Death of Saddam's sons eases the tension
It is not impossible to presume that the mother of Odai Saddam Hussein and Qusai Saddam Hussein is grieving over the deaths this week of her two sons at the hands of American troops who stormed the house where they were hiding in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.
But a mother's emotions are outweighed by the relief Iraqis feel now that the two notoriously brutal men are dead.
Saddam Hussein's sons were more than trusted dupes. The former Iraqi dictator had few people around him that weren't viewed as potential threats. He relied on his sons to protect him and to carry out some of the messier activities that flowed from a despot's evil orders. But Odai and Qusai embellished on their own and found ways to commit acts so heinous that it is hard to believe all the stories.
Odai in particular found ways to torture and kill that are painful just to read about. He was, in fact, so unstable that even his father -- no stranger to gruesome and horrible killing and torture -- passed over his older offspring and placed the mantle of succession on Qusai -- a twisted madman in his own right.
Both Odai and Qusai slaughtered their fellow countrymen at will. They raped whenever the mood struck. They tortured for pleasure.
As long as Iraqis believed these two maniacs were alive, they lived in fear despite the U.S. military takeover.
But now that the two are dead, there is good reason to hope that more Iraqis will see that it is safe to cooperate with coalition forces and root out the remaining members of Saddam's regime who are still believed to be at large, many within the nation's borders.
The biggest prize, of course, still would be Saddam himself -- providing he is really alive, and many intelligence experts believe he is.
The mindset of Iraqis in this post-war period has been fashioned by years of ham-fisted death and mayhem for anyone unwilling to toe the line -- and even those who thought they were but were subjected to indescribable wrath for some unknown slight to Saddam's authority or manhood. "The level of suspicion and paranoia is incredible," said Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz.
As more and more of Saddam's former henchmen are neutralized, either by death or capture, Iraqis will become bolder and more inclined to help with removing the last black cloud by either confirming Saddam is dead or leading coalition authorities to him.
Meanwhile, coalition forces remain at risk as they continue to restore order in Iraq.
And there is much more to be done, as outlined by Paul Bremer, the civilian U.S. administrator in Baghdad: restoration of essential services such as electricity and health care, opening schools, reopening banks and establishing a governing authority.
The deaths of Odai and Qusai by themselves won't provide much push for achieving those goals, but a big impediment based on fear has been removed and will help Iraqis move ahead with the business of determining their future.