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Bound by Blood and Torn by Rivalry

Uday Hussein was brutal and extravagant, while Qusai was dispassionate and calculating.

July 23, 2003|Mark Fineman and Sebastian Rotella | Times Staff Writers

WASHINGTON — Both were rich and famous, the sons of a president-for-life. Both loved their father, blindly loyal to him throughout their lives.

Both were murderers, leaving behind a body count that some analysts say ran into the thousands. And both died at the same place and time, at the hands of 200 American soldiers in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on Tuesday.

But that's where the similarities began and ended for brothers Qusai and Uday Hussein.

"Qusai was not a serial rapist, and Uday, of course, was. And Uday would kill people because he enjoyed it or, more often, because he was mad at them," said Amatzia Baram, a leading scholar on the Hussein family and a senior fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace, a Washington research center. "One is a murderer of pleasure and rage, and the other is a murderer in the line of duty."

Indeed, the saga of the Hussein brothers is a study in sharp contrasts and competing personalities that represent the two sides of Saddam Hussein's regime: the older Uday, maniacal, brutal and extravagant; the younger Qusai, calculating, dispassionate and almost invisible in his exercise of power.

Uday, 39, was the regime's public face.

Thrice-married, shot eight times and seriously wounded in an assassination attempt seven years ago, Uday had a penchant for sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll, fast cars, fine cognac, World Cup soccer, high-power firearms and high-profile killings. These predilections earned him widespread dread, control of Iraq's most popular broadcast stations and newspapers and its national Olympic Committee, and even a short stint in prison -- after he bludgeoned one of his father's favorite bodyguards to death during a state dinner party.

An engineer by training, Uday was vengeful, vicious and vitriolic. Human rights groups and Iraqi dissidents tell of beatings and torture of the athletes under his control. Yet, in the end, Uday's only official title -- beyond chairman of the Iraqi Olympic Committee, which had once planned to seek the 2012 Summer Games -- was head of the Fedayeen Saddam, the black-masked paramilitary force that continues to target U.S. troops in Iraq. He ranked third -- behind his father and Qusai -- on the U.S. list of the 55 most-wanted men from the ousted Iraqi government.

Qusai, who turned 37 in May, was the regime's secret face.

A loyal husband and father of three who married his first, and only, wife 17 years ago, Qusai was the quiet and trusted true power behind Hussein's throne -- commanding Iraq's multitiered intelligence services, its 80,000-member Republican Guard and its dreaded internal security force, the Mukhabarat. He was the likely successor to his father, who saw him as more stable than Uday.

A lawyer, Qusai came to prominence after the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Human rights and opposition groups say he supervised the executions and torture that put down a postwar Shiite uprising, leaving behind mass graves and a death toll well into the thousands.

But it was only within the past 18 months that Qusai's stock soared. In May 2001, he was elected to the leadership council of the ruling Arab Baath Socialist Party. Uday was not.

"Qusai was a good son," Baram said. "I think he loved his father. He even loved his brother. His brother, of course, hated him because [Qusai] got all the promotions from Dad.... Uday couldn't stand it, but there wasn't much he could do."

Abbas Janabi saw much of this up close. As Uday's personal secretary and editor in chief of the state newspaper Babel, the flagship of Uday's publishing and propaganda empire, Janabi was a top aide to an all-powerful man.

But in Uday's perverse world, being close to him brought no relief from his wrath.

Janabi said that during the 15 years he worked for Uday, he was thrown in jail nine times, sometimes for a few hours, once for three days. On one occasion, Uday ordered his thugs to yank one of Janabi's teeth with pliers. Another time, he had Janabi beaten with electrical cords, leaving scars that have not faded.

That was mild compared with the torture Uday inflicted on others, often calling in his inner circle to watch, Janabi said Tuesday. Uday was a student of torture; he researched and experimented, according to Janabi. One of Uday's favorite torments was cramming his victims into a coffin-like box spiked with nails and shutting them inside.

"In the field of cruelty, he was very creative," Janabi said in an interview in London. "He was the meanest man in the world. The existing image of Uday for me is a monster. In my brain, in my heart, in reality, I remember him as a monster. More brutal than those who appear in horror films."

As recounted by defectors like Janabi, human rights advocates and other experts on Iraq, Uday's life seems lurid beyond belief. He was like a caricature of a tyrant's son: a spoiled man-child with gargantuan appetites who spread mayhem wherever he went, who snuffed out human lives as if he were swatting flies.

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