In his famous short story "The Things They Carried," writer Tim O'Brien shows that you can learn a great deal about men by what they take into battle. In the case of the platoon he described slogging through the rice fields in 'Nam, those items included love letters from home, grenades and land mines, lucky charms, insecticide, copies of Stars and Stripes, fingernail clippers, bags of marijuana, bandages, psyop leaflets and tanning lotion. "Often," O'Brien writes, "they carried each other, the wounded and the weak."
And what did Uday Hussein carry to the fight? After a hot and noisy siege last week, American soldiers found, in the rubble near his body, his briefcase. The contents, NEWSWEEK has learned, included painkillers, numerous bottles of cologne, Viagra, unopened packages of men's underwear, dress shirts, a silk tie and a single condom. Uday and his brother, Qusay, also had with them a huge stash of cash, as well as, for some reason, two ladies' purses.
Sounds like they were headed out for a kinky last night of disco, not a fight-to-the-death last stand. Still, American officials were deeply gratified to have bagged Saddam's two sons, identified by the U.S. military as "high value targets" (HVTs) Nos. 2 and 3. (Their father is HVT 1.) The hope is that the Iraqis will finally realize that the old regime is dead and gone, that Saddam and his spawn are never coming back, that resistance to the new order is futile.
Will the deaths of Saddam's sons cool off a guerrilla war that is killing American soldiers almost every day? A Kurdish intelligence official told NEWSWEEK that "Uday and Qusay exercised real command and control" over the guerrillas, and one former official in the Iraqi Information Ministry estimated that as many as 35,000 of Saddam's still-loyal troops had formed themselves into bands with names like The Black Brigades and The Revenge Army.
U.S. intelligence officials can't quite decide if the guerrillas in Iraq are centrally organized or just a bunch of ragtag "dead-enders" taking potshots. But in either case, the holdouts are supposed to be demoralized--and everyone else in Iraq vastly relieved--by the sight of the corpses of two men who were lurid symbols of cruelty and torture.
The news of their demise was at first greeted in the streets with shots of joy. Red AK-47 tracers streaked through the skies over Baghdad. But, as inveterate conspirators, many Iraqis wondered: were they really dead? Saddam and Qusay were known to use body doubles, some Iraqis whispered. And the Americans certainly could not be trusted. The first photos released by U.S. forces showed some bloody, bearded men who might have been almost anyone fished out of the morgue. So the next day, American officials summoned newsmen to videotape Uday and Qusay as they lay, groomed and shaved, stitched up and waxed, but still riddled with bullet holes, on a pair of gurneys at the Army-Air Force Morgue at Baghdad International Airport.
Some Iraqis were still not convinced and probably never will be. And many were offended that the Americans had flouted Islamic custom, which requires that the dead be quickly shrouded and interred. The bodies will be kept in cold storage until a family member comes to claim them. "If any of their family members want to come forward, we'd be delighted to speak to them," joked Charles Heatley, the spokesman for the Coalition Provisional Authority, the American-run outfit that rules Iraq.
So ended the reign of terror of two memorable monsters. Uday was the more gro-tesque. He supposedly had a penchant for raping the girlfriends of other prominent Iraqis and then branding them with the letter "U." Iraqi soccer players remember Uday as the world's only Olympic Committee chairman with a torture chamber in his headquarters. Players who failed to measure up could be dragged through a gravel pit then dipped in a sewer, so their cuts would fester. Saddam favored his younger son, Qusay, who was less flamboyant and more purposeful in his --sadism, though no less wicked. He would watch as political prisoners got fed, feet first, into the wood chipper; when he grew bored, the prisoners were fed in head first. Qusay was chief of Saddam's security forces. Uday ran the ragtag Fedayeen. Both men were feared by everyone in Iraq.
Yet in their final days, as reconstructed by NEWSWEEK, Qusay and Uday were mostly pathetic. Possibly, they were organizing and funding a guerrilla war. Or maybe they were preoccupied with running and hiding. In the end, it is interesting to note that these men, once surrounded by loyal squads, were protected by a single bodyguard.
