WASHINGTON—They were sons who enthusiastically embraced the sins of their father.
And at the peak of their power, they became Saddam Hussein's ultimate biological weapons.
Odai and Qusai Hussein, the notorious offspring of the ousted Iraqi leader, were born and bred to indulge in the same brutality Saddam used to rule Iraq for decades. Saddam reportedly gave them disarmed grenades to play with as children, took them along on his visits to torture chambers and gave them forces to command.
They were different: Odai the more outlandish, Qusai the more cunning. And they were bitter rivals who might have fought each other to the death for control of the country they stood to inherit.
But both undeniably were Saddam's boys: cruel, impulsive and unceasingly violent.
Former CIA chief James Woolsey once said the two differed only in that "Odai kills people for fun, and Qusai kills people in a very businesslike fashion."
Before Iraq came under U.S. control this spring, the sons' exploits were already well known.
Odai, the elder, was the brash playboy who had his guards round up girls as young as 14 for him to rape. He tortured anyone who displeased him, according to a recent Time magazine article, often using a medieval device called a falaqa to hang victims upside down by their ankles while he beat them on the soles of their feet. He once killed one of his father's bodyguards because he had introduced Saddam to the woman who would become his second wife.
Qusai was his father's favorite, more restrained and responsible than his brother but equally given to murderous outbursts. He was the one Saddam assigned to crush the uprising by Shiite Muslims after the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Qusai reportedly killed many himself and ordered the executions of many more.
Odai, the victim of a 1996 assassination attempt that left him largely debilitated, had been stripped of much of his power by Saddam, who thought he was too irresponsible. He controlled some media outlets, but fewer significant military forces than his brother did.
Qusai was one of his father's most trusted advisers, and was being groomed to ascend to power. He controlled Iraq's powerful security and intelligence agencies.
After the U.S. invasion, the world got a glimpse of the lavish—and some say garish—indulgence that Odai in particular enjoyed while his father reigned.
Odai's palace was adorned with a zoo and a harem, and its walls were plastered with paintings of naked women and pictures of prostitutes from around the world. He was so taken with the hundreds of cars he owned that he had them torched on the brink of the U.S. invasion rather than let anyone else have them.
Qusai kept ostriches and grew fruit on a 10-acre farm where he threw wild parties with belly dancers, whiskey and caviar. At his 10,000-square-foot mansion in Baghdad, Time magazine said, he commissioned a 10-foot marble-inlaid family portrait to overlook the entrance. The swimming pool had marble colonnades.
As news of the sons' deaths spread through the streets of Baghdad on Tuesday, there was little indication they will be missed. Residents fired rifle shots into the air to celebrate. Ahmed Chalabi, a member of the Iraqi Governing Council appointed last week, told CNN the deaths of Saddam's sons would "contribute considerably" to restoring order.
(c) 2003, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.
ARCHIVE PHOTOS on KRT Direct (from KRT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): Uday Hussein, Qusay Hussein
PHOTOS (from KRT Photo Service, 202-383-6099): USIRAQ-SONS
GRAPHICS (from KRT Graphics, 202-383-6064): file name 20030722 Saddams sons