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Pentagon Defends Operation Against Saddam Hussein's Sons - 2003-07-23

The U.S. Army's top general has defended the operation in northern Iraq that resulted in the deaths of Saddam Hussein's sons, Qusay and Uday.

Gen. John Keane, the acting Chief of Staff of the Army, appeared at a Pentagon briefing to unveil new Army plans for rotating troops in and out of Iraq. But he answered a question about the wisdom of the operation in northern Iraq that led to the deaths of Saddam Hussein's two sons.

General Keane said he would not second-guess the decision by the local U.S. commander who, rather than wait for Saddam's sons to give up, ordered a missile attack and armed assault on the home in Mosul where they were holed up.

The plain-spoken General Keane called for common sense to prevail, noting the ousted Iraqi leader's sons and other occupants of the home spurned a call to surrender and opened fire on American soldiers.

"You got to use some common sense here," explained the general. "I mean they offered folks a surrender. The guys went in there, they got fired on. We were then in a firefight and the on-scene commander's going to make the decision that he needs to make to reduce that and I think, obviously that they made the right decision."

General Keane went on to say if the on-scene commander had simply decided to surround the building and wait, it is possible Saddam's sons, who were the second and third most wanted officials of the former regime, might have escaped. He suggested that would have resulted in severe criticism, especially from the news media.

"What would you be asking us if we just cordoned the place off, he wondered, "asked for their surrender, waiting for them to come out and then they snuck out a tunnel someplace?"

So far, coalition troops in Iraq have killed or captured 37 of the 55 most-wanted former regime leaders. Still unaccounted for is the number one fugitive: Saddam Hussein.