One of the first things I wanted to know was what it was like to stand before Saddam Hussein and actually hear him say “Georges, I’ve decided that the air force will attack Israel and wipe her out with chemical weapons.”
“I was thinking of it in two ways,” he told me, “One, as a Christian, as a believer. Second, as a national officer that belonged to the Iraqi forces….As a Christian, I could not accept [this order] to send two waves of fighters to attack Israel, one wave through Jordan and one through Syria. I knew the capabilities of the Israeli air force and their air defenses and their plans to destroy all aircraft coming from the east before entering the Israeli borders. So this means the bombs were [mostly] going to drop on Jordan and Syria….But with ninety-eight aircraft, some of them would still penetrate to Israel. Just imagine as a Christian [the deaths that would result] as all three countries were going to be hit by chemicals.”
Sada could not bear the thought of having to stand before Jesus Christ on the Day of Judgment with such a sin on his conscience. Nor could he bear to see the destruction that would be unleashed upon his own people is Saddam’s plan was successful.
What’s more, “as a tactical general and a strategist, I also knew the Israelis would have the right to retaliate with nuclear weapons and they would destroy our big cities like Baghdad, Mosul, Basra, and the others. So what was the benefit of doing this?
“What gave you the courage to try to dissuade Saddam?” I asked.
“Believe me, only Jesus. Only. I know how brave I am. I am not a coward. But to be that brave—to put your life in from of Saddam—he could shoot you at any second—there were some people who said, ‘Georges is finished. Today his head is gone’….but you see, it was Jesus who gave me the courage.”
Twelve years later, it was Saddam Hussein, not Sada, who was finished.
American and coalition forces liberated Baghdad on April 9, 2003. Iraqis cheered in the streets in those heady first days. They sang and danced and wept as they tore down the forty-foot statue of Saddam in Fardus Square.
Sada described for me the scene as he returned to Baghdad on May 8, 2003, and entered Saddam’s main palace a few days later. The multi-million-dollar gold-and marble compound no longer had any doors or windows. Everything was covered with dust. These hallways had been ground zero of the republic of fear only wees before. But now here he was, a free man, walking around in a free country.
Slowly, cautiously, Sada entered Saddam’s throne room. It took a few moments to grasp the enormity of what he was seeing, or rather, not seeing. Saddam was not there. Saddam’s sons were not there. Saddam’s henchmen were not there. They ruled no longer. They could issue their evil, murderous decrees no longer. Iraq was free. Yes, troubles and trials lay ahead. Yes, life would be very hard for some time to come. But the Butcher of Baghdad was gone. And Sada told me that when that truth sunk in, he began to weep.
Before long, at Sada’s urging, Saddam’s throne room was being used for evangelical church services. In the very room where just a few months earlier Saddam had ordered Iraqis to their deaths, Christians were now gathering to worship the name of Jesus. What could be more fitting, Sada thought, than to turn Saddam’s house of evil into a house of God?
“Did you ever imagine when you were in a meeting with Saddam Hussein that one day you would actually be worshiping Jesus in that very room?” I asked him.
“No, no,” he said, laughing like a man from whom a great burden has been lifted. “I would never have dreamt that.”
And yet it happened.
Religious freedom has come to Iraq for the first time in centuries. New Churches are opening. Bibles are being printed. Muslims are converting to Christianity in record numbers. And nominal Christians are experiencing a spiritual revival, becoming excited about their faith in a way that Sada and other evangelical leaders I have spoken with have never seen before.
This is just one of several fascinating stories that Rosenberg recounts in his current book.