Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid
al-Tikriti (Arabic: ; 28
April 1937 – 30 December 2006) was the President of Iraq from 16 July
1979 until 9 April 2003.
A leading member of the
revolutionary Ba'ath Party
espoused secular pan-Arabism
, economic modernization
, and Arab socialism
, Saddam played a key role in
the 1968 coup that brought the party to long-term power.
As vice president under the ailing General Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr
, and at a time
when many groups were considered capable of overthrowing the
government, Saddam created security forces through which he tightly
controlled conflict between the government and the armed forces. In
the early 1970s, Saddam spearheaded Iraq's nationalization of the
Western-owned Iraq Petroleum
, which had long held a monopoly on the country's oil.
Through the 1970s, Saddam cemented his authority over the
apparatuses of government as Iraq's economy grew at a rapid
As president, Saddam maintained power during the Iran–Iraq War
of 1980 through 1988,
and throughout the Persian Gulf War
1991. During these conflicts, Saddam suppressed several movements,
movements seeking to overthrow the
government or gain independence, respectively. Whereas some Arabs venerated him for his aggressive stance against
foreign intervention and for his support for the Palestinians, other Arabs and Western
leaders vilified him as the force behind both a deadly
attack on northern Iraq in 1988 and, two years later, an invasion of Kuwait to the
By 2003, the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush
had convinced the
that Saddam remained sufficiently relevant and
dangerous to be overthrown. In March of that year, the U.S. and its
eventually deposing Saddam. Captured
by U.S. forces
on 13 December 2003, Saddam was brought to
under the Iraqi interim government set up by
. On 5 November 2006, he was convicted of
charges related to the 1982 killing of 148 Iraqi Shi'ites
suspected of planning an assassination
attempt against him, and was sentenced to death
. Saddam was executed
on 30 December 2006. By
the time of his death, Saddam had become a prolific author
. Among his works are multiple novels
dealing with themes
, and war
Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti was born in the town of Al-Awja, 13 km
(8 mi) from the Iraqi town of Tikrit, to a family
of shepherds from the al-Begat tribal
His mother, Subha Tulfah al-Mussallat, named her
newborn son Saddam
, which in
means "One who confronts"; he
is always referred to by this personal
, which may be followed by the patronymic and other
elements. He never knew his father, Hussein 'Abid al-Majid, who
disappeared six months before Saddam was born. Shortly afterward,
Saddam's 13-year-old brother died of cancer
The infant Saddam was sent to the family of his maternal uncle
until he was
His mother remarried, and Saddam gained three half-brothers through
this marriage. His stepfather, Ibrahim al-Hassan, treated Saddam
harshly after his return. At around 10 Saddam fled the family and
returned to live in Baghdad with his
uncle Kharaillah Tulfah. Tulfah, the father of Saddam's future wife,
was a devout Sunni Muslim and a veteran from the 1941 Anglo-Iraqi War between Iraqi nationalists and the United Kingdom, which remained a major colonial power in the region.
his life relatives from his native Tikrit became some of his
closest advisors and supporters. Under the guidance of his uncle he
attended a nationalistic high school in Baghdad. After secondary
school Saddam studied at an Iraqi law school for three years,
dropping out in 1957 at the age of 20 to join the revolutionary
pan-Arab Ba'ath Party, of which his uncle was a supporter. During
this time, Saddam apparently supported himself as a secondary
Revolutionary sentiment was characteristic of the era in Iraq and
throughout the Middle East
. In Iraq
assailed traditional political elites
(colonial era bureaucrats and landowners, wealthy merchants and
tribal chiefs, monarchists). Moreover, the pan-Arab nationalism of
Gamal Abdel Nasser in Egypt profoundly
influenced young Ba'athists like Saddam. The rise of Nasser
foreshadowed a wave of revolutions throughout the Middle East in
the 1950s and 1960s, with the collapse of the monarchies of Iraq,
Egypt, and Libya.
inspired nationalists throughout the Middle East by fighting the
British and the
French during the Suez Crisis of
1956, modernizing Egypt, and uniting the Arab world politically.
In 1958, a year after Saddam had joined the Ba'ath party, army
officers led by General Abd al-Karim
overthrew Faisal II of
. The Ba'athists opposed the new government,
and in 1959 Saddam was involved in the unsuccessful United States-backed plot to assassinate Abdul Karim Qassim.
