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Graphic Images Show Saddam's Sons' Bodies

Aired July 25, 2003 - 09:31   ET


LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: We will continue to go through the images that come to us here and bring you what we believe is appropriate to tell the story as best we can. A reminder, the Pentagon has said from the outset, they want to convince the doubters, the doubters in Iraq, about the fate of Saddam's two sons.
More now from the Pentagon and Barbara Starr.

That apparently, Barbara, is Qusay, the other from a different angle.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Apparently so. You can see an awful lot of work has been done on these faces, Bill, because what we can tell you is, in the case of Uday, now the -- the original photographs from yesterday, right -- taken right after they were killed, which showed his face very badly distorted, very badly injured, Uday's face.

There is another photograph we do not expect the government release. There is a photograph of Uday that addresses the question of why some people speculate he might have committed suicide, very graphic, very specific. We can describe it, but we're not being given this photograph. There is a photograph of Uday. You see a different one here, but the one we want to tell you about, there is a bullet injury, bullet wound at the top, back of his head. And to be very clear, we are told that it shows flesh extruding, coming out of the back of his head. Some people in the military looked at that photograph, the flesh coming out of a wound at the top of his head, matched it up against that facial wound you see, the bloody wound at the front on his mouth, and came to the conclusion, in pure speculation, that he had died a self-inflicted bullet wound. The mouth potentially being the entry; the top back ever the head being the exit wound.

Now that apparently has been ruled out by military forensic pathologists, but it does demonstrate the very violent end that these men met. It also demonstrates the extent of the reconstructive work that military morticians apparently had to undergo for these pictures to be taken today that we are seeing, a great deal of reconstructive work, because even the pictures that we saw yesterday showed extensive shrapnel-type wound, extensive other types of injuries to their face.

And it may be worth noting, also, we are only seeing their faces. We really have no direct knowledge. We are not being told the condition of the rest of the bodies. So a lot of reconstruction work clearly being done on them now -- Bill. HEMMER: Barbara, I want to make it clear our viewers, the videotape feeding in on a different signal here on CNN is quite graphic. And as a CNN policy, what we're doing right now is selecting certain photos that are, for lack of a better phrase, less revealing than some of the others. So we will be selective as a network as we show these pictures to you.

A bit more information here, Barbara, and I want to you jump in on this to fill us in with more. But apparently tissue samples have been taken from both bodies, bone and muscle, sent to a military lab in the Washington area for DNA testing.

Meanwhile, as the mortician process continues there, both bodies have been under refrigeration at the airport waiting for a family member to come forward.

Oftentimes, well, within the Muslim faith, the custom is to be buried before nightfall, the day of death. That has not been the case here.

But in the end, Barbara, a complete report said to come out sometime within about four to six weeks on what exactly happened and what the investigators have found as they've gone through the bodies here at the airport in Baghdad.

More in a moment from Barbara.

Soledad again.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Let's go right now to Baghdad where CNN's Harris Whitbeck is standing by, talking to some of the folks there.

Harris, let's start by asking about reaction there. Do they think that indeed this is the brothers? Are they convinced?

HARRIS WHITBECK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Soledad, our colleague Rym Brahimi is actually out on the streets of Baghdad. She's at a cafe, where people have been watching the feed of these images on the Al Jazeera television network. They say that this does convince them that Saddam Hussein's two elder sons were in fact killed during that shootout.

So this -- initially, at least in this one area of Baghdad that seems to have been what the U.S. was hoping to convince the Iraqi people, that these identities were the ones that they were saying -- Rym -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: We've been of course talking about the videotape as we've been waiting to get here at CNN and, of course, have been editing it as it has come in to the network. Curious to know about how quickly the folks in Baghdad, across the board, not just the ones Rym is having an opportunity to talk to, but how quickly everyone will have a sense, or get a sense, an opportunity to see this videotape?

How fast will that happen, Harris? WHITBECK: Well, you have to keep in mind that a lot depends on the availability of electricity and satellite television. About 40 percent of the people in Baghdad have access to satellite television now, and most of them usually tune in to Al-Jazeera, or in many cases, to CNN. So they would be seeing these as our viewers are seeing them at this very time.

