Does Saddam Hussein speak English?

I know Uday was reportedly completely fluent in English but have never heard whether or not Daddy speaks English. Still, one wonders what language he spoke when he came out of his hole saying “I am Saddam Hussein, president of Iraq, and I want to negotiate” (to which soldiers–in English?–replied “President Bush sends his regards.”)

I would imagine a guy whose been around the block as many times as Saddy would at least be able to strike up a modest conversation (in which you could not partake, as he’d have probably already cut out your tongue.)


It’s me that doesn’t speak English

What’s the debate?

According to the soldiers who found him, he did speak in English:

During his interview with Dan Rather before the latest war, he told Dan that he could speak English. When Dan asked to hear it, Saddam replied that because English was not his native language he wasn’t going to speak it during the interview.

Well… even bloody Saddam speaks more than his native language ! Wow.

Well, that’s the first report I’ve seen that actually said Saddam spoke “in English from his pit.” Trust me, if I had read that before, I would not have posted this question.

And yes, I saw the Rather interview (which had a backlash of its own, as an actor pretending to have an Iraqi accent “translated” Saddam’s words.)

I would imagine that, crazy fox that he is, he knew that the image of him speaking haltingly in English would have tarnished his international “persona”, thus never bothered to indulge the foreign press.

Just didn’t know how much English he could speak.

Sorry if my answer seemed snotty – it just seemed more like a GQ than a GD.

What’s remarkable is not that Saddam speaks English, but that every American soldier seems to have a front-line Hollywood scriptwriter on call to come up with an immediate and witty retort when it’s needed.

Whoever writes the script for the inevitable film is going to have an easy job. The US Army has already written it. Future reports from Iraq will be handed out prior to press conferences in script form with camera directions and suggested casting. What to look out for in future episodes from the razor sharp wit of the typical American GI: “Yippee-Ki Yay!”, “Game Over Man!” and “We don’t need no stinking badges!”

Or am I being cynical? Jessica Lynch has already shown that they don’t dramatise military action in Iraqi, hasn’t she?

“President Bush sends his regards” Oh, yeah, that was very witty. He should of dropped a flashbang into the hole to add some Zwarzenegger to his Bruce Willis. I don’t think you need a Hollywood scriptwriter to be a smart-ass.

[Moderator Hat ON]

To General Questions.

[Moderator Hat OFF]

Am I the only one who thought that was kind of clever? I’d have probably over-reacted and shot the guy.

You’re missing the context. This wasn’t just some smart aleck trying to be flippant with a former world leader. Reports indicate Saddam tried to “negotiate” with the soldiers, and perhaps charm or bribe his way out of arrest.

That line was the soldier’s way of reminding Saddam they were not inclined to get chummy.


No, you’re missing my point. I suggest it’s very likely that the soldier said no such thing. More likely he said “Come out of that hole and keep your hands where I can see them.” Or words to that effect.

Then prior to the press conference some Army staff writer thought “Wouldn’t it have been neat if GI Joe had showed wit, intelligence and irreverence with a cutting put down? Just like the movies. I know…”

Is it impossible that the soldier had shown “wit, intelligence, and irreverence” without the aid of a writer?

Soldiers are trained to follow procedure in search & capture. Not to be smart mouths. Only in the movies are they all wise-cracking mavericks.

Admit it. It sounds exactly the kind of thing that you wish you’d said after the event.

I don’t think it would be a good idea for a head of state (be it Saddam or anybody else) to use a foreign language in an interview (except for say, a couple unimportant sentences to please the listeners). First he’s representing his country, and it seems to me that speaking in a foreign language isn’t a good way of representing it. Second, and more importantly, a high-level politician has to be careful about any word he uses, and about the exact meaning of everything he says. It wouldn’t be a wise move to express his mind in any language other than his own, even if he was really fluent.

And indeed, though secondary, politicians usually don’t like facing ridicule hence would tend to avoid speaking haltingly and poorly in a foreign language.
Since G. W. Bush is suposed to speak some spanish, can you picture him interviewed by latino-american journalists about American’s policies, asked serious questions and struggling to answer in halting Spanish? Same with Saddam.

Sure – it seems likely that American soldiers were told to, or perhaps passed the word around that they would, say upon meeting the man, “President Bush sends his regards!” It might have even been an in-joke on the front line, and quite automatic.

I can see it now. BLAMBLAMBLAMBLAM – “President Bush sends his regards, asshole!!!”

I still find it surprising that more attention has not been paid to Saddam’s bilingualism. To be able to speak the language of the enemy is to know your enemy much better; you can listen to newscasts in the original language and not require a lackey to transcribe them. You can infer far more from official statements if you understand the idioms and nuances. In short, it would be very smart to be able to speak the enemy’s language, firsthand.

As for Lobsang, I respond to his “Ke” with a “Que?”