Skip to comments.Defiant bluster and makeshift graves all that remain of the Hussein dynasty
Posted on 08/03/2003 11:26:28 AM PDT by demlosers
The graves tell the story of the fall of the house of Hussein.
Just off Tikrit's main street, Saddam built a gaudy mausoleum in dictator kitsch style, to give the appearance of a bond with the father who abandoned him as a child.
And at the cemetery in nearby Owja, the Hussein family's tribal homeland, the impoverished mother who raised Saddam is remembered in a building whose functional architecture would suit the laundry block at an Australian country hospital.
But when the Al Bunaser tribe gathered on Saturday for the burial of Saddam's sons, killed in a gun battle with United States troops two weeks ago, the bodies were hurriedly interred beneath low mounds on which clumps of earth were used to hold the Iraqi flags against a savage desert wind.
It was later reported that the flags had been stolen, despite the heavy US military presence which had imposed tight conditions to prevent the burial becoming a pro-Saddam rally.
The bodies of Uday and Qusay Hussein and of Qusay's son, Mustafa, were handed over just after dawn, in the knowledge that the Muslim requirement for a speedy burial would have them in the ground before announcements could be made at noon prayers in the local mosques. Military checkpoints were set up around the cemetery.
By late afternoon the scene was a sad caricature of the family that had flaunted its power in a way that made ordinary Iraqis quake.
The few relatives attending came in beaten-up local taxis and pick-ups. Instead of suited retainers, it was a dishevelled and alcohol-soaked Aheyaz Daham Al-Muslitt, whose uncle, a bodyguard to Saddam, was arrested last week, who defended the family's honour.
The small crowd's cries of "Our blood, our souls, we'll sacrifice for Saddam!" were lost on the breeze. But their demand for "Death to America!" was a reminder of the recurrent attacks on US forces.
Mr Al-Muslitt, a cousin of the Husseins, said: "Only a few people, maybe 100, could come because of the soldiers. A mullah from Tikrit came and did all that needed to be done for a Muslim burial and to tell the dead how to act when the angels come for them."
Mr Al-Muslitt claimed thousands would have come if the US had not denied access.
As small boys laid a simple border of house bricks around the three mounds, he said: "We will build a shrine and people will come. We will put a 50-man guard here so that our enemies cannot desecrate the graves."
Did he believe Saddam might soon lie next to his sons? "Saddam is not God, so he will die some time. But the Americans will not catch him because he is a great hero and leader of the resistance. You will not find anyone in Iraq who hates this family."
Two US officers, one filming the proceedings, stood by the graves throughout the service.
Mourners were bitter about the treatment of the bodies. They said they were unrecognisable after 10 days in storage and the cosmetic reconstruction before they had been photographed to prove to sceptical Iraqis that Saddam's sons were indeed dead.
Preparations for the funeral coincided with TV interviews in which Saddam's daughters, Raghd and Rana, sent emotional expressions of admiration to him.
Denying that it was Saddam and Uday Hussein who had their husbands murdered in 1996, they said from Amman, Jordan, that they prayed to God to protect their father.
Oh, really? Shall we take a survey? Let's start at one of the recently unearthed mass graves.
Flags from the graves of Qusay and Uday
Are offered for sale, today on E-Bay
Excellent. We've recorded the faces of the mourners.