Again, people -- some people have gathered in cafes, public places that have televisions to be able to see these images. There has been a lot of interest in this and, of course, a lot of speculation, as we've been reporting. People would like some sort of definite answer. And again, the U.S. military hopes that this will give it to them.

O'BRIEN: We are getting a first opportunity. As we see your shot, we also see, Harris, the photographers and journalists entering a white tent, which apparently was set up, and inside, we can speculate that that's exactly where the brothers' bodies were, as they bring the journalists through. And of course, there are many questions we would like to know and ask about, about exactly the circumstances within which the journalists had an opportunity to see the bodies. How were they laid out? How were they shown? And what was explained about what they were seeing? So, of course, many questions remain, and we are going to continue to pick through the videotape that we're getting and show just select shots, and, frankly, what we're seeing is very gruesome, probably an understatement there. So we're being very careful about what we're showing at this hour.

Interesting to hear, of course, Bill, from Harris, that now it sounds as if more Iraqis convinced that indeed the brothers are dead. The photographs, the relieves the photographs, U.S. officials were hoping that many people would be convinced by that, but it didn't go far enough.

HEMMER: The Associated Press apparently did a poll yesterday on one of streets of Baghdad. Not scientific in any way, but they asked about 100 Iraqi what's they thought based on the photos. The majority they found, based on this polling anyway, that the majority still doubted whether or not the photos were authentic, and indeed of the two sons.

We talked about the gruesome nature of these photos. I think it drives home the whole reality of war, that is a guerrilla war, the Pentagon has now acknowledged, about a week ago, that continues on the streets of Iraq every day, and this is the violence that not only U.S. soldiers, but also the Iraqis are even exposed to. And the images we're seeing right now of the two sons coming in to us, for lack of a better phrase, again, we are picking and choosing right now what we believe is suitable at this point.

Some of the videotape that you will not see is the more gruesome nature of the two bodies. The Associated Press is saying that that metal rod that was placed in one of Uday's legs during reconstructive surgery back in 1996 after an assassination attempt was removed from his body, put on display earlier today. They say the serial and the model number on this rod, eight inches in length, do match the data that the U.S. military had about it prior. So at least from a U.S. perspective, anyway, further proof that the two sons are, indeed, those are Saddam Hussein.

O'BRIEN: Earlier, were talking on the phone with Dr. Victor Weedn. He is a forensic pathologist, and he is also a former lieutenant colonel is the U.S. Army, and we've got him back by phone. I want to ask him about a question about what we heard Barbara Starr refer to, this bullet hole behind one of the ears. I believe it's Uday Hussein. And there are some questions, and folks that Barbara spoke to said that maybe the wounds are consistent with a suicide attempt. We've heard that that has been denied by authorities there. Will they ever definitively know? Is it clear to know by the condition of the body and the track of the bullet hole whether that was suicide or that was a homicide?

DR. VICTOR WEEDN, FORENSIC PATHOLOGIST: All right. I'm not there. So I haven't seen the actual evidence, but it could be that what you could do is match up the bullet wound with a weapon opinion, so it may be that Uday had only certain weapons available to him, and that this injury is not from one of those weapons. That would be one way to fairly definitively define if it was a suicide or not.

O'BRIEN: We see and we've been showing a videotape of the faces of Uday and Qusay Hussein, and they look dramatically much improved from the photographs that we saw yesterday. Give me a little sense of the process that goes in to the cleaning up of the bodies.

WEEDN: Well, this is in the realm of what morticians do. In this case, with a gunshot wound to the head, the skull, the fragments, those fragments have to be reassociated, reconstructed and the skin pulled back over. Then there has to be some cosmetic preparation of the face. So this would involve things such as makeup, perhaps some wax. This is typically done. It's what normally happens to prepare somebody for a showing at a funeral. In the case of a gunshot -- a death by a gunshot wound here in the United States. It's really no different.

