The saddest thing about real heist stories is that, oftentimes, the people who are hurt most are the ones who have nothing to do with it. That’s exactly what happened in Saddam Hussein‘s life and reign. His rise to power was fueled by greed and injustice, but the people of Iraq paid for it.
It isn’t strange for us to cover such injustices, and the fact that Iraq is a country without any type of fairness isn’t news either. Sadly, the nation has a lot to worry about, and the government is just another addition to people’s worries.
In the case of Saddam, terrorizing the public and ignoring human rights were natural parts of his dictatorship, which people suffered for over two decades.
There’s nothing “good” to mention about his time in office, and this is probably one of the saddest heist stories we will cover in this blog. Unfortunately, there’s a lot to know, and we will do our best to help you understand Saddam and the nation of Iraq during this time.
Who Is Saddam Hussein? – Early Years
Although we already know his participation in Iraq as a dictator, not everything started this way.
Saddam Hussein was born in Tikrit (Iraq) on April 28, 1937. Saddam’s father, who was a shepherd, vanished several months prior to his birth.
Not long after, Saddam’s older brother died from cancer, leaving his mother severely depressed after the death of her oldest son and the disappearance of her husband. She was unable to care for Saddam and sent him to Baghdad at three to live with Khairallah Talfah, his uncle.
Saddam would later return to Al-Awja and get the chance to live with his mother. However, after being abused by his stepfather, he fled Baghdad to live with Talfah once more.
Talfah was a Sunni Muslim devout and an ardent Arab nationalist who would profoundly impact the young Saddam and how he saw society + politics.
Although there aren’t many records about his childhood, we move to his life when he was 20 years old. During this time, he joined the Ba’ath Party in 1957 after he had attended the al-Karh Secondary school in Baghdad.
His ultimate ideological goal was to unite the Arab states of the Middle East. Saddam and others from the Ba-ath Party tried to assassinate Iraq’s president, Abd al-Karim Qasim.
Qasim’s resistance to the United Arab Republic’s emergence and his alliance with Iraq’s communist party had placed him at odds with Ba’athists. Qasim’s chauffeur was also killed in the assassination attempt. Qasim survived, though he was shot multiple times.
Meanwhile, Saddam was wounded in the leg, and several of the other assassins were captured and tried to later be executed.
Hussein didn’t enter the list of executions since he and many others were able to escape to Syria, where he stayed for a short period of time before going to Egypt. In the latter place, he attended law school.
Going back to Saddam’s uncle, who would become a father figure for the future dictator, he played a crucial role in Hussein becoming a dictator due to his inclination in politics and the Sunni Muslim.
Becoming a Major Force: Presidency & Power
After Qasim’s government was toppled in the so-called Ramadan Revolution in 1963, Saddam returned home to Iraq. However, he was detained the year after due to infighting within the Ba’ath Party.
He was able to continue his involvement in politics while in prison and was made deputy secretary of Regional Command in 1966. He was released shortly after and continued to build his political power over the following years.
Saddam was a participant in the 1968 Ba’athist coup, which resulted in Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr being elected president of Iraq and Saddam as his deputy.
Hussein was a progressive and effective politician under al-Bakr’s presidency, thanks to this. However, he was also ruthless despite him being a major contributor to the modernization of Iraq’s industry, infrastructure, and healthcare system.
He also raised the levels of social services, education, and farm subsidies to levels unmatched in other Arab countries. Just before 1973’s energy crisis, he also nationalized Iraq’s oil industry. This resulted in huge revenues for the country.
So far, so good; there doesn’t seem to be anything to complain about the then deputy. Saddam, however, helped to develop Iraq’s first chemical weapon program. He also created a strong security apparatus to protect against coups.
This included the People’s Army and Ba’athist paramilitary organizations. It used torture, rape, and assassination to accomplish its goals, and it is where, of course, the main problems with his time in power start.
Going back to Al-Bakr, he tried to unify Syria and Iraq in 1979, and as good as it sounds, Saddam wasn’t happy with it since this move would leave him powerless and as an unnecessary being in power.
Not wanting to lose all his work and current position, Saddam forced Al-Bakr to resign and became the President of Iraq on July 16, 1979. He called a meeting of the Ba’ath Party less than a week later.
A list of 68 names was made and read aloud during the meeting. Each person was quickly arrested and taken from the room. All 68 were found guilty of treason, and 22 were sentenced. In August 1979, Saddam had executed hundreds of political enemies to prevent any rebellion ad set his rise to power as the new president.
When Terror Starts: Conflicts & War
In the same year as Saddam’s ascendance to the presidency, Ayatollah Khomeini led an Islamic revolution in Iran. Saddam, whose political power was largely dependent on the support of Iraq’s Sunni minority population, worried about developments in Iran’s Shi-ite majority since this could cause a similar uprising within Iraq.
Saddam, who was a strong supporter of Iraq’s Sunni population, ordered the invasion by Iraqi forces of Khuzestan, an oil-rich region in Iran, on September 22, 1980. The conflict quickly escalated into an all-out war.
However, the West and most of the Arab world were afraid of Islamic radicalism spreading and what it would mean for the region and the entire world. They supported Saddam despite the fact that his invasion of Iran clearly violated international law.