Rise to power
Saddam Hussein after the successful
1963 Ba'ath party coup
Army officers with ties to the Ba'ath Party overthrew Qassim in a
coup in 1963. Ba'athist leaders were appointed to the cabinet and
Abdul Salam Arif
Arif dismissed and arrested the Ba'athist leaders later that year.
Saddam returned to Iraq, but was imprisoned in 1964. Just prior to
his imprisonment and until 1968, Saddam held the position of Ba'ath
party secretary. He escaped from prison in 1967 and quickly became
a leading member of the party. In 1968, Saddam participated in a
bloodless coup led by Ahmad Hassan
that overthrew Abdul
. Al-Bakr was named president and Saddam was named
his deputy, and deputy chairman of the Baathist Revolutionary Command
. According to biographers, Saddam never forgot the
tensions within the first Ba'athist government, which formed the
basis for his measures to promote Ba'ath party unity as well as his
resolve to maintain power and programs to ensure social
Saddam Hussein in the past was seen by U.S. intelligence services
as a bulwark of anti-communism
1960s and 1970s.Although Saddam was al-Bakr's deputy, he was a
strong behind-the-scenes party politician. Al-Bakr was the older
and more prestigious of the two, but by 1969 Saddam Hussein clearly
had become the moving force behind the party.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, as vice chairman of the
Revolutionary Command Council, formally the al-Bakr's
second-in-command, Saddam built a reputation as a progressive,
effective politician. At this time, Saddam moved up the ranks in
the new government by aiding attempts to strengthen and unify the
Ba'ath party and taking a leading role in addressing the country's
major domestic problems and expanding the party's following.
After the Baathists took power in 1968, Saddam focused on attaining
stability in a nation riddled with profound tensions. Long before
Saddam, Iraq had been split along social, ethnic, religious, and
economic fault lines: Sunni
, Arab versus Kurd
, tribal chief versus urban merchant, nomad versus
peasant. Stable rule in a country rife with factionalism
required both massive repression
and the improvement of living standards.
Saddam actively fostered the modernization of the Iraqi economy
along with the creation of a strong security apparatus to prevent
coups within the power structure and insurrections apart from it.
Ever concerned with broadening his base of support among the
diverse elements of Iraqi society and mobilizing mass support, he
closely followed the administration of state welfare and
At the center of this strategy was Iraq's oil. On 1 June 1972,
Saddam oversaw the seizure of international oil interests, which,
at the time, dominated the country's oil sector. A year later,
world oil prices rose dramatically as a result of the 1973 energy crisis
, and skyrocketing
revenues enabled Saddam to expand his agenda.
Within just a few years, Iraq was providing social services that
were unprecedented among Middle Eastern countries. Saddam
established and controlled the "National Campaign for the
Eradication of Illiteracy" and the campaign for "Compulsory Free
Education in Iraq," and largely under his auspices, the government
established universal free schooling up to the highest education
levels; hundreds of thousands learned to read in the years
following the initiation of the program. The government also
supported families of soldiers, granted free hospitalization to
everyone, and gave subsidies to farmers. Iraq created one of
the most modernized public-health systems in the Middle East,
earning Saddam an award from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and
Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
To diversify the largely oil-based Iraqi
, Saddam implemented a national infrastructure campaign
that made great progress in building roads, promoting mining
, and developing other industries. The campaign
revolutionized Iraq's energy industries. Electricity was brought to
nearly every city in Iraq, and many outlying areas.
Before the 1970s, most of Iraq's people lived in the countryside,
where Saddam himself was born and raised, and roughly two-thirds
were peasants. But this number would decrease quickly during the
1970s as the country invested much of its oil profits into
Nevertheless, Saddam focused on fostering loyalty to the Ba'athist
government in the rural areas. After nationalizing foreign oil
interests, Saddam supervised the modernization of the countryside,
on a large
scale, and distributing land to peasant farmers. The Ba'athists
established farm cooperatives
, in which
profits were distributed according to the labors of the individual
and the unskilled were trained. The government also doubled
expenditures for agricultural development in 1974–1975. Moreover,
in Iraq improved the
living standard of the peasantry
Saddam became personally associated with Ba'athist welfare
programs in the eyes of many Iraqis, widening his
appeal both within his traditional base and among new sectors of
the population. These programs were part of a combination of
"carrot and stick
" tactics to
enhance support in the working class, the peasantry, and within the
party and the government bureaucracy.
