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Journalists Allowed to Photograph Uday, Qusay's Bodies

Aired July 25, 2003 - 19:01   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: First, U.S. forces may be getting closer to Saddam Hussein.
Thirteen people are in custody after a raid near Tikrit and at least five of them are believed to be members of the ousted Iraqi leader's personal security detachment.

Now U.S. commanders leading the hunt for Hussein say they are tightening the noose. The assessment came as reporters were allowed to view two bodies identified as the remains of Hussein's sons Uday and Qusay.

Senior international correspondent Nic Robertson is stand by live in Baghdad with the latest.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, the reason the coalition provisional authority let the journalists go to the airport, videotape the bodies of Uday and Qusay was because they still want to try and convince Iraqis who remain skeptical about whether or not the two brothers are dead, convince they really are dead and gone.

And when the pictures began to air many people here found them quite shocking.


ROBERTSON (voice-over): As the first gruesome images appear on TV, waiters in this burger bar watch in silence.

Shock, and surprise, as they see the latest pictures of Uday and Qusay. Grizzly images the U.S.-led coalition decided were needed to convince skeptical Iraqis the brothers are dead.

"Yesterday, the pictures were not clear," he says. "But today we could make sure they are Uday and Qusay."

"We are not used to the long beard," this man says, "but when it was returned to normal, we are sure."

At another Baghdad cafe, TV watchers equally attentive to the mortician's retouching that filled bullet holes and shaved beards. Some still doubting.

"American technology can do everything," he says. "We saw a clear picture but they changed it. I am not persuaded." Suspicions some blame on year's of Saddam Hussein's deceit.

SAMIR SUMAIDY, IRAQI GOVERNING COUNCIL: In this case, well, the fear is so deep and ingrained, it was, I think, very, very useful to show the photographs. In fact, I would say it was necessary.

ROBERTSON: At a mosque in a neighborhood once staunchly loyal to Saddam Hussein, religious leaders accept the preparation of the bodies for identification. Their only request:

SHEIKH MU'AYAD AL-A'DAMY, IMMAM, A'DAMIA MOSQUE (through translator): In a case like this where many people ask for the bodies to hack them, I would prefer that the Americans bury them in the place away from the eyes of people, despite the crimes they committed.


ROBERTSON: Now U.S. officials say for now, at least, they're going to hold onto the bodies until a relative comes forward to claim them. While nobody's expecting their father to do just that, nobody yet is ruling out a family funeral -- Anderson.

COOPER: Nic, we hear U.S. forces saying that they are tightening the noose on Saddam Hussein. It seems there's a certain amount of optimism. Is that an accurate portrayal?

ROBERTSON: That does seem to be the case. What we're hearing from sources that we had up and around the capture of Uday and Qusay in Mosul was that there was a possibility that Saddam Hussein was in and around Mosul around about that time.

We also got the same indication from local residents.

We get the impression looking at the overview, while the coalition made more arrests those following nights in Mosul, made arrests in Tikrit of Saddam Hussein's bodyguards, it appears that they're trying to use the momentum, the information that they perhaps gained, the initiative, while Saddam Hussein may be running for new cover, so to speak, to try and close down some of the places he's going.

So it does appear to be a new push and pressure being applied at this moment -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Nic Robertson, live in Baghdad, thanks very much.

And the raid that led to the deaths of Uday and Qusay Hussein was based on a tip from an informant. You all know that by now. And it looks like the informant is going to profit handsomely.

The United States had been offering up to $30 million for help finding the brothers. And a U.S. official says he believed the full reward will be paid out. Now, the name of the informant, understandably, has not been disclosed. But the brothers were hiding in a private home and some Iraqis think the tip was provided by the homeowner.

For more on the latest developments in Iraq -- excuse me -- let's check with CNN analyst and Brookings Institute Saban Center member Kenneth Pollack. He's in our Washington borough.

Kenneth, good to see you again. Also want to warn our viewers before we start again that we may be showing these pictures of Uday and Qusay, the latest pictures that came out today. So they are very graphic and just want to warn viewers ahead of time those might be coming up in our discussion.

First of all, let's talk about the bodies. How important do you think it is for these images to get out, for everyone in Iraq to see these images?

KENNETH POLLACK, CNN ANALYST: Well, it seems, Anderson, and I think here we have to rely on what the Iraqis themselves are saying, it seems that they were important.

What you're hearing from Nic Robertson, from the other reports that CNN has been providing all throughout the day, the Iraqis really felt that they needed something more than just the photographs that were shown yesterday. They needed a better sense that these really were Uday and Qusay. You couldn't tell very well from the photographs yesterday who they were. Many of Uday's face had been badly disfigured. And so there seemed to be a sense that you needed this to really give them the closure that these were Uday and Qusay.

Although of course, as we saw in Nic Robertson's reports, there are still Iraqis who just don't believe it. They believe that the United States is fabricating the evidence and those people will probably never believe that these are Uday and Qusay.

COOPER: Yes, there's no way you're going to be able to convince everyone.

Let's move on and talk about Saddam Hussein. That's the most significant thing happening right now, the hunt for him. I mean, they've caught the majority of the 55 people on the most wanted list. Who is left to be with Saddam Hussein?

