Bremer: We'll Get Saddam, Too

Mourners recite pieces of the holy Koran over the graves of Odai and Qusai Hussein and 14-year-old Mustafa Hussein, Qusai's son, Aug. 2, 2003, in Tikrit. The Red Crescent Society acted as intermediary between Saddam's family and the U.S. military in coordinating the funeral. Click here to see a photo essay on the lives of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's sons.
AP
Saddam Hussein's two elder sons and a grandson were buried as martyrs Saturday in rocky soil near the deposed leader's hometown, where insurgents afterward attacked U.S. troops with three remote controlled bombs.

Despite the violence in Tikrit - a center of anti-American guerrilla resistance - the U.S. administrator for Iraq declared he had not seen hatred of American troops among the country's people.

Instead, L. Paul Bremer, chief of the American occupation administration, blamed incessant attacks against U.S. forces on foreign terrorists and three groups aligned with the ousted Saddam regime.

He implied those fighters did not represent the larger Iraqi population. "I have not noticed any hatred among the Iraqi people for the American soldiers," Bremer said at a news conference.

Referring to the burials of Saddam's sons Odai and Qusai, Bremer noted that, "We are going to get Saddam too. The only question is who is going to get the $25 million and move to another country." He was referring to the bounty being offered for information leading to Saddam.

Also Saturday, the military said a U.S. soldier was killed and three were wounded Friday in a rocket-propelled grenade attack on their convoy east of Baghdad.

In other developments:

  • Saddam's daughters say they last saw their father a week before the war started and they don't know where he is now. They describe him as a good and loving father. Both spoke with C.N.N and an Arab satellite station from Jordan, where they've received sanctuary.
  • The Pentagon is trying to help troops recognize Saddam Hussein even if he has changed his appearance. The military Friday released digitally altered pictures of what Saddam could look like in different guises. The pictures show Saddam with white hair, a beard, in tribal Arab garb and in Western clothes.
  • A former close aide to Saddam, speaking to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity, says the Iraqi dictator did in fact get rid of his weapons of mass destruction but deliberately kept the world guessing about them in an effort to divide the international community and stave off a U.S. invasion.
  • The Washington Post reports in its Saturday editions that the U.S. remains "cool" to a new U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing broader international participation in Iraq, out of concern that greater U.N. involvement could reduce U.S. control. This, despite increasing pressure to "internationalize" the postwar reconstruction of Iraq.
  • A team of specialists is headed to Iraq to find out if there's a common factor in several serious pneumonia cases among troops. The Army says 14 soldiers have come down with pneumonia serious enough to be evacuated and put on ventilators. Two of the soldiers died, nine recovered and three remain hospitalized. The military says it hasn't identified any infectious agent common to all of the cases.

    The death of the GI reported Saturday brought to at least 52 the number of American soldiers killed in combat since May 1 when President Bush declared major fighting over. So far, 167 Americans have died in combat in this Iraq war, 20 more than in the 1991 Gulf War.

    The Arab satellite television broadcaster Al-Jazeera reported that another U.S. soldier also died Saturday morning in an assault north of the capital, but the military had no details on that.

    At least two American soldiers were injured in the remote-controlled explosions in Tikrit after elders of Saddam's tribe buried the ousted dictators sons, along with Qusai's 14-year-old son, in an outlying village.

    Tribal leaders chanted prayers over three side-by-side graves in the family plot in al-Uja, where the Iraqi leader was born.

    The family wrapped the three bodies in the nation's flag, designating them as martyrs for the Iraqi cause.

    The three were killed in a gun battle with American forces in the northern city of Mosul on July 22, after being on the run for more than three months.

    The sons' betrayer, thought to have been the owner of the villa where they were gunned down, received a $30 million reward from the United States and was spirited out of Iraq under U.S. protection.

    Lt. Col. Steve Russell, of the Tikrit-based 4th Infantry Division, said villagers wanted the funeral to be peaceful.

    "The people of al-Uja just wanted it over with, they didn't want to make a big deal about it," Russell said. He said tribal leaders contacted the army on Friday to tell them the bodies would be arriving.

    "One of the sheiks was very nervous about it all and came to our forces pleading that we be aware so nothing would happen to the people of al-Uja," Russell said.

    The army flew the bodies to an airfield just north of Tikrit, and sent them in Iraqi Red Crescent Society ambulances to the cemetery, Russell said. About 20 cars passed through an existing U.S. military checkpoint to reach the burial. Russell said soldiers observed proceedings from a distance but did not approach.

    The Red Crescent acted as intermediary between Saddam's family and the U.S. military, which had kept the bodies in refrigerated storage at Baghdad International Airport.

    Military morticians had reconstructed the brothers' faces to look lifelike, and allowed Western journalists to videotape and photograph them, after Iraqi civilians voiced skepticism that Odai and Qusai were really dead. Images of the autopsied bodies were flashed across the Arab world by satellite broadcasters, largely dispelling lingering doubts.

    Still, many Iraqis complained about the treatment of the bodies - the autopsies and reconstruction of the brothers' faces - as being deeply contrary to Muslim practice that demands corpses be buried untouched and before sundown on the day of death.

    Bremer, meanwhile, joined the chorus of U.S. officials, mainly in Washington, who have sought to blame the relentless attacks on American forces partly on foreign terrorists. Other violence, he said, was the work of remnants of Saddam's Baath Party, his Fedayeen Saddam militia, and the deposed and once-feared security forces.

    Yet in dozens of interviews conducted by The Associated Press, Iraqi citizens voiced growing bitterness and a desire for revenge against U.S. soldiers for the way they have allegedly treated the population while attempting to pacify the country.

    Bremer also charged that Iraqi impatience with American inability to quickly return the country to a more normal existence was the fault of Saddam, who left behind "one of the world's most devastated economies."

    Noting a continuing shortage of diesel fuel, which he said was the work of sabotage attacks on refineries, Bremer pleaded with attackers to think about fellow Iraqis waiting in the blistering heat for buses that ran late or never came.

    Insurgents have increasingly turned to attacking passing American convoys with remote-controlled bombs - as they did Saturday in Tikrit.

    "I think there's some connection to the fact that we dropped off the remains of Odai and Qusai today. That has probably something to do with it," Russell said.

    Despite the attacks, there was no widespread violence against U.S. troops in Tikrit - as feared - though al-Uja residents criticized the U.S. military for not burying the bodies earlier.

    "Burying them is just giving them their rights," student Ali Ahmad said.

    The Tigris River city of Tikrit remains one of the least pacified areas in the country. It sits squarely in the so-called "Sunni Triangle" north and west of Baghdad, where remnants of Saddam loyalists have conducted a guerrilla war against American occupation forces.

    The U.S. military also announced Saturday that U.S. soldiers firing in self-defense had killed a woman Friday who was standing near where attackers dropped an explosive from an overpass onto a U.S. convoy below.