Bound by Blood and Torn by Rivalry

Times Staff Writers

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.

One of the most flagrant incidents involved the death in 1988 of Kamel Hanna Jajo, Saddam Hussein's valet and food-taster. Although versions of the case vary wildly, Uday clearly beat Jajo to death with a club on an island near the riverfront resort where a dinner was being held to honor the wife of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

According to the most widely accepted account, a large group of Hussein's bodyguards had gathered for their own party on the island while the state dinner was taking place. They were firing weapons in the air in celebration, and Jajo reportedly refused Uday's order to stop. So Uday killed him.

Furious, Hussein jailed his eldest son and vowed to prosecute him to the extent of the law. It was only after a letter -- purportedly written by Jajo's father and published in the state media -- asked that Uday be forgiven that Hussein freed him and sent him to Switzerland, less than 60 days after his imprisonment.

But Uday soon got into a bar fight with a Swiss policeman in Geneva, and Hussein ordered him to return to Baghdad and marry the daughter of a trusted deputy, Baram said. That marriage, Uday's first, failed within months, when his wife left, reportedly complaining of beatings.

Uday's second marriage coincided with an attempt to rebuild his image and power base. It was a highly publicized affair when, in 1993, he wed the daughter of his father's half-brother, Barzan Ibrahim Hasan, who is now in U.S. custody.

At that time, Uday was attempting to build a base among the nation's youth, isolated by U.N. sanctions imposed after the Persian Gulf War. He started up Youth TV, which broadcast a steady dose of rock videos from Europe and the U.S., professional wrestling from Madison Square Garden and even such American films as Oliver Stone's epic "JFK"-- all purloined from satellite downlinks.

But in 1995, Uday's quest for power began to slide anew. His second marriage resulted in another divorce, and he shot and wounded another uncle, Watban Ibrahim Hasan, who also is now in U.S. custody.

And the following year, any hope Uday may have harbored of trumping his younger brother and reentering their father's good graces exploded in a hail of gunfire on a Baghdad street.

Speeding along in his trademark red Porsche, Uday was hit eight times by AK-47 fire in an assassination attempt later blamed on a banned opposition group.

By all rights, Uday should have died. But Baram and other researchers say Hussein flew in the best French surgeon to repair him. Though he lived, Uday was cane-bound as his brother climbed quickly to the top of the ranks of their father's inner circle.

In addition to his position in charge of the country's intelligence services, Qusai was also viewed as a shrewd player in Iraq's $2-billion-a-year black market economy.

Analysts say Qusai and the government agencies he ran took control of much of Iraq's illicit sales of crude oil and diesel fuel to Turkey, Lebanon and especially Syria, according to a report by the Coalition for International Justice, a Washington- based research group that has studied Iraq's economy. The sales violated U.N. trade sanctions.

Defectors said that Qusai's Mukhabarat set up front companies in Jordan that re-exported goods legally imported into Iraq for civilian use under the U.N. "oil for food" program -- such as medicine, baby food, vehicles, spare parts and electronics. The intelligence agency also muscled into the lucrative trade in black-market cigarettes from Cyprus, the coalition said.

The report said Qusai was "likely able to make good use of the money, not so much to support a lavish lifestyle as to retain the loyalty of the thousands of members of his various services."

Hussein even entrusted Qusai with responsibility for his weapons of mass destruction. Qusai personally oversaw a team of several thousand agents who were deployed to interfere with UNSCOM inspectors in the 1990s, according to defector Ahmed Samarrai, a commander in Hussein's Special Security Organization.

Qusai's men concealed weapons programs, conducted intense surveillance on inspectors and impeded them from getting to weapons sites, sometimes staging traffic accidents to delay them, Samarrai said in an interview last year.

Janabi thinks that the eldest son lost stature in the dictator's eyes because he had no discipline, no limits. Uday did not have the knack of Hussein and Qusai for cultivating loyalty along with fear, for mixing punishment with generosity, Janabi said. He said Uday would criticize him for punishing workers at the newspapers by docking their pay rather than having them tortured.

"He would say to me, 'Abbas, you will not be successful because you do not believe in violence,' " Janabi said. "That was what he believed in."

In April, U.S. Army troops found the legacy of Uday's final years where he left them, arrayed in an opulent palace where he kept a private zoo of ostriches, gazelles and lions, a private bar stocked with $1 million in fine wines, liquor and heroin and a stockpile of personalized Cuban cigars.

As the troops inspected further, they found pictures of prostitutes, pornographic statues, an HIV screening kit and a large supply of the antidepressant drug Prozac.



Brothers' backgrounds

Saddam Hussein's sons Qusai and Uday were killed in a massive firefight in Mosul when U.S. forces surrounded and then stormed a palatial villa. The sons were Nos. 2 and 3 on the U.S. list of 55 most-wanted Iraqi officials.


Uday Hussein

Hussein's eldest son, 39

Controlled propaganda in Iraq and allegedly oversaw the torture of athletes who failed to perform

Headed the paramilitary Fedayeen Saddam, and helped eliminate opponents

Iraqi exiles say he murdered at will and tortured with zeal

Reportedly ordered his guards to snatch young women off the street so he could rape them

London-based human rights group claims he ordered prisoners to be dropped into acid baths as punishment

Headed the Iraqi Olympic Committee, which was accused of torturing and jailing athletes

Ran Iraq's most popular newspaper and Youth TV channel


Qusai Hussein

Hussein's second oldest son, 37; headed the country's intelligence and security services, his father's personal security force and the elite Republican Guard

Nicknamed "the Snake" for his low-profile but bloody activity

Used mass executions and torture to crush the Shiite Muslim uprising after the 1991 Persian Gulf War

Helped engineer the destruction of the southern marshes in the 1990s

Oversaw notorious detention centers and is believed to have initiated "prison cleansing" -- arbitrary killing to relieve overcrowding


Source: Associated Press


Fineman reported from Washington and Rotella from London. Times staff writer Bob Drogin in Washington contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World