POLLACK: Well, obviously, Anderson, there are still always underlings out there. Saddam's regime consists of thousands and thousands of people. You can stretch it out to millions if you include members of the armed forces, security services et cetera.

There aren't too many of his top officials left, that's certainly the case. But there are still some. People like Ibrahim Aldouri, an old Ba'ath Party functionary who has been with Saddam for 30, 35 years. Taha Yassin Ramadan, the former vice president. A number of other people are still out there.

COOPER: Let me jump in here, because, I mean, you talk about these underlings. How good is our intelligence about the identity of some of these underlings, some of these just, you know, the average bodyguard who is around Saddam Hussein? And I ask this because I assume if coalition forces know, you know, knew who the underlings were around him, they could find the families of those people and that would be a route they would go to, to try to find Saddam?

POLLACK: Entirely possible. I'll be honest with you. Before the war we did not have a great idea of who all of the different underlings were. We had some names of bodyguards but certainly not all of them.

Since then, as you've pointed out, we've gotten a lot of Saddam's top officials. And the understanding that I have is that some of those people have been cooperating very heavily with U.S. forces.

So they have probably given us many more names than the U.S. had going into the war. And it is possible that U.S. forces have gone and tried to reach their families. But by the same token in Iraqi society you don't want to go start going that route in almost every case. In some cases that may cause more trouble than it actually solves.

COOPER: All right. Interesting. Kenneth Pollack, thanks for joining us. Appreciate it.

POLLACK: Any time.

COOPER: Now that Uday is dead we're learning more about his activities in the days following the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Now, earlier in the day I spoke to "Newsday" correspondent Matthew McAllester. And he recently interviewed one of Uday Hussein's former bodyguards, who told him that even after Baghdad fell, Uday kept moving freely in the Iraqi capital.

The bodyguard told McAllester of one incident when Uday just drove by U.S. troops.


MATTHEW MCALLESTER, "NEWSDAY" CORRESPONDENT: He chronicled this incident when Uday and he and whoever else was in the nondescript civilian-looking vehicle drove past a column of American vehicles on the other side of the road in the Mansour district of Baghdad. And Uday made unpleasant comments about one particular American soldier was a very red face.

So they were within yards of these two men, but it took three months to capture. And within yards of Saddam sometimes, as well.

COOPER: It was some fascinating details. Also, this man describes about Uday actually watching the statute topple on television and how that -- how he reacted to it.

MCALLESTER: Uday, as we know, was a rather drunken playboy, you know, to put it mildly. Very violent at times. And he said the -- the bodyguard said that he slept during the day and they would go out at night. During the war, as the war began, Uday as founder of Saddam's Fedayeen took on a newfound responsibility and a sense of duty. And Saddam's Fedayeen was the Iraqi force that caused the most problems for the invading American forces.

And so at one stage he received a letter from his father, congratulating him on the performance of the Fedayeen, and according to the bodyguard this made Uday's day. It was sort of a paternal approval we all seek and Uday was no different.

That enthusiasm and optimism waned. And then, of course, came the day when Uday was sitting in a private house, watching television like everyone else, and watched his father's statute being toppled.

COOPER: The bodyguard you spoke to had some information about that tape that we have all seen of Saddam appearing in the neighborhood. He says it's real.

MCALLESTER: He does say it's real. He says that Saddam nearly always had a TV crew or a cameraman with him and not only was that tape real, but the rather dubious looking meetings that were broadcast on Iraqi state TV during the war were also real.

COOPER: Personally for you, what was the thing that jumped out or that really stayed with you from the interview? What was the thing that surprised you most?

MCALLESTER: I was surprised most at this appearance that Saddam, Qusay and Uday made in public at a mosque in the Admiri (ph) neighborhood of Baghdad two days after the fall of Baghdad.

They showed up and an extraordinary scene according to the bodyguard happened. An old woman in a black abuya (ph) went up to Saddam. There was a crowd gathering around him and said, "What have you done to us?"

And Saddam apparently slapped his forehead, as if it hadn't occurred to him this could be happening and he said, you know, "What can I say? You know, I've been betrayed by my commanders. I hope that, you know, we will fix everything and we will be back in power."

And apparently people around were crying.

You know, it's an astonishing thing to be that open and be so close to the American soldiers that time.

COOPER: Did you believe, basically, all of this man's story?

MCALLESTER: I did. I mean, I came to him through very credible contacts. He didn't know that we were going to show up on his doorstep, for a start. He had nothing to gain from it. He -- I also have other background sources to corroborate much of -- but not everything he said. I do agree.

But I just want to correct one impression. He wasn't claiming that Uday and Saddam and Qusay were responsible for controlling all of the resistance. In fact, there was quite a Muslim family. There was a large Quran open in the living room, and their father wouldn't shake hands with the woman who was present, and they attributed much of the resistance to Islamic resistance to the American infidel invaders.

COOPER: Matthew McAllester, it's a fascinating interview, a great article in "Newsday." Appreciate you joining us. Thanks very much.

MCALLESTER: Thank you.



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