U.S. ruled out seizing Hussein


WASHINGTON -- CIA Director Robert M. Gates has provided a new, detailed account of one of the most historically significant and controversial actions of the Bush administration: the decision to leave Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in power at the end of the Persian Gulf war.

In an interview this week as he prepared to leave office, Mr. Gates, deputy national security adviser before and during the gulf war, acknowledged that administration officials talked extensively about the possibility of making the capture of Mr. Hussein a war aim.

In the end, he said, U.S. officials rejected the idea, largely because they feared the Iraqi leader would go into hiding, as Panamanian strongman Manuel Antonio Noriega did during the 1989 U.S. military intervention in Panama, and that U.S. troops occupying Iraq would be unable to find him.

"We were all a little shaped by that experience, and Iraq's a hell of a lot bigger country than Panama, and we knew a lot less about it than we did Panama," Mr. Gates said.

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