Saddam's organizational prowess was credited with Iraq's rapid pace
of development in the 1970s; development went forward at such a
fevered pitch that two million people from other Arab countries and
worked in Iraq to meet
the growing demand for labor.
In 1976, Saddam rose to the position of general in the Iraqi armed
forces, and rapidly became the strongman
of the government. As the
ailing, elderly al-Bakr became unable to execute his duties, Saddam
took on an increasingly prominent role as the face of the
government both internally and externally. He soon became the
architect of Iraq's foreign policy and represented the nation in
all diplomatic situations. He was the de
leader of Iraq some years before he formally came to
power in 1979. He slowly began to consolidate his power over Iraq's
government and the Ba'ath party. Relationships with fellow party
members were carefully cultivated, and Saddam soon accumulated a
powerful circle of support within the party.
al-Bakr started to make treaties with Syria, also under
Ba'athist leadership, that would lead to unification between the
Syrian President Hafez al-Assad
would become deputy leader in
a union, and this would drive Saddam to obscurity. Saddam acted to
secure his grip on power. He forced the ailing al-Bakr to resign on
16 July 1979, and formally assumed the presidency.
Shortly afterwards, he convened an assembly of Ba'ath party leaders
on 22 July 1979. During the assembly, which he ordered videotaped
(see ), Saddam claimed to have found a fifth column
within the Ba'ath Party and
directed Muhyi Abdel-Hussein to read out a confession and the names
of 68 alleged co-conspirators. These members were labelled
"disloyal" and were removed from the room one by one and taken into
custody. After the list was read, Saddam congratulated those still
seated in the room for their past and future loyalty. The 68 people
arrested at the meeting were subsequently tried together and found
guilty of treason
. 22 were sentenced to
execution. Other high-ranking members of the party formed the
firing squad. By 1 August 1979, hundreds of high-ranking Ba'ath
party members had been executed.
To the consternation of Islamic conservatives
, Saddam's government gave women
added freedoms and offered them high-level government and industry
jobs. Saddam also created a Western-style legal
system, making Iraq the only country in the Persian Gulf region not ruled according to traditional Islamic
Saddam abolished the
courts, except for personal injury
Domestic conflict impeded Saddam's modernizing projects. Iraqi
society is divided along lines of language, religion and ethnicity;
Saddam's government rested on the support of the 20 percent
minority of largely working class
peasant, and lower middle class
continuing a pattern that dates back at least to the British
colonial authority's reliance on them as administrators.
The Shi'a majority were long a source of opposition to the
government's secular policies, and the Ba'ath Party was
increasingly concerned about potential Shi'a Islamist influence
following the Iranian Revolution
of 1979. The Kurds of northern Iraq (who are Sunni but not Arabs) were also permanently
hostile to the Ba'athist party's pan-Arabism.
power Saddam tended either to provide them with benefits so as to
co-opt them into the regime, or to take repressive measures against
them. The major instruments for accomplishing this control were the
organizations. Beginning in 1974, Taha Yassin Ramadan
, a close associate
of Saddam, commanded the People's Army, which was responsible for
internal security. As the Ba'ath Party's paramilitary, the People's
Army acted as a counterweight against any coup attempts by the
regular armed forces. In addition to the People's Army, the
Department of General Intelligence (Mukhabarat
) was the most
notorious arm of the state security system, feared for its use of
. It was commanded by Barzan Ibrahim al-Tikriti
Saddam's younger half-brother
. Since 1982,
foreign observers believed that this department operated both at
home and abroad in their mission to seek out and eliminate Saddam's
Saddam justified Iraqi nationalism
claiming a unique role of Iraq in the history of the Arab world. As
president, Saddam made frequent references to the Abbasid
period, when Baghdad was the political,
cultural, and economic capital
the Arab world. He also promoted Iraq's pre-Islamic role as
, the ancient cradle of civilization
, alluding to
such historical figures as Nebuchadnezzar II
. He devoted resources to archaeological
explorations. In effect, Saddam sought to combine pan-Arabism and
Iraqi nationalism, by promoting the vision of an Arab world united
and led by Iraq.
As a sign of his consolidation of power, Saddam's personality cult
pervaded Iraqi society.
