Saddam Hussein, in His Own Words

IMAGE: Saddams Notes
It's as though the words are from the diary of a captive dissident, wracked by despair, held in dungeon-like conditions.

It's as if the words were from the diary of a captive dissident, racked by despair, held in dungeon-like conditions.

"The last three days my total hours of sleep did not exceed four to five hours during all these days, because the place I am in, is similar in its condition to all detention places, it seems, that it was transformed into a place for torturing the detainees at night in general, and also during the day most of the time."

The sleep deprivation, the claims of torture. The sinking hope.

"I don't think that there is anyone with a sensitive and humanitarian heart, who can sleep amidst the screams of the torturers and the ones being tortured."

But the words were not put to paper by the expected prisoner of conscience. They're from the pen of Saddam Hussein, days after U.S. forces wrestled the fugitive dictator from a hole near his hometown of Tikrit in northern Iraq.

In the Dec. 26, 2003, letter, delivered to his military handlers and turned over to the FBI, Hussein is in true form. Arrogant and defiant, he still refers to himself as "the President of the Republic of Iraq" and claims that he has been subject to beatings "after which not a single part of my body was spared of the severe harm that was inflicted by the detention gang."

He would repeat the claim during his trial two years later -- a charge the George W. Bush White House called "preposterous."

In another letter written two days earlier, Hussein described his belongings at the time of his arrest. In addition to "a number of simple necessities, the most important are notebooks with chapters from a story and other written papers," he had carted away as much cash as he could carry -- more than $1 million packaged in an iron safe and a Samsonite case.

ABC News obtained the letters and several hundred other pages of FBI documents concerning Hussein as the result of a Freedom of Information Act request filed shortly after Hussein's December 2006 execution. Hussein wrote the letters in Arabic, and the FBI documents included the English translation.

Click here to read both letters.

Though past media reports contain pieces of the information, the ABC News request sought all files on Hussein held by the FBI. Among the documents are the letters, a progress report on efforts to interview Hussein, accounts of numerous interviews, apparently with regime officials in U.S. custody, notes, bulletins and other communications.

Hussein's 'All-Important Self-Image'

By the time the FBI team in Baghdad sent the progress report back to Washington in March 2004, it had interviewed Hussein 16 times. Though the stated goal was to "obtain intelligence," the report noted that the initially reticent Hussein might consider cooperating if he believed former regime officals also interviewed by the FBI were "blaming him for the commission of human rights violations, mass executions or the use of weapons of mass destruction.

"Consistent with his personality, he will probably attempt to minimize his involvement in such activities if for no other reason than to preserve his all-important self-image and to ensure a favorable place in history," the report stated.

Though much of the report is redacted, it notes that Hussein began to open up. He ended a hunger strike "for the benefit" of a federal agent, likely his handler, George Piro.

"As the rapport and dependency between Hussein and SSA Piro continue to grow, more complex topics are being introduced into the interviews," it said.

Those topics included "the use of chemical weapons against the Kurds in Halabja in 1988 as well as details concerning the Shia uprising in 1991."

Hussein's regime was implicated for atrocities during both of those incidents.

"In the past, Hussein would have refused to discuss these topics," the report said. "However, he has increasingly allowed himself to be drawn into discussions."

Though they had made some headway, Hussein apparently maintained his innocence.

According to the report, "The team will continue efforts to overwhelm Hussein with the volume of evidence against him and others regarding human rights violations, mass murders and the use of chemical weapons. When he senses that his strategy of denial is no longer working, Hussein may decide to blame others, including former regime leaders, for these past abuses."

Harsh Words for Hussein

It was more than two years later, in November 2006, that an Iraqi court found found Hussein and two co-defendants guilty of murder and crimes against humanity for another atrocity, the 1982 killings of 148 people in the town of Dujail. The next month, he was executed by hanging.

But more than two years before his death, the man who ruled Iraq for nearly two-and-a-half decades raised the ire of those who served his regime.

The measured words of the FBI progress report might have conveyed the U.S. analysis of the former dictator, but it's those former officials that seemed to have turned on their leader in interviews with the FBI.

The FBI provided numerous write-ups of meetings with subjects that appeared to have been members of Hussein's government and military. Their names and many details of their interviews were redacted, but their words for their former leader are out for all to see.

"Saddam would cry during speeches, but these were more like stage tears. Some said that he was like his mother in this manner," the write-up of a June 2004 interview stated. "When Saddam demonstrated kindness, it was rarely for the sake of the act itself. Usually it was not genuine, it was to showoff."

"Saddam has been very concerned about how he will be remembered," the account added. "He was always working on his legacy by doing wasteful things like building palaces ."

But it's a report from a May 2004 interview that offers perhaps the most stinging criticism. The document describes how the subject characterized Hussein's gradual move toward total control: "Such a wide grasp of power had not occurred since the ancient days of the Babylonian ruler, Hammurabi." The subject "compared Iraq to 'an airplane that was hijacked, and Saddam was the hijacker.'

Hussein was like Adolf Hitler, the subject said. "However, he claimed that if Hitler had been in Saddam's position, he would not have had problems with the U.S. He considered Hitler to be a smaller player than Saddam, explaining that Hitler was not known for being as ruthless a dictator. In [redacted] opinion, the human side of Saddam is dead."

'A Blood-Thirsty Loser'

And for a man painted as obsessed with his legacy, with leaving his mark in world history, there was a blunt assessment from the interviewee: "Saddam may be regarded by history as a blood-thirsty loser."

ABC News' Pierre Thomas and Jack Date contributed to this report.