O'BRIEN: Typical way, of course, to identify a body is with dental records that we saw in this case, and that was actually done very quickly with Uday's dental record providing a 90 percent match. Qusay, a 100 percent match. I have to imagine that's great numbers already there. But why only 90 percent would you imagine for Uday?

WEEDN: I don't know the reason, but it could be that there were certain teeth that were missing. It could be that the bullet fragment that shattered some teeth, and so that might constitute 10 percent of the teeth.

O'BRIEN: So you're saying damage overall? Damage overall would have affected the condition of the body, and an injury sustained in the battle would have done that as well.

Dr. Weedn, I thank you for staying on the line with us. We certainly appreciate your time, and we will ask you to stick around as we get more pictures and information. It's been interesting, Bill, to see the pictures of the journalists going in to the tent, because until now, we haven't really gotten a sense of how the bodies had been laid out and shown to the reporters who had access.

HEMMER: Yes, we call it a pool in television, a group of reporters and photographers selected to go in. Not everybody gets the opportunity to go there. That's why they limit the number aloud to visit the airport from earlier today.

I talked with Barbara Starr 10 minutes ago. Back to the Pentagon now with more from Barbara.

Does the Pentagon concede that everyone will not be convinced in the end, despite their best efforts, what be it videotape or pictures?

STARR: They do. They do, Bill. They know that there is certainly going to continue to be people for one reason or another who just simply won't believe it.

I think we can safely assume that this reconstruction work on the faces today, although you still see extensive damage to the bodies, obviously, the reconstruction work on the faces is a postmortem attempt to make them look more like they did in life, to make them more recognizable to the Iraqi people, because, of course, the photos we saw yesterday were postmortem, there was distortion, there was damage, and a lot of people simply did not recognize them right off the bat. So clearly, an attempt today to do so.

You know, here at the Pentagon, although they do feel a good deal of sensitivity about displaying dead bodies, about displaying what the military has done here, they do say there has been precedent in the past to convince civilian populations that feared leaders are dead. They remind us of two historical cases, of course -- in Romania, with the death of the Romanian leader Nikolai Taitesku (ph). His dead body was displayed to the people there to convince them; and of course World War II, the display of the dead body of Benito Mussolini to the Italian people. That was an effort, of course, to convince them and demonstrate to the world that Benito Mussolini was finally dead.

So a lot of historic examples, not many where the U.S. military has done it, but they say this is a very typical way to convince populations that their most feared leaders, in fact, are gone.

O'BRIEN: Barbara, three days ago, when the news was confirmed, Paul Bremer, was already talking about going after the No. 1 ace, that being the father, Saddam Hussein. What is the talk right now within the Pentagon as to his whereabouts and location in Iraq?

STARR: Well, they do believe he's in Iraq. They have a working assumption that he is in northern Iraq. One of the things we're not being told right now is whether they got intelligence out of this house in Mosul that may provide them with some clues.

People that we speak to who normally have some sort of read on all of that say there's nothing moving through the traffic right now that indicates what was found in the house in Mosul. So that, whatever it was, it's all pretty close hold.

But the military has a very specific strategy right now it is following with the raids that we are seeing continuing to be conducted. What they are doing is going very specifically after leadership in the Saddam Fedayeen, leadership in the Baath Party, going after the support structure of the leaders that they think are behind the attacks on U.S. forces, and, also, the structure that they think might be supporting Saddam Hussein out there somewhere.

They are getting intelligence from people that they have captured. That is letting them go after these very key leadership areas in some of the provinces. They're going out to the provinces. We've seen some of that in recent days, going after the leadership targets there, and hopefully, they believe, this will cut off some of the support structure, allowing them to tighten the noose around Saddam Hussein, and, also, hopefully, they say, reduce the attacks against U.S. forces. So there is a strategy at work here now.

O'BRIEN: I want to talk again in a couple minutes when we come back about the threats right now to U.S. forces. Have not heard, anyway, in the past 24 hours about further U.S. casualties. But we'll get a firm read on that in a moment.

Barbara, thanks, at the Pentagon.


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