So they are dead. Or are they? Even Baghdad exploded in celebratory, deafening automatic rifle fire at the news.
The burned, bullet-splashed villa in Mosul, the four bullet-ridden corpses, America’s hopes–however vain–that the death of Saddam Hussein’s two sons, Uday and Qusay, will break the guerrilla resistance to Iraq’s US occupation troops, all conspired to produce an illusion last night: that the unidentified bodies found after a four-hour gun battle between Iraqi gunmen and US forces must be those of the former dictator’s sons–because the world wants them to be.
Of course, they might be dead. The two men are said to bear an impressive resemblance to the brothers. A 14-year-old child killed by the Americans–one of the four dead–might be one of Saddam’s grandsons. The house was owned by Mohamed el-Zidani, a tribal ally of the Husseins.
Qusay was a leader of the Special Republican Guard, a special target of the Americans. The two men obviously fought fiercely against the 200 American troops who surrounded the house. The Americans used their so-called Task Force 20 to storm the pseudo-Palladian villa on a main highway through Mosul.
Task Force 20 combines both special forces and CIA agents. But this is the same Task Force 20 that blasted to death the occupants of a convoy heading for the Syrian border earlier this month, a convoy whose travellers were meant to include Saddam himself and even the two sons supposedly killed yesterday. The victims turned out to be only smugglers.
And American intelligence–the organisation that failed to predict events of 11 September, 2001–was also responsible for the air raid on a Saddam villa on 20 March, which was supposed to kill Saddam. And the far crueller air raid on the Mansour district of Baghdad at the end of the air bombardment in April which was supposed to kill Saddam and his sons but only succeeded in slaughtering 16 innocent civilians. All proved to be miserable failures.
And in a family obsessed, with good reason, with their own personal security, would Uday and Qusay really be together? Would they allow themselves to be trapped. The two so-called “lions of Iraq” (this courtesy of Saddam) in the very same cage?
Saddam’s early life was spent on the run. But he always travelled alone. In adversity, the family had learned to stay apart, just as they had during the 1991 Gulf War and during last March’s invasion of Iraq. Even in power, Saddam and his sons were in hiding. Even if DNA testing proves that the corpses are those of Saddam’s sons, will Iraqis believe it? And will it bring the guerrilla war to an end?
Firstly, even if Uday and Qusay are dead, Saddam is clearly still alive.
Though Uday was both a cruel man and a psychopath, they were appendages to the king, mere assistants in the monster’s cave. Saddam lives. And his voice is still heard on tape throughout Iraq. It is his fate of which Iraqis are waiting to hear.
Secondly, and far more importantly, there is a fundamental misunderstanding between the American occupation authorities in Iraq and the people whose country they are occupying. The United States believes that the entire resistance to America’s proconsulship of Iraq is composed of “remnants” of Saddam’s followers, “dead-enders”, “bitter-enders”–they have other phrases to describe them. Their theory is that once the Hussein family is decapitated, the resistance will end.
But the guerrillas who are killing US troops every day are also being attacked by a growing Islamist Sunni movement which never had any love for Saddam. Much more importantly, many Iraqis were reluctant to support the resistance for fear that an end to American occupation would mean the return of the ghastly old dictator.
If he and his sons are dead, the chances are that the opposition to the American-led occupation will grow rather than diminish–on the grounds that with Saddam gone, Iraqis will have nothing to lose by fighting the Americans.
ROBERT FISK is a reporter for The Independent and author of Pity the Nation. He is also a contributor to Cockburn and St. Clair’s forthcoming book, The Politics of Anti-Semitism.