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Political analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation

Thursday | July 24, 2003

Hussein Bros. firefight backfiring

By Steve Gilliard

I cannot believe this.

After 200 airborne troopers slug it out with the desperado rapists and killer Hussein bros, the US Army refuses to release the pictures.


I don't think this whole thing is much more than a footnote, but the fumbling surrounding this is amazing.

First, the criticism, some unfair, is flying in about the scale of the battle. One might think six hours is overkill, but they weren't my men and I'm not about to cast aspersions on the command decisions made there from my desk.

Against such lightly armed resistance, couldn’t a siege or even a teargas attack have done the job more efficiently, and perhaps captured the HVTs alive? Sanchez repeated his mantra that the local commander made the right decision and he wasn’t going to second-guess it. But a total of 200 heavily armed U.S. troops, backed by missiles, armored personnel carriers and helicopters? An officer at the scene made the improbable claim to a NEWSWEEK reporter that tear gas might have hurt neighbors. As it was, there were no reported civilian casualties with the much heavier weaponry; the house, which belonged to a prominent local sheik, was set well away from others. “Bollocks,” said one former Special Forces soldier. “A SWAT team could have taken them. It didn’t need a company.”

Second, playing games with the photos sends yet another a message of incompetence loud and clear to Iraqis.

Gen, Sanchez showed the pictures to western reporters after his briefing.

The photos, printed on standard sized letter paper, showed the battered, bloodied heads and upper torsos of Uday and Qusay Hussein. Uday, 39, had a five-inch purple gash running up from his mouth along the side of his nose.

The two men had slightly wild appearances because both had grown bushy beards and Uday had recently shaved his head, which was covered with short fuzz when he died. Qusay, 37, normally carefully groomed, had let his hair grow. Blood clogged the nostrils and eyes of both men, who were recognizable as they lay on a floor, eyes closed

Saddam once had people executed on TV. If you opposed his regime, and wound up dead, there was no mystery about it if he wanted you to know. When Che was killed, they blasted his picture around the world. Didn't do much to stop his transformation into an icon, but they knew he was dead and showed the proof of it. Same with Pablo Escobar. Big shiny picture of dead man with bullet holes in both cases.

The US Army seems to be doing everything possible to enhance the myth of the dead Hussein brothers. They use a great deal of fire power to kill them, then instead of marching a camera crew in the building and splashing the pictures all over TV, play cute with it. They wanted the evidence of their deaths, they collected it, but when it comes time to prove it to the Iraqi people, they falter.

Both brothers had doubles. There is little trust in the CPA or the US military. If this is an important thing, if killing them was a major priority, proving they were dead, is even more so. It's just another amazing half-measure in the administration of Iraq that they haven't done so.


Update: According to the BBC, the US Army has released the photo of the dead Husseins. The report note that Iraqis are used to seeing the body of dead leaders after a coup. They also note that CD's of the dead brothers are now being sold in Baghdad,

Posted July 24, 2003 01:03 AM


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