BAGHDAD, Iraq - The wild gray beard was gone, and he sat on an Army cot, just awake from a nap, in socks and black slippers. He was not handcuffed. He did not recognize all his visitors yesterday afternoon, but they recognized him. That was the purpose of the visit: to help confirm that this was, in fact, Saddam Hussein.
What came next was, according to people in the room, an extraordinary 30 minutes, in which four new leaders of Iraq pointedly questioned the nation's deposed and now captured leader about his crimes. Hussein, they said, was defiant and unrepentant but very much defeated.
"The world is crazy," said Mouwafak al-Rabii, a member of the Iraqi Governing Council, who was there yesterday in the wake of Hussein's capture Saturday near his hometown of Tikrit. "I was in his torture chamber in 1979, and now he was sitting there powerless in front of me without anybody stopping me from doing anything to him. Just imagine. We were arguing, and he was using very foul language."
Ahmad Chalabi, a council member and head of the Iraqi National Congress, said: "He was quite lucid. He had command of his faculties. He would not apologize to the Iraqi people. He did not deny any of the crimes he was confronted with having done. He tried to justify them."
Four leaders were taken yesterday by helicopter to a military base, at a site they would not disclose. Two others, in addition to al-Rabii and Chalabi, were aboard: Adnan Pachachi, a council member who was the foreign minister before Hussein came to power; and Adel Abdel Mahdi, who represents the Shiite religious body, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq.
Two of Iraq's other new leaders were there: L. Paul Bremer III, the U.S. civilian administrator of Iraq; and Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, commander of ground forces in Iraq.
Asked about the use of chemical weapons against Kurds in Halabja, in northern Iraq, in 1988, in which an estimated 5,000 people were killed, Hussein said, according to visitors, that it was the work of Iran, then at war with Iraq.
Asked about the mass graves of tens of thousands of Iraqis uncovered since Hussein was toppled in the U.S.-led offensive last spring, al-Rabii said that Hussein answered: "Ask their relatives. They were thieves, and they ran away from the battlefields with Iran and from the battlefields of Kuwait."
"He was not remorseful at all," Chalabi said. "It was clear he was a complete narcissist who was incapable of showing remorse or sympathy to other human beings."
Chalabi said Hussein suggested that he was behind the recent wave of attacks on U.S. soldiers in Iraq since his defeat.
"He said, 'I gave a speech and I said the Americans can come to Iraq but they can't occupy it and rule it,'" Chalabi said. "He said, 'I said I would fight them with pistols and I have.'"
Al-Rabii said: "One thing which is very important is that this man had with him underground when they arrested him two AK-47s and did not shoot one bullet. I told him, 'You keep on saying that you are a brave man and a proud Arab.' I said, 'When they arrested you, why didn't you shoot one bullet? You are a coward.'"