. There were none. Hussein was captured shortly after by US Special Forces.
Nixon chronicles his experience in his book, Debriefing the President: The Interrogation of Saddam Hussein. He joins Smart Talk to talk about his experience sitting across from one of the most infamous dictators of the 20th Century.
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