This speech was delivered on March 16 at the Wednesday Morning Club. -The Editors.
Colonel Buzz Patterson:
General Sada is quite an amazing man. There was a time in my life as an Air Force pilot back in the first Gulf War, we were looking out of my cockpit window, on my radar, into Iraqi airspace. General Sada was my enemy. I thought at that time the Iraqis were our enemies. I can tell you that, having spent this past summer in Iraq, talking to our soldiers and to the Iraqi people themselves, that our enemy was Saddam Hussein. The Iraqi people are our best friends and our best allies right now.
What we are doing, not only for them but for ourselves, really, is building a tremendous bond and allowing the Iraqi citizens to rise up and have their own self-determination, their own freedom, their own peace, and dictate their own future, apart and away from Saddam Hussein.
General Sada is an Air Force pilot in the Iraqi Air Force. He’s flown 39 different types of airplanes, which is amazing. The first and only, I believe, Iraqi Air Force pilot to come to the U.S., in the 1960s, to Randolph Air Force Base and get his instrument flying training from the U.S. Air Force back in the early 1960s.
He has a book out, which I think is a tremendous read. If you have not picked it up yet, you need to. Not only is it a personal tale of a man and a Christian in a very un-Christianlike atmosphere in Iraq, but also a man who will give you the insight into Saddam Hussein, what we thought to be true and what some of us knew to be true. General Sada nails it in terms of what was going on in Saddam’s mind, the evil nature of that man and the fact that there were WMDs, which they moved. All of us who have believed us all along are very happy to hear General Sada pass that on and confirm what we’ve always suspected.
Currently he still lives in Baghdad. He’s the Iraqi Institute for Peace President/Director. He’s also one of the senior advisors to Prime Minister Allawi as well. He’s a tremendous man and I think an Iraqi patriot. General Georges Sada.
General Georges Sada:
It’s a great honor for me to be between you and I hope my poor English will help me to explain myself to you and then to make myself clear.
I was thinking how to do this, in the short time that we have. But I think I will only speak to you some minutes. I will make some briefs on the subjects and invite whatever questions you would like to ask. Whether they have to do with military, political, or religious issues and anything having to do with the ethnics in Iraq, I am ready to answer them. This will make the discussion much better because I don’t know what you want to ask and which subject you want to talk about.
I belong to a country in which it is very deep in 7,000 years of history. So when you talk here about 100, 200 or 300 years of history, for Iraqis this is very funny, you know, because we talk about 3,000, 4,000 and 5,000 years always. That’s why we will give you the chance to ask questions.
I still start with Iraq as the land of Father Abraham and Iraq as the land of Daniel. Of course, most of you know about Daniel in Babylon with Nebuchadnezzar. Then there is Iraq as the country of where Jonah came to Nineveh, which was the capital of the Assyrian Empire. I am very proud that to be descended from the Assyrians and that I am a Christian Assyrian from Nineveh. I am happy about that.
Iraq became a Christian country when Saint Thomas, one of the 12 disciples, came trough on his way to India to evangelize. He came during the first 45-50 years in the first century, and the Assyrians met him and they believed in Jesus Christ from that time in the 1st century. Then he left to India to evangelize, where he died. After him, from the 72 disciples, Saint Aday [ph] came in the year 79, also in the 1st century. The first churches in Iraq were built in the 1st century. The Assyrians were Christians since the 1st century and I belong to those people. We are until now keeping our faith and we have been Christians, although the country was taken by the Muslim Arabs in 634 A.C. and since then, Iraq has been a Muslim Arab country. But we were have still been living there, keeping our faith in the mountains.
Mainly the Assyrians were in the north of Iraq around Nineveh, the area you Americans know as Kurdistan, the three provinces and the northern part of Iraq, which is Erbil, Dhok and Sulaimaniyah, where the Kurds are trying to have their free federal but in one Iraqi country.
About myself, I’ll tell you that I joined the Air Academy in 1958. I was trained in Russia for four years and then, after that, I came back to Iraq. I flew the fighter aircrafts, the MiGs. In 1964, we had an exam in Turkey, seven guys, because Americans gave one seat for pilot instrument instructors to fly people at night in bad weather and instrument flying. They wanted the qualified people from Iraq, but only one man. So we took the exam and thank God I was number 1, so I came to Texas, Randolph Air Force Base, in Lackland, in 1964. I was trained as an instructor for bad weather, night and instrument flying. I came back home and then I did a lot of work in the fighter squadrons.
