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Rumsfeld Defends Decision to Release Photos of Hussein Brothers - 2003-07-24

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has defended his decision to release graphic photos showing what U.S. officials say are the bodies of Saddam Hussein's son, Qusay and Uday.

At his first appearance before Pentagon reporters in nearly a month, Mr. Rumsfeld was peppered with questions about this week's operation in northern Iraq in which U.S. forces killed Saddam Hussein's sons in a fierce firefight after they refused to surrender.

Some reporters questioned whether the United States would relinquish what was termed "the moral high ground" by releasing photos of the corpses - noting the release contrasts with previous U.S. complaints about foreign media showing pictures of the bodies of dead or captured American soldiers.

Mr. Rumsfeld says he wrestled with the decision, but ultimately decided it was the best course of action, especially to convince Iraqis that Saddam's sons were indeed dead.

"I honestly believe that these two are particularly bad characters and that it's important for the Iraqi people to see them, to know they're gone, to know they're dead and to know they're not coming back and I think that will save American lives and save coalition lives and be a great benefit to the Iraqi people to be free of that and I feel it was a right decision and I'm glad I made it," he said.

The photos, released in Baghdad, show the two men lying down, their eyes closed and faces splattered with blood. One of the faces shows a large cheek wound.

Both men have dark, bushy beards which the brothers may have grown as disguises. They have been fugitives since U.S. forces entered Iraq earlier this year to unseat the regime of Saddam Hussein.

The identifications of the bodies have been confirmed by former senior regime officials. U.S. military authorities have also confirmed the identities against dental records and X-rays.

The brothers were numbers two and three on the U.S. list of Iraq's 55 most-wanted regime officials. They were known for their brutal treatment of fellow Iraqis, including murders, torture and rape.

The U.S. military says the two men were found hiding inside a house in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul this week after soldiers received a tip. Commanders say the brothers refused to surrender and fought to the death.