Uday had always intimidated and bullied his lackeys. But during the war, he began to flail as his power was mocked by the American onslaught. Ahmed (a pseudonym), who managed security for Uday's Olympic Committee, told of being summoned by Uday shortly after the Americans invaded in March. Uday was in a panic. He explained to his staff, some of whom he had just fired, that he "wanted a lot of security" and asked them to stay by him for the duration of the war. "You're not fired anymore," he explained. "We need you now," he pleaded. Most of his men, disgusted, refused and wandered off.
Uday did try his hand at generalship, sort of. He dispatched a trusted guard, Adib Shabaan, who doubled as a press secretary and pimp, to Jordan to procure SUVs for the Fedayeen. When Shabaan failed to return promptly, Uday dispatched more guards to find him and threatened to kill their families if they failed to reappear with Shabaan. In the meantime, he imprisoned Shabaan's family. Shabaan did eventually come back from Jordan (with or without the SUVs; it's not clear) and was also thrown behind bars.
Uday was said to have killed 17 of his bodyguards so they would not betray him; to have remodeled a garbage truck and filled it with jewels for a getaway; to have instructed that his vast fleet of luxury cars be burned at a Muslim cemetery. On April 9, as Baghdad was falling to the Americans, Uday summoned his mother. He wanted to see her one last time. Then he disappeared.
For more than three months, his whereabouts, and those of his brother and father, were the objects of an intense manhunt by the U.S. military, and in particular a secretive group known as Task Force 20. At the heart of Task Force 20 is the blandly named Combat Applications Group, otherwise known as Operational Detachment Delta, and the Navy's Special Warfare Development Group, more popularly known as SEAL Team Six.
For months, they chased tantalizing but false leads, then on the morning of July 22, around 10 o'clock, about a score of Task Force 20 soldiers showed up outside the door of the gaudy mansion in Mosul, up near the northern border of Iraq. They knocked on the door, and the owner, Nawaf al-Zaidan, 46, opened up.
If the owner showed surprise, it was an act. An inveterate opportunist, Nawaf was about to make his biggest score. Nawaf was known to be in the import-export business. During the reign of Saddam, according to his --neighbors, Nawaf obtained contracts from the ruling family to trade oil and agricultural products under the U.N. Oil-for-Food Program, allegedly kicking back cash to his patrons in the government. Nawaf was proud of his connections. He posed his family for portraits with Saddam and his clan and had them hang about his house, according to a neighbor, Mukhlis Dhahir al-Jibouri.
As a U.S. invasion loomed, however, Nawaf's loyalty began to waver. At first, he denounced Saddam and his sons as butchers and tyrants. Then he swung back into line, declaring that Saddam would triumph over the Americans. When the regime fell, down came the pictures, and Nawaf quickly found the flag of the opposition Kurdish Peshmerga Party and hung it from his house. Nawaf began wearing Kurdish dress, at least until the looting died down and the Kurds pulled back from Mosul in May.
Life seemed to return to normal. But one day, about a month ago, as he smoked cigarettes and drank Pepsi in his garden, he asked his friend Mukhlis what he would do if Saddam or his family went to his house. Mukhlis replied, "I would do the customary thing. I would accept them for one, or two, or three days, then tell them, 'I can't help you anymore'." According to Mukhlis, Nawaf declared, "I disagree. If any of the officials come, I will protect him with my life."
After this conversation, neighbors began noticing some unusual visitors around Nawaf's house, and that Nawaf, who had previously complained of money problems, was driving a brand-new 5-series BMW. Then, around the first of July, Nawaf stopped entertaining guests in his garden. He seemed a little nervous and distracted. He told his neighbors that he and his wife had female relatives visiting, which meant that male visitors were not allowed. His friend Mukhlis observed him carrying around a box of expensive cigars. Funny, Mukhlis thought; Nawaf doesn't smoke cigars, only cigarettes.
At 6:30 on the morning of July 22, Nawaf took his family to a restaurant. At about 7:30, he returned home with only his son. At 10, the American Special Forces team rang the bell on his gate. Nawaf and his son were quickly hustled away. A soldier called out on a bullhorn for Qusay and Uday to surrender. Then the shooting started.
