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U.S. releases photos of bodies of Hussein brothers

By Wolf Blitzer

Uday, left and Qusay Hussein

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- "Now, more than ever, the Iraqis can know that the former regime is gone and is not coming back." These words from President Bush on the day the United States released photos it says shows the bodies of Uday and Qusay Hussein.

It was by no means an easy decision for the Bush administration to release the two very graphic photos they say are of Saddam's sons. The U.S. military has a long tradition of avoiding the distribution of pictures of the enemy killed in action.

But the top civilian leadership argued it was essential in the effort to convince still-skeptical Iraqis that the Saddam Hussein regime has no chance of regaining power. The photos, they felt, could save lives over the long run.

"The strategic importance of the killings, of their being dead, is to help us persuade the Iraqi people that we are here, having liberated the country, we are there and we are going to be sure that these Ba'athists have no future and I think it will in fact, in time, help reduce the security threat to our forces," said the U.S. civil administrator in Iraq, Ambassador Paul Bremer.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld expressed his satisfaction with the photo release saying, "Tuesday was a good day for the Iraqi people. The brutal careers of Uday and Qusay Hussein came to an end."

Both brothers had grown full beards in the weeks since the fall of Baghdad.

In the picture the United States says is of the older brother, 39-year-old Uday Hussein, he is seen with a virtually shaved head and extensive wounds around his mouth and nose. That's one reason why U.S. military commanders say they could only get a 90 percent confirmation from dental records.

But they did get better results from a comparison of X-rays. Uday's legs had been seriously injured during an unsuccessful assassination attempt in 1996; the tell-tale identification marks were there, according to U.S. investigators.

As for the 37-year-old Qusay, U.S. military commanders say they got a 100 percent dental match -- with considerably less destruction around his mouth.

Beyond the forensic evidence, U.S. commanders say four senior members of the former Iraqi regime provided positive identification. And they add that the night before the gun battle in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, an informant had told U.S. officers the two brothers were hiding inside the house.

Speaking to a Washington think tank today, Vice President Cheney offered this assessment: "We've seen many challenges and many victories. Those victories have come exactly as President Bush said they would -- sometimes in pitched battle, sometimes in the stealth of special operations, sometimes in sudden, decisive strikes like the one witnessed two days ago by the late Uday and Qusay Hussein."

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