THEWEEK

Iraq

Trophy time

JONATHON GATEHOUSE August 4 2003
THEWEEK

Iraq

Trophy time

JONATHON GATEHOUSE August 4 2003

Iraq

Trophy time

Brutal lives that ended in savage death. The images of their riddled corpses testify to the violent end of Uday and Qusay Hussein’s years of terror. The U.S. Army wasted little time trying to coax the sons and chief henchmen of the former Iraqi dictator from their hiding place in the villa of a family friend in the northern city of Mosul. When demands for surrender were met with bullets, American troops unleashed a three-hour barrage of machine guns, grenades, rockets and, finally, 10 anti-tank missiles that ripped away the roof and walls of the building. The shrapnel-peppered bodies of Saddam’s heirs and a guard were found barricaded in the remains of a bathroom. Soldiers storming the house shot and killed a teenager, believed to be a son of Qusay.

In Washington, Bush administration officials were at pains to contain their glee. After weeks of bad news from the front—escalating resistance, almost daily casualties, still no weapons of mass destruction—the elimination of their second and third most-wanted Iraqi fugitives offered hope of a breakthrough in what has turned into a grinding guerrilla war. “Now, more than ever, all Iraqis can

know that the former regime is gone and will not be coming back,” proclaimed the U.S. president. The macabre triumph, aided no doubt by a US$30-million dead-or-alive reward for the brothers, even came in the midst of feel-good homecoming celebrations for Jessica Lynch, America’s favourite blond exPOW. The optimism was short-lived, however. The next 48 hours brought she more American dead.

It’s hard to believe that any Iraqis will miss the younger Husseins. Uday, 39, gained infamy for his murderous rages, love of torture—as head of Iraq’s Olympic Committee he reportedly ran a special prison for athletes

who failed to meet expectations—and lust for young women. Even Saddam despaired of his erratic behaviour. In recent years, Qusay, 37, supplanted his brother as second-in-command. Less ostentatious, he was no less brutal, overseeing the secret police and Republican Guard, and leading purges against his father’s enemies.

Hoping to quell widespread doubts in the Arab world about the victims’ identities, Washington took the unusual step of putting their trophies on display, first releasing bloody morgue pictures of the brothers, then laying out the cleaned-up bodies for photographers in an army tent. No small irony, given the outrage Americans directed at Al-Jazeera and other Arab networks for their decision to show graphic footage of dead U.S. soldiers during the war.

If lessons are to be drawn, however, it might be in the muted reaction of a people now freed of two-thirds of a tyrannous triptych. TV networks carried distant images of tracer bullets lighting up the night sky over Baghdad. But with resistance to the U.S. occupation still widespread, reporters were unwilling to venture into the darkness to see if the shots were being fired in celebration

or anger.

JONATHON GATEHOUSE