| Opposition lawmakers in the Japanese Diet in Tokyo rush to the chairman to stop the passage of a bill allowing Japanese forces to be sent to Iraq. The Upper House rejected a no confidence motion against Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s cabinet, clearing the way for final debate on the bill. (AFP)
Baghdad, July 25 (Reuters): Striving to convince fearful Iraqis that Saddam Hussein’s sons are dead, US officials today showed Reuters and other journalists two bodies that Washington says it is certain are those of Uday and Qusay.
But unlike grisly, blood spattered photographs published by the US military earlier, the faces had been touched up and shaved to make them more closely resemble the brothers in life — a US official insisted the aim was not to deceive.
About 15 journalists saw two corpses laid out in a tented military morgue. They did look like the two brothers, whom US troops said they killed in a raid in Mosul on Tuesday.
The face of Uday, 39, had been repaired. The US pictures showed wounds that officers said were sustained in the siege of a villa in the northern city, where he and his younger brother went down fighting an overwhelming force firing rockets.
“The two bodies have undergone facial reconstruction with morticians putty to make them resemble as closely as possible the faces of the brothers when they were alive,” a US military official said. He called it standard practice, although such post-mortem work is frowned on by most Muslims. US officials have yet to decide how the bodies will be disposed of, another possible controversy in the light of strict Muslim traditions on burial.
Qusay’s uncharacteristic beard, visible in the original US photographs, had been shaved off but a moustache, which he normally wore, had been left. The gaping wound in Uday’s face, visible in the pictures, was gone but a hole in the top of his head was still visible to reporters.
US officials said they had ruled out earlier speculation that he might have shot himself in the head to avoid capture.
Despite the earlier photographs, published yesterday, many Iraqis, brought up on the official lies of the Saddam decades and mistrustful of their American occupiers, were unconvinced. Many say they cannot relax until they know Saddam himself, now in hiding with $25 million on his head, is dead.
Hence the decision to bus some 15 independent journalists including television cameramen and photographers to view the bodies in a small, air-conditioned beige tent at the airport — formerly Saddam International and now a US military base.
US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld said he ordered the release of the pictures — despite questions about its morality and accusations of hypocrisy — to help convince frightened Iraqis that Saddam’s reign was truly over, despite taped messages of defiance apparently issued by Saddam from hiding.
Americans hope that will prompt more of them to cooperate with US troops and undermine daily guerrilla attacks that they blame on die-hard Saddam loyalists. Attacks have killed 44 soldiers since Washington declared major combat over on May 1.
But Iraqi analysts warn that other groups with no loyalty to Saddam may be involved in some of the attacks, including Islamic militants and nationalists giving vent to widespread resentment at the American takeover of their oil-rich country.