Two of the most feared men in Iraq

Published July 23, 2003|Updated Sept. 1, 2005

They were known to many Iraqis as "the wolf" and "the snake."

Uday, 39, Saddam Hussein's elder son, was the wolf _ a sadist who tortured athletes for losing matches, a womanizer who had henchmen snatch women and girls off the street, a tantrum-thrower who beat underlings and rivals to death, a show-off who collected fast cars and jungle pets.

Qusay, 37, his brother, was the snake _ a son who was subservient to his father in public but who quietly amassed enormous power through his control of state intelligence and security services, oversaw the brutal crushing of rebellious political movements and emerged as Hussein's heir apparent.

Together the two men, killed by U.S. troops Tuesday, symbolized the two faces of a family-run dictatorship that was capable of both stealthy and flamboyant evil.

Even as teenagers, author Con Coughlin wrote in Saddam: King of Terror, Uday was "loud and vulgar while Qusay was quiet and calculating." Both of their first, arranged marriages ended in failure, but Uday left his wife covered with cuts and bruises, while Qusay's unsuccessful union was quietly dissolved.

In the years after Hussein became president in 1979, the brothers took on dramatically different roles, with Uday given higher-profile positions in sports and propaganda, but Qusay assigned tasks that were both more discrete and central to Hussein's consolidation of power.

Uday's portfolios befit his penchant for publicity, muscle and high living. He was named chairman of the Iraq Olympic Committee in 1984, as well as head of the Iraq Football Association, where he earned a terrifying reputation for punishing national soccer and track team members who lost competitions.

Iraqi athletes who escaped to the West reported that when teams lost, Uday administered whippings to the players, made them crawl on hot asphalt, dunked them in sewage tanks and forced them to kick concrete balls.

According to numerous accounts, Uday's personal life was a soap opera of drunken brawls, family feuds and playboy sex, played out against a backdrop of opulence and excess that was partly financed by international smuggling.

Uday's temper was violent and uncontrollable. He beat a servant to death, killed an army officer for refusing to let him dance with his wife, and in 1988 murdered his father's favorite bodyguard and food-taster, an act that soured Hussein on his elder son and putative heir.

Finally in 1996, after a series of vicious family feuds in which he tried to murder an uncle and helped orchestrate the execution of two of his father's sons-in-law who had fled the country and then been lured back, Uday barely survived an assassination attempt that left him partly crippled and politically even weaker.

Meanwhile, Hussein entrusted Qusay with increasingly important and sensitive tasks. In 1991 Qusay personally oversaw the brutal crushing of an uprising by Shiite Muslims, and he directed an operation to drain Iraq's vast southern marshes so antigovernment insurgents could not use them as hiding places.

By the mid 1990s, having proven his loyalty and ruthlessness, he was given authority over Iraq's elite Republican Guard.

He reportedly ordered prison populations reduced by mass executions and supervised the killing of some inmates by putting them through shredding machines.

Nos. 2 and 3 on the playing cards of Iraq's most wanted, Qusay Hussein, 37, top, was considered the snake and Saddam Hussein's heir apparent. Uday, 39, was the wolf _ who was a womanizer and tortured athletes.

Saddam Hussein's oldest son Uday speaks with younger brother Qusay, left, before the opening of a May 2001 Baath Party congress in Baghdad. Qusay, head of his father's security forces, appeared to be his heir.