I served in the Air Force for about 40 years. I was retired in 1986 as two-star general. I was supposed to be promoted to three-star, but the Baath Party and the intelligence sent for me. They said, “You are the only general in this country who is not being a Baath Party member. So now a this time we will not invite you to come because we have been inviting you for 30 years and you didn’t accept it. So now, tell us why you are not becoming a member of the Baath Party?” I said, “You want the truth?” and they said, “yes.” I said, “You see, because in your ideology of the Baath Party, you say the body of the nation is Arab and the spirit of the nation is Islam. Therefore, I don’t fit in two ways. I don’t fit in the body because you are Arab and I am Assyrian. I don’t fit in the spirit because you are Islamic and I am a Christian. And I want to keep both of them, my nationality and my faith. And because of that, I don’t want to block you. I don’t want to block myself to get to this party because it doesn’t fit me.” They were very surprised.
So they said, “Okay, General Georges, it’s like this: no three-star general and no Air Force Commander.” Because at that time, I was number two and, of course, well, it’s a shame, I would say, people know it. I was the only man who was trained in Russia, America, England and France. And I had taught in three colleges: staff college, war college and national defense college for ten years. Really, I am very proud of my training in America. I will never forget this country because it was really a blessed country and they have taught me a lot and I can tell you, I am very faithful for that.
So I was forced to retire in 1986. But when Saddam invaded Kuwait on August 2, 1990, I was the first man who was recalled for active duty. They told him, “Sir, this man is not a party member.” He said, “Yes, I know, but I want him. Bring him.” So I came, I met him. He said, “You are going to be the senior advisor for me on the Air Force, on the Armed Forces.” I said, “Okay, sir. Thank you.” So I was put there. I was given three tasks to do. He knows why he gave it to me because I was to teach these things in three colleges. These three tasks were: what is the capability of the enemy air forces? This means the collegian air forces, including America. Then, what is the capability of five aircraft carriers that are in Red Sea and Gulf? And finally what is the capability of destruction and accuracy of cruise missiles?
So these three duties were given to me. I was very happy. I told him, “Sir, this duty is my daily bread. I used to teach it everywhere and I will start working.” I made three beautiful files for it and I started to tell him and the minister of defense and chief of staff and all the others. But unfortunately, nobody was listening.
The last meeting was on January 12, 1991. There was a presentation because the deadline of United Nations was going to finish on January 15, 1991, as you know. There were only two or three days to prepare for war. So I was sitting in the war room and we started doing the presentation. Everybody was there, except Saddam. He was listening somewhere else to what was going on.
They spoke about the war and the advisors said that they were going to destroy the enemy air force. No enemy air craft would be allowed in the Iraqi air space. Then they said that we would never give up Kuwait, that we would stay in Kuwait. They spoke their nonsense. So I spoke to the air force commander, who had been my student. I gave him solo on MiG-21 when I was a squadron commander in 1970. I told him, “General Hanz-am, please can you stop this nonsense? These lies by these generals?” He said, “No, Georges, don’t talk. For God’s sake, keep it. It’s okay, nothing will happen. Don’t worry. Nobody is going to attack us.”
I said, “Look. I know what’s going to happen. I know America and these forces who are here starting from the Gulf and in Kuwait and in Saudi Arabia, surrounding Iraq and Kuwait and the forces which are in the seas starting from Saratoga and the Red Sea and the others in the Gulf.” I explained everything to them. I said, “Look, they didn’t come here to play. They are going to attack Iraq.” Again nobody listened. Then, at last, I raised my hand. I told the minister of defense and the chief of staff, “Excuse me, I don’t agree with this presentation.”
At last, the minister of defense and chief of staff asked the air force. They said, ‘Please, you as air force, can you tell us that we can operate on the ground without thinking of any enemy threat coming from air?’ The answer was, “Yes you can operate, there will be no threat coming from the air, because the Iraqi Air Force and the Iraqi Air Defense will tackle with that and will handle with them and they will not let the American forces to appear in the Iraqi skies.’”
