‘I led Saddam to the gallows. He still showed no remorse. But I have a grim reminder — in my house.’

12 February 2021 By Paul Martin
Dr Mowaffak al-Rubaie with a bust of the deposed dictator from one of his palaces and the ropeused to hang him
Dr Mowaffak al-Rubaie with a bust of the deposed dictator from one of his palaces and the rope used to hang him (Paul Martin / MEDIAZONES.NET)

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.”