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U.S. officials say Saddam's sons are dead, but questions remain

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Uday, left and Qusay Hussein.

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From the Wolf Blitzer Reports staff in Washington:

Washington (CNN) -- What does the United States need to do -- if anything -- to convince Iraqis and others in the Arab world that the two Saddam sons are really dead?

"I think you have to release pictures of Uday and Qusay. Otherwise it's going to be hard to convince Iraqis that they're finally dead." That, according to Kenneth Pollack of the Brookings Institution.

The debate played out in public for much of the day with U.S. officials revealing some of their thought processes on whether to publicly release pictures of the dead bodies of Uday and Qusay Hussein.

"If we have to do some things that people say -- you know, 'you're just scraping over the past, you're giving us all this shocking stuff, why should our children have to see it on television?' Let me tell you that the main consideration on the other side in our minds is saving the lives of American men and women who are on the line," said Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz at a Pentagon briefing Wednesday.

But is it acceptable -- legally, diplomatically, morally -- to release those pictures to a worldwide audience?

Had they been captured, the Geneva Convention does have parameters for releasing images of prisoners of war.

Article 13 of the Geneva Convention states, "... Prisoners of war must at all times be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation and against insults and public curiosity."

In March of this year, video of U.S. soldiers, held prisoner by Iraqis after the ambush of the U.S. Army's 507th maintenance unit, were shown on Arab-language networks, then on American TV.

Human rights groups and U.S. officials were outraged.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told CNN, "We do know that the Geneva Convention makes it illegal for prisoners of war to be shown and pictured and humiliated. And it's something that the United States does not do. And needless to say, television networks that carry such pictures are, I would say, doing something that's unfortunate."

But in this case -- Uday and Qusay Hussein were not prisoners of war.

They were on the U.S. list of most wanted former regime members.

There is no stipulation in the Geneva Convention against releasing pictures of dead bodies.

And the human rights groups we spoke to today -- Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International -- say they know of no other prohibition against public release of those images.

Video of the bodies of American soldiers killed in that March 23rd ambush was shown on Arab TV. One still picture of those troops, without their faces showing, aired on CNN.

Some U.S. officials were upset. But it wasn't illegal.

Some observers say the whole point of releasing the Uday and Qusay pictures might not even have the desired effect.

Retired Air Force Maj. Gen. told CNN today, "Even if you show the picture, people are going to say, if they want to believe they're still alive, they'll say 'hey you faked the pictures.' Just because you show pictures of dead people doesn't mean they're dead."


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