Here I had to stop them. I said, “Excuse me.” The minister of defense said, “Yes, Georges, do you have anything?” I said, “Yes, I have got many things. I don’t agree with this presentation. It’s not going to be like this.” They said, “Do you have another idea?” I said, “Yes, and my idea is 180 degrees different.” He was surprised. I told them, “The supreme commander has given me these three tasks to do, so please I am the one who should do the presentation. Will you permit me to do the presentation?” Then, they could not say no.
So I went and I did my presentation. I told them, “Remember that you have been told that no enemy aircraft will be flying in the Iraqi skies. But I can tell you that thousands of the enemy aircraft will be flying over this country. Most of the targets will be destroyed and your army, our army, will be in very bad shape.” I spoke everything and then the chief of staff said, “Georges, did we bring you here to frighten us?” I said, “No, sorry, I am not frightening anybody, but I am telling you the truth to the best of my knowledge.”
I continued speaking about what an aircraft carrier is because, ladies and gentlemen, I understood that they thought an aircraft carrier is a fishing boat. I explained to them what an aircraft carrier is, what it can do, how many aircraft are there on deck and what are the three classes of aircraft carriers. I explained everything. Again, the chief of staff said, “Don’t you think you are exaggerating very much about what America can do?” I said, “No, sorry, I’m not exaggerating. But this is according to the paper given to me. But, remember, Americans can do even more than this.” Nobody listened.
Then at last there was a question. They said, “Okay, if it’s like this, what’s the solution? What’s your solution?” I said, “My solution is very easy. We have sent our forces to Kuwait by a paper and by same paper we can make them to withdraw from Kuwait and come back. Because President Bush and United Nation are asking the Iraqi forces to get out of Kuwait. This is the only solution left. Today is January 12, 1991. Please I beg you to listen to me.” I really meant I begged, because I knew what was going to happen to my nation. You know what their answer to me was? “If you speak again of pulling the Iraqi forces from Kuwait, your head will be separated from your body.” I said, “Okay, thank you very much. I am advisor and I must be faithful.” I told them all this, but nobody listened.
Then, on January 17, the war started. Let me tell you where I was. General Hanz-am had an apartment in the operation room. It was the only apartment in operation room, next to the nuclear weapon room. It has walls and ceilings made of reinforced concrete 3 meters thick. General Hanz-am was my student, I had been his instructor and his commander. In the air force, we love our instructors and commanders. I had flown General Hanz-am solo and many other times, which he remembers. So he insisted on giving me the use of his apartment out of respect. I tried to refuse, because the apartment is for the use of the air force commander, but he insisted from his heart that I was the man who deserved to be there.
I went to sleep at 1:00 in the morning. I don’t know what woke me up, but I looked at my watch and saw it was 2:30. I thought, “My God, I was supposed to sleep until 7:00 at least.” I wondered what made me wake up at this time? So I decided to go and see Colonel Ban-am, who’s another Christian, and in command of the radars and radio in the operation room.
So I went into the corridor and this is when the ground started shaking. I knew then that the attack had started. The lights started going out and water running everywhere. I went back to my apartment and I had to force the door open. I looked at my bed. It had been flattened to the ground by huge concrete blocks. I had missed being flattened by only 17 seconds. I thought, “My God, who woke me up in time to escape this?” When the first American rocket hit the operation room, it hit the apartment of the air force commander.
Then an officer was there saying, “Where is General Georges? Where is General Georges? The commander wants you.” I talked to him and he said, “Shall we scramble the aircraft?” I said, “No. Don’t scramble anything, Hanza-am.” He said, “How I’m going to scramble? We are attacked!” I said, “Look, I told you the solution. Where you will scramble them? You see, in this moment, this room is already destroyed. But remember, all command posts have been attacked. I am sure now. All the targets have been attacked. Most of the radars are destroyed. So where you are going to send these boys to go and fight American aircraft coming from everywhere? Without radars, without control from the ground? Don’t do that.” He said, “No, I cannot listen to this. This is not good advice.” I said, “Okay, it’s not good advice. Do whatever you like.”
But I said, “Look, if you are going to send these airplanes, remember, very, very little of them will be back.” He said, “I will send them.” He sent 18 aircraft, the best aircraft we have, to intercept the American aircraft which were attacking. Most of them were destroyed, some on the runway, some just after take off, some as they were climbing, Then they realized their mistake.
