It does not appear that Uday and Qusay Hussein were ever given the option of surrendering to the US troops who stormed their villa, though it is far from clear that they would have taken it. The record of lynch mobs tearing people into tiny little scraps is as much a feature of Baghdad as elsewhere and there are worse things than dying of gunshot wounds.
Nonetheless, and even accepting that the Hussein brothers might have shot anyone approaching them under a flag of truce and that trying to negotiate a surrender might have cost US lives, I feel strongly that the attempt should have been made. Not for the sake of the Hussein brothers, or even that of the 14-year old son who died with his father, but for the sake of civilized and humane values.
Would I have given Hitler a chance to surrender? And face trial? Churchill favoured summary execution of the Nazi leadership, but in practice it was decided that arrest followed by trial was appropriate. It is fashionable to decry the Nuremburg trials as victor's justice - and the presence among the judges of Soviet figures with their own bloody hands is an argument for that - but they pass one of the major tests of the fairness of trials which is that some people were acquitted and others got lighter sentences.
Hjalmar Schacht was tried for running the German economy in the years leading up to the war and was acquitted on all charges because he could prove that he opposed both the anti-semitic measures and the preparations for war - on economic as much as moral grounds - and in due course resigned and went to jail for his opposition. An unpleasant right-winger in all sorts of ways, but not a Nazi and someone who almost certainly deserved acquittal - there are probably Iraqi equivalents.
And then there was Speer - Speer was far worse than he tried to claim he had been in his memoirs and interviews and yet the decision to sentence him to a long jail stretch was probably pragmatically justified. Speer was given direct orders by Hitler in the last weeks of the war to wreck a Germany which had proved itself unworthy of the Fuhrer and deserved worse than the Allies were planning for it. Had he obeyed those orders, not only Germany, but much of Europe, would have starved that winter. Thirty years was hardly a slap on the wrist, and it was important to establish the idea that even a serious accomplice like Speer could buy his way off the gallows.
I cannot imagine that Uday and Qusay had anything to offer - on the other hand, they did know an awful lot. About, for example, the dealings of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld and the US State Department with their father, as well as about WMDs. Alive, they could say some embarrassing things, many of them true.
And dead men tell no tales...
Anyone care to bet that their father will not be shot trying to escape? I only bet on certainties.