At least five photographs showed the heads and chests of the two brothers, killed by US occupation forces in a violent siege in northern Iraq on Tuesday.
The pictures were initially handed out on compact discs to photographers by the occupation administration.
Releasing the pictures goes against long-standing US military policy not to display bodies of those killed in war.
However Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said he was “glad” that he made the decision to release the shocking images, adding: “I honestly believe that these two are particularly bad characters and it is important for the Iraqi people to know they are not coming back.”
Two photos depicted the bruised body of Hussein’s feared eldest son Uday, whose swollen face was bearded and his head shaved.
Two were of the youngest son and Hussein’s heir apparent Qusay, his closed eyes heavily bruised, his face purpled with blood and his mouth agape.
A fifth image was a split-screen X-ray showing a metallic rod and pins inserted into a leg said to be that of Uday. His leg was badly injured in a 1996 assassination attempt.
Dealing with skepticism
The release of the graphic pictures was aimed at ending the scepticism which has swept Iraq since the US Central Command announced the brothers had been killed in an assault on Tuesday in the northern city of Mosul.
Friday is expected to yield an opportunity for independent photojournalists to see and photograph the corpses for themselves.
Not everyone is convinced, but
One official said the military was concerned that the graphic nature of the pictures may inflame supporters of the ousted regime.
Five US soldiers have been killed in the last two and a half days, and the al-Jihad Brigade of Iraq has vowed to take revenge for the killings.
A doctor on Iraq’s US-appointed Governing Council said he was sure that the two US-held corpses he was taken to see Thursday were those of Saddam Hussein’s sons.
“There is no shadow of a doubt that these are the bodies of Qusay and Uday,” Muwaffak al-Rubaii told journalists after visiting the corpses.
However, the former head of Iraqi secret services, Wafiiq al-Saamirai, said the pictures were inconclusive, but accepted a growing body of evidence seemed to point to the two brothers’ death.
Managing editor of London-based al-Quds newspaper, Abd al-Bari Atwan, condemned the publication of the pictures in a BBC interview, highlighting the outrage US and UK military spokesman had shown over pictures of dead invasion troops during the war.
Atwan also said the four Iraqis need never have been killed and that it was well within occupation forces ability to take the three men and a boy alive, even if it meant a prolonged siege.