These same fears led to the international community ignoring Iraq’s use of chemical weapons, its genocidal treatment of its Kurdish population, and its growing nuclear program.
After years of conflict that saw hundreds of thousands of deaths on both sides, an agreement for a ceasefire was reached on August 20, 1988.
In his search for a way to revitalize Iraq’s devastated economy and infrastructure after the war, Saddam turned his attention towards Kuwait, its wealthy neighbor.
With his eyes placed on the nation, he ordered the invasion of Kuwait on August 2, 1990, using the excuse that it was a historical part of Iraq. The UN Security Council quickly passed a resolution imposing economic sanctions against Iraq and establishing a deadline for the withdrawal of Iraqi forces from Kuwait.
After the dictator ignored the January 15, 1991 deadline, a UN coalition force led by the United States faced the Iraqi forces and drove them out of Kuwait six weeks later.
The terms of the ceasefire included Iraq’s dismantling of its chemical and germ weapons programs. All economic sanctions previously imposed against Iraq remained in effect. Despite the fact that Saddam’s military suffered a devastating defeat, he claimed victory in the conflict.
The economic hardships that resulted from the Gulf War further fractured an already divided population. There were several Shi-ite, Kurdish, and other uprisings in the 1990s.
However, the rest of the world was afraid of another war, Kurdish independence (in Turkey’s case), or the spread of Islamic fundamentalism. Saddam’s increasingly brutal security forces eventually crushed these rebellions.
The international community was also closely monitoring the situation in Iraq. The United States launched a devastating missile attack on Baghdad in 1993 after Iraqi forces broke a no-fly zone that the United Nations had established.
Further violations of no-fly zones by Iraqi forces and the continued alleged development of its weapons programs led, in 1998, to more missile strikes against Iraq. These attacks would continue intermittently until February 2001.
Bringing Down a Dictator
After decades of conflicts and several nations’ and organizations’ efforts to make it all end, the Bush administration suspected that the Hussein government was in a relationship with Osama Bin Laden’s al Qaeda group.
U.S. President George W. Bush referred to Iraq in his January 2002 State of the Union address. He also mentioned Iran and North Korea as part of his “Axis of Evil” and said that the country was supporting terrorism and developing weapons of mass destruction.
Later in the year, UN inspections began at suspected weapons sites in Iraq. However, little to no evidence of such programs was found. On March 20, 2003, the U.S.-led coalition invaded Iraq under the pretext that Iraq had a covert weapon program and was planning attacks.
The government and military were toppled within weeks, and Baghdad fell on April 9, 2003. Saddam, however, managed to escape capture.
The search for Saddam continued over the next few months. Saddam made several audio recordings while hiding from the invading forces of Iraq and called for resistance.
On December 13, 2003, Saddam, who was hiding in an underground bunker in ad-Dawr near Tikrit, was finally found. He was then moved to Baghdad to be tried for crimes against humanity.
Hussein was a belligerent defendant during the next trial. He would often challenge the authority of the court and make bizarre statements. However, he was convicted and sentenced to death on November 5, 2006.
Although a court upheld the sentencing on appeal, it was reaffirmed later on. Saddam Hussein was hanged at Camp Justice in Baghdad on December 30, 2006, and buried the next day at Al-Awja (his birthplace).
Why Saddam Hussein Might Be the Worst That Happened to Iraq
With his story done and everything that came with Saddam’s dictatorship, it isn’t hard to imagine all the crimes and human rights violations he committed during these years.
For starters, it isn’t a matter of Saddam Hussein’s doings alone but the Baath party as well.
Both used violence, torture, and killing to get their way and cared nothing about citizens and the public. In fact, they often considered all Iraq’s people as a nuisance for several plans.
Detentions, arbitrary arrests, and enforced disappearance were other common events in the nation during his reign. Any form of repression to control the population can be added to this list.
Most people don’t talk about how Kurdish people were persecuted almost in a systematic way. In 1986, the al-Anfal military campaign against Kurdistan started in Northern Iraq.
Although it isn’t considered genocide by several organizations, European countries and other nations had qualified it for this, and it is sadly part of Iraq’s history today.
Finally, when it comes to actual criminal activity that is often eclipsed by human rights abuses, Saddam used extortion, looting, robbery, trafficking, and other illegal actions to fund war and many other events.
The country was rich on its own with the advances he helped develop years prior to his time in office, but he still decided to take part in other types of violence to achieve his goals.
It isn’t necessary to mention that violence against women and children continued to be common. In fact, it was even encouraged along with forced and child marriage + rapes.
5 Facts About Saddam Hussein
- Saddam often portrayed himself as a hero regardless of his use of firing squads and chemical weapons against Iraqi Kurds and citizens overall.
- Before his execution, Saddam’s last words were “Allahu Akbar.”
- Despite his ways and violence, the Arab world reacted with anger when their “hero” died. They considered him a true hero for just standing up to the USA and Israel.
- He was the fifth president of Iraq.
- Hussein had three wives: Samira Shahbandar, Nidal al-Hamdani, and Sajida Talfah.
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