Thousands of portraits, posters, statues and murals were erected in
his honor all over Iraq. His face could be seen on the sides of
office buildings, schools, airports, and shops, as well as on Iraqi
currency. Saddam's personality cult reflected his efforts to appeal
to the various elements in Iraqi society. He appeared in the
costumes of the Bedouin
, the traditional
clothes of the Iraqi peasant (which he essentially wore during his
childhood), and even Kurdish
, but also appeared in Western suits, projecting the
image of an urbane and modern leader. Sometimes he would
also be portrayed as a devout Muslim, wearing full headdress and
robe, praying toward Mecca.
In foreign affairs, Saddam sought to have Iraq play a leading role
in the Middle East. Iraq signed an aid pact with the Soviet Union
in 1972, and arms were sent along with several thousand advisers.
However, the 1978 crackdown on Iraqi Communists
and a shift of
trade toward the West strained Iraqi relations with the Soviet
Union; Iraq then took on a more Western orientation until the
Persian Gulf War
After the oil crisis
of 1973, France
had changed to a more pro-Arab policy and was accordingly rewarded
by Saddam with closer ties. He made a state visit to France in
1976, cementing close ties with some French business and ruling
political circles. In 1975 Saddam negotiated an accord with Iran
that contained Iraqi concessions on border disputes. In return,
Iran agreed to stop supporting opposition Kurds in Iraq. Saddam led
Arab opposition to the Camp David
between Egypt and Israel (1979).
Saddam initiated Iraq's nuclear enrichment project in the 1980s,
with French assistance. The first Iraqi nuclear reactor was named
by the French Osirak
. Osirak was destroyed
on 7 June 1981 by an Israeli air strike (Operation Opera).
Nearly from its founding as a modern state in 1920, Iraq has had to
deal with Kurdish separatists in the northern part of the country.
(Humphreys, 120) Saddam did negotiate an agreement in 1970 with
separatist Kurdish leaders, giving them autonomy, but the agreement
broke down. The result was brutal fighting between the government
and Kurdish groups and even Iraqi bombing of Kurdish villages in
Iran, which caused Iraqi relations with Iran to deteriorate.
However, after Saddam had negotiated the 1975 treaty with Iran, the
Shah withdrew support for the Kurds, who suffered a total
In 1979 Iran's Shah Mohammad Reza
was overthrown by the Islamic Revolution
giving way to an Islamic republic led by the Ayatollah Khomeini
. The influence of
revolutionary Shi'ite Islam grew apace in the region, particularly
in countries with large Shi'ite populations, especially Iraq.
Saddam feared that radical Islamic ideas—hostile to his secular
rule—were rapidly spreading inside his country among the majority
There had also been bitter enmity between Saddam and Khomeini since
the 1970s. Khomeini, having been exiled from Iran in 1964, took up residence in Iraq,
at the Shi'ite holy city of An Najaf.
There he involved himself with Iraqi
Shi'ites and developed a strong, worldwide religious and political
following against the Iranian Government, whom Saddam tolerated.
However, when Khomeini began to urge the Shi'ites there to
overthrow Saddam and under pressure from the Shah, who had agreed
to a rapprochement between Iraq and Iran in 1975, Saddam agreed to
expel Khomeini in 1978 to France. However this turned out to be an
imminent failure and a political catalyst, for Khomeini had access
to more media connections and also collaborated with a much larger
Iranian community under his support whom he used to his
Khomeini gained power, skirmishes between Iraq and revolutionary
Iran occurred for ten months over the sovereignty of the disputed
al-Arab waterway, which divides the two countries.
During this period, Saddam Hussein publicly maintained that it was
in Iraq's interest not to engage with Iran, and that it was in the
interests of both nations to maintain peaceful relations. However,
in a private meeting with Salah Omar
, Iraq's permanent ambassador to the United Nations
, he revealed that he
intended to invade and occupy a large part of Iran within months.
invaded Iran, first attacking Mehrabad Airport of Tehran and then
entering the oil-rich Iranian land of Khuzestan, which also has a sizable Arab minority, on 22
September 1980 and declared it a new province of Iraq.
With the support of the
Arab states, the United States, the Soviet Union, and Europe, and
heavily financed by the Arab states of the Persian Gulf, Saddam
Hussein had become "the defender of the Arab world" against a
revolutionary Iran. Consequently, many viewed Iraq as "an agent of
the civilized world". The blatant disregard of international law
and violations of international borders were ignored. Instead Iraq
received economic and military support from its allies, who
conveniently overlooked Saddam's use of chemical warfare against
the Kurds and the Iranians and Iraq's efforts to develop nuclear
In the first days of the war, there was heavy ground fighting
around strategic ports as Iraq launched an attack on Khuzestan.
