Husayn Kamil - Saddam's Son in Law: The Real Story
January 2000

Commentary by Rick Francona

Husayn Kamil Hasa nAl-MajidIn early 2000, PBS Frontline aired a special report titled “The Survival of Saddam.” One of the topics discussed in the program was the story of Saddam Husayn’s son in law, Husayn Kamil, whose defection to Jordan in 1995 stunned the regime of Saddam Husayn* and received worldwide attention. The shock of his defection was surpassed just nine months later when he announced that he was returning to Baghdad, claiming that he had spoken to Saddam and all would be forgiven if the Husayn Kamil returned to Iraq. The Frontline story reported the Iraqi version of the story. The real story is quite different. 

The rising star 

Since the mid-1980’s, Iraqi weapons research projects were under the control of a rising star, Lt. Gen. Husayn Kamil Hasan Al-Majid, head of the Ministry of Industry and Military Industrialization (MIMI). Husayn Kamil was a son-in-law and distant cousin of Saddam Husayn. He rose further in the Iraqi hierarchy to become minister of defense, and later the director of the Organization of Military Industries, the element responsible for all of Iraq’s advanced weapons efforts – chemical, biological, nuclear and ballistic missile programs. Husayn Kamil was the officer responsible for Iraqi successes in the modification of the Soviet Scud missile to the Al-Husayn missile, and the capability to produce the non-persistent nerve agents Tabun and Sarin. 

The Iraqi army is the only military force in the world that has ever used nerve agents on the battlefield – they used both against the Iranians in 1987 and 1988. Iraqi scientists, under Husayn Kamil’s leadership, developed ever more lethal nerve agents, including VX—a liquefied and persistent agent—the most potent in the U.S. and Soviet arsenals. Iraqi chemical engineers, trained in the best universities of Europe and the United States, had also developed a dusty form of mustard able to penetrate the charcoal-lined U.S. chemical protective suit. 

The defection… 

On August 8, 1995, Husayn Kamil defected to Jordan with his brother and their wives—both of whom are Saddam Husayn’s daughters. The Frontline story reported that the Iraqi provided important intelligence information on the Iraqi chemical and biological weapons programs.  Actually - assuming that he was telling western intelligence agencies everything he knew -  Iraq released tens of thousands of pages of data to the United Nations Special Commission containing more details of its advanced weapons programs of the late 1980s and early 1990s. The papers contained details of Project 144/2, the development of chemical and biological missile warheads. In addition to fifty chemical agent Scud warheads (some filled with VX, others with Sarin), the Iraqis admitted the existence of one hundred fifty-seven aerial bombs and twenty-five Scud/Al-Husayn missile warheads filled with the biological warfare agents anthrax, botulinum toxin, and aflatoxin. Stockpiles were declared to include eighty-five hundred liters of anthrax, nineteen thousand liters of botulinum toxin, and twenty-two hundred liters of aflatoxin. To put eighty-five hundred liters of anthrax into perspective, a fatal dose is one-millionth of a gram, and it kills in five to seven days nearly 100 percent of the time. Botulinum toxin can kill in as little as twenty-four to thirty-six hours by paralyzing the respiratory system. Aflatoxin is a liver carcinogen that can kill years after ingestion. Iraq’s stockpiles at the outset of Desert Storm were more than sufficient to wipe out the human race several times over. 

The return… 

In February 1996, Husayn Kamil announced that he had talked to Saddam on the phone and that he had decided to return to Baghdad. All was supposedly forgiven, however, Husayn Kamil and his brother had no illusions about their fate. The message from Saddam Husayn was not that all was to be forgiven - this was merely a public relations ploy. They were told that unless they returned, their entire extended families would be killed. Obviously, the two brothers believed that Saddam would do just that, and returned knowing full well what awaited them. The two couples returned from Amman, Jordan, on February 20,1996. The daughters were met at the border by their brother, Saddam’s eldest son ‘Uday. The daughters were put in one helicopter; the two brothers in another. Iraqi press reports claimed that within a few days, the Al-Majid family killed the two brothers to restore their honor. In truth, however, they were killed in a pitched gun battle with officers of the Iraqi Special Security Organization (SSO). After the Sunday morning firefight, the bodies of the two brothers were dragged through the streets of Baghdad as a warning to those who would defy Saddam. 

* Husayn is the official U.S. government standard transliteration of the Arabic spelling, rather that the more common Hussein. 

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