You see, there are some people who live in the mishap and there are some people who live in the “prehap,” before the things happen. So let us always live in the “prehap,” before the thing happens. Because after it happens, I think then it will be too late.
After this, Saddam came to the operation room. When he came, he was asking, “What has happened? Why it has happened like this?” We five generals were sitting. It’s the picture they always show on TV. I was sitting on his right, the air force commander on his left and the other in front of him. He started asking questions. The guy who was the officer, the commanding officer for the air force, he was Saddam’s cousin. He became a higher general than all of us just because he was a cousin. He looked at me, begging with his eyes. I know him and I understood him. I knew he was saying, “Please, Georges, you answer to the president.”
So I took all the answers. Then he said, “General Hanza-am, why Georges is answering everything?” Then after that, I had a telephone call. There was a telephone there on the table and it was ringing. I took the call, it was from Nasiriyah airbase in the south. They said, “Sir, we have shot down one Tornado and two pilots are captured. One’s name is John Peter and the other John Nichol.” I told Saddam, “Sir, we have shot down a Tornado aircraft with two pilot captures.” He said, “What’s a Tornado?” I explained to him what a Tornado is. He said, “Are you sure the pilots are prisoners of war?” I said, “yes.”
He said, “Okay, I need one pilot to be responsible for the prisoner of war.” Then he came to me and said, “I want a man knows the tactics, offensive and defensive, and who speaks English. Georges, you are the one who will be responsible for the pilots.” I said, “Okay, Sir. My pleasure.” I told them to send the pilots. I am sure the Americans are very good pilots, but remember, even a good swimmer may sink in the sea and even a very good pilot, he may be shot down in the war.
So many good American pilots were shot down: F18s, F15s, F16s, Thunderbolts. Many pilots were shot down. At the last, I had 44 of them: 31 or 32 were Americans. The others were Saudis, Kuwaitis, British and Italians. I was responsible for them. I received orders to execute them on January 24 from the president through his son Qusay, who came to me in the operation room.
I refused. I told Qusay, “Look, these people are prisoners of war.” He said, “No, they are not prisoners of war. They are criminals of war.” At the time of this discussion, we were under bombing. He said, “Don’t you see how they are destroying the country?” I said, “Mr. Qusay, look, I have told you on January 12, this is what’s going to happen. But all of you said, ‘nobody will be attacked.’ So now, it’s war and wars have rules and you must go and fight according to the rules, and one of the most important rules concern how to treat the prisoner of war. These people should be treated according to this.”
I was carrying with me the book of the United Nations, the Geneva Convention. He said, “What is that?” I said, “This is the Geneva Convention, which Iraq has signed for. Therefore, we must respect our sign.” He said, “No, that is for prisoners of war, but these are not prisoners of war. These are criminals of war.” I said, “No, they are prisoners of war and they should be treated according to this. Please remember my rank and my seniority. I was brought out of retirement. I am an international officer. I cannot deal with these people except according to this one book, according to the Geneva Convention.”
He was very angry and he said, “Okay, I will take them, I will put them in the targets. Let the Americans from up there kill the Americans on the ground.” I said, “No, no, no. You would be using them as human shields. You cannot do that. That’s also against the Geneva Convention.” It was a very big tough discussion between me and him, with the officers all surrounding us. One was saying, “Now Qusay will shoot him.” Another was saying, “Georges is finished.”
But believe me, I was doing this for two reasons. One was my faith in Jesus Christ and to make Him happy as His son. The second, because I am a high-ranking officer, I have experience, and I was not a Baath Party, to do what they like. I wanted to behave as an Iraqi general, loyal to this country and this country’s deep history, should behave.
I did this knowing that the price would be very heavy. I said to myself, “I have flown supersonic air craft for 40 years. I could die at anytime. But this is a very good reason to die, to make this mission happen.” Qusay left and he was very angry. Before he left, I said, “Excuse me, I want to tell you one last thing. You see now there is a war between Iraq and America. If you are going to kill these people, America will declare a new war. This time it will be war between America and your family.”
When I told him this, his eyes were opened. He just then realized what it meant to kill the prisoner of war. So before he left, I said, “Mr. Qusay, please, I am sure you going to see the supreme commander, the president. Tell him he knows me very well. I am his advisor. Tell him that General Georges is saying that these people are not criminal of war. They are prisoner of war and they should be treated according to the Geneva Convention.”