After making some initial gains, Iraq's troops began to suffer
losses from human wave
attacks by Iran.
By 1982, Iraq was on the defensive and looking for ways to end the
At this point, Saddam asked his ministers for candid advice.
Health Minister Dr Riyadh Ibrahim
suggested that Saddam
temporarily step down to promote peace negotiations. Initially,
Saddam Hussein appeared to take in this opinion as part of his
cabinet democracy. A few weeks later, Dr Ibrahim was sacked when
held responsible for a fatal incident in an Iraqi hospital where a
patient died from intravenous administration of the wrong
concentration of Potassium supplement.
Dr Ibrahim was arrested a few days after he started his new life as
a sacked Minister. He was known to have publicly declared before
that arrest that he was "glad that he got away alive." Pieces of
Ibrahim’s dismembered body were delivered to his wife the next
Iraq quickly found itself bogged down in one of the longest and
most destructive wars of attrition
of the twentieth century. During the war, Iraq used chemical weapons
against Iranian forces
fighting on the southern front and Kurdish separatists who were
attempting to open up a northern front in Iraq with the help of
Iran. These chemical weapons were developed by
Iraq from materials and technology supplied primarily by West German companies.
reached out to other Arab governments for cash and political
support during the war, particularly after Iraq's oil industry
severely suffered at the hands of the Iranian
navy in the Persian Gulf.
Iraq successfully gained some military and
financial aid, as well as diplomatic and moral support, from the
Soviet Union, China, France, and the United States, which together
feared the prospects of the expansion of revolutionary Iran's
influence in the region. The Iranians, demanding that the
international community should force Iraq to pay war reparations to
Iran, refused any suggestions for a cease-fire. Despite several
for a ceasefire
by the United Nations Security
, hostilities continued until 20 August 1988.
March 1988, the Kurdish town of Halabja was attacked with a mix of mustard gas and nerve
agents, killing 5,000 civilians, and
maiming, disfiguring, or seriously debilitating 10,000 more.
gas attack) The attack occurred in conjunction with the
1988 al-Anfal campaign designed to
reassert central control of the mostly Kurdish population of areas
of northern Iraq and defeat the Kurdish peshmerga rebel forces.
The United States
now maintains that Saddam ordered the attack to terrorize the
Kurdish population in northern Iraq, but Saddam's regime claimed at
the time that Iran was responsible for the attack and US analysts
the claim until several years later.
The bloody eight-year war ended in a stalemate. There were hundreds
of thousands of casualties with estimates of up to one million
dead. Neither side had achieved what they had originally desired
and at the borders were left nearly unchanged. The southern, oil
rich and prosperous Khuzestan and Basra area (the main focus of the
war, and the primary source of their economies) were almost
completely destroyed and were left at the pre 1979 border, while
Iran managed to make some small gains on its borders in the
Northern Kurdish area. Both economies, previously healthy and
expanding, were left in ruins.
Borrowing money from the U.S. was making Iraq dependent on outside
loans, embarrassing a leader who had sought to define Arab
nationalism. Saddam also borrowed a tremendous amount of money from
other Arab states during the 1980s to fight Iran, mainly to prevent
the expansion of Shiite radicalism. However, this had proven to
completely backfire both on Iraq and on the part of the Arab
states, for Khomeini was praised as a hero for managing to defend
Iran and maintain the war with little foreign support against the
heavily backed Iraq, and only managed to boost Islamic radicalism
in the Arab states. Faced with rebuilding Iraq's infrastructure,
Saddam desperately sought out cash once again, this time for
Tensions with Kuwait
of the war with Iran served to deepen latent tensions between Iraq
and its wealthy neighbor Kuwait.
Saddam urged the Kuwaitis to forgive the Iraqi debt accumulated in
the war, some $30 billion, but they refused.
Saddam pushed oil-exporting countries to raise oil prices by
cutting back production; Kuwait refused, however. In addition to
refusing the request, Kuwait spearheaded the opposition in OPEC
to the cuts that Saddam had requested. Kuwait was
pumping large amounts of oil, and thus keeping prices low, when
Iraq needed to sell high-priced