As they mounted the stairs, the commandos were greeted with a hail of AK-47 fire. With three soldiers wounded indoors and one down outside, the Americans retreated. At this point, the control of the operation passed to Col. Joe Anderson of the 101st Airborne's Second Combat Brigade Team, otherwise known as Strike Brigade. Anderson decided to "prep" the building. From three sides, a couple of hundred U.S. soldiers poured .50-caliber machine-gun fire and grenades into the house. Kiowa helicopter gunships circled overhead, firing missiles.
Around noon, the American soldiers tried to enter the house again. More AK-47 rounds splattered about them as they beat a retreat. Anderson decided more prepping was in order, and a fusillade of bullets and rockets tore into Nawaf's now smoking and battered house. Finally, at 1:20 p.m., U.S. troops slipped into the building. Qusay and Uday Hussein and a bodyguard were found dead, riddled with bullets and shrapnel, in the bathroom. The last holdout, Qusay's teenage son Mustafa, lay under a bed, where he had been shooting with his AK-47. Initial stories of elaborate defenses, like bulletproof windows, were bogus. Uday and Qusay had stuffed some mattresses and bed frames against the walls and doors. Likewise, rumors that Uday had killed himself were unfounded, according to military doctors.
After the battle, Nawaf's shaken neighbor, Mukhlis al-Jibouri, emerged from his house to survey the carnage. He was surprised to find Nawaf sitting nonchalantly in an American Humvee with his son, Shalan. "Why is your house being bombed?" Mukhlis asked. "Uday and Qusay have been in my house for 23 days!" Nawaf responded. "They surprised me. They came and knocked on my door." Nawaf was later observed lounging about the lobby of Mosul's best hotel, requisitioned by the Americans.
It did not take long for the neighbors to finger Nawaf for selling out Uday and Qusay, a hunch confirmed by U.S. military and intelligence sources. Nawaf will probably receive the entire $30 million reward ($15 million for each son). The raid actually more than paid for itself: Qusay and Uday had with them roughly $100 million in Iraqi dinars and U.S. dollars.
Some critics, like a British commando leader interviewed by NEWSWEEK, wondered why the Americans didn't wait to smoke out Uday and Qusay, so they could be taken alive, interrogated and put on trial for their crimes. American commanders doubted that the two sons could have been taken alive, or that they would have given up much intelligence about their father. A trial would have quickly turned into a circus and stirred up more resistance, suggested American officials. The pace of guerrilla attacks picked up slightly after Qusay and Uday were killed last week. But American authorities reported that more informants were coming forward, and that a half dozen of Saddam's bodyguards, along with 45,000 sticks of dynamite, were captured in a raid on Friday. Surely, the Americans figured, someone will want to claim the $25 million bounty on Saddam's head.
The big prize remained at large, though Americans forces are said to be in hot pursuit and believe that Saddam is somewhere in the Mosul area. He was last spotted in Baghdad on April 8, just as American troops were rolling in. A videotape shows him standing on the hood of a car (Qusay can be seen nearby), rallying supporters near the Al Adham Mosque as battle smoke rises over the city.
U.S. troops were shelling the mosque on April 9 when a passerby, later interviewed by NEWSWEEK, saw Saddam and a few of his entourage make a hurried getaway in two cars, a black and a white Mercedes. Sheik Nassir Abdul Razak Muhammad Saleh saw the cars pull off the street into an alleyway and Saddam step out. "I could see him changing out of his uniform into civilian clothes," said Sheik Nassir. The men scrambled back into the cars and drove north on 20th Street, which heads out of Baghdad and becomes a highway, dividing into two roads--one to Tikrit, Saddam's hometown, one to Mosul, the site of his sons' last stand.
As the cars swept away, the rear window of the white one rolled down and Saddam threw his boots into the street. Sheik Nassir, whose brother was one of countless thousands ordered executed by Saddam, picked them up as a souvenir of a brutal age gone, he hopes, forever.