He left and the next day, people came from the Republican Guard, special guards and said “Come with us.” I knew that the time had come but it was okay. I had done my duty in the best way and my thought was, “let happen what happens.” They took me and they put me in prison. On February 5, I was released because Saddam himself said, “I don’t want to see his face. I don’t want him to be in the Army anymore. But you can’t kill him because he was right.” That is the only thing that saved me and the only reason I am alive now here. Because even thought he was a dictator and evil, he realized the truth of what I had said about a new war between America and his family. Once again I was dismissed from the Army and I have stayed safe until now.
Before any of this had happened, Saddam had wanted us to attack Israel with chemical weapons, using different aircraft: Sequoyah 24, Mirages, and MiGs. Again I stood in front of him and I told him, “Excuse me, sir. You are saying that these aircraft will attack Israel in two waves: one through Jordan and one through Syria. I know the Israelis have a plan to destroy all incoming aircraft before entering Israeli borders. This means that these aircraft are going to be destroyed by two waves, over Jordan and over Syrian. Of course, Israelis have got good air defenses, but still the pilots know that many aircraft still can penetrate. You know what’s going to happen, sir? There will be three attacks of chemical weapon on three countries: Jordan, Syria and Israel. By doing this, we will be giving the Israelis the right to retaliate by using their nuclear weapons. They have got very good delivery systems to carry the nuclear weapons. The delivery systems are rockets are called Jericho 2. They are going to destroy Mosul, Baghdad, Basra and all our cities.”
I told him, “Sir there will be disaster in the region. The four countries are going to be completely destroyed. Please, please, sir, let us not do that.” I begged him. He started asking me questions and the discussion lasted one hour, 41 minutes. At last, thank God, this attack didn’t happen. This talk took place on December 17, 1990. He said, “Look, if one American rocket will hit the Iraqi lands, I want these 98 aircraft to go and destroy Israel, and the 12 divisions to go in Saudi Arabia and destroy all the industrial area of Saudi Arabia from Kuwait to al-Daran [ph].” Another big, big job, given to the army and you can just imagine 12 divisions destroying all the industrial area of Saudi Arabia and open sky without air defense for them. I understood what was going to happen to these 12 divisions. But this man was not thinking at all what would happen to the forces.
I will keep it for your questions but I will tell you about Saddam. He is the man who killed more clerics from Sunni and Shia in the history of Iraq. He is the man who killed more Baath Party members, starting from central command, since the party was founded in 1947. Saddam is the man who killed more of his own people. Saddam is the man who killed more Tikritis, his own cousins from his city, than anyone since Iraq was founded in 1920.
Saddam is the one who killed more Kurds. In the Amfal operations, he killed 203,000 Kurds. He used chemical weapons. In Halabja, he killed 5,375 people, all women, children and old men, in one attack—only one attack. Saddam killed more officers from the Iraqi army since the army was founded in 1921. Saddam did this with the hatred that I know was in his heart. With his revenge, only God knows what he was going to do. Because he had love of power, of making Muir rockets, paying millions to make some development for rockets to go further and warheads to become more destructive and to have weapon of mass description.
At last Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. They were used against our nation in the north and south, and even against the Iranians when they penetrated the last defense lines in our terroritory. They were used by helicopters, by fighters and even by transport illusion 76, which it is not for bombing. But they were used in order to stop the invasion of Iran to the east of Basra, south of Iraq.
This is Saddam. I want all the Americans please to know what Saddam was and then to make the assessment: Was it worth it? Was it good that America took the decision to go and liberate that country by removing Saddam’s regime or not? This is a very good question also.
From what I know about Iraq and about Saddam, I am now one of the people who believes very, very, very clearly that the decision taken by this blessed nation, America, to go and liberate Iraq from the evil regime of that dictator, it was the right decision and the proper time.
I don’t want to interfere in your politics. You are a free nation. You are the nation of democracy. It’s up to you, you have got many parties. I respect everybody in this country. I love America but this is the truth as an Iraqi I want to tell you that this was a great decision. I am very sorry for those who lost their beloved ones. I know it is difficult for them. But you should remember always you have done a great job. You have done a dramatic change in that country and you have liberated 27 million people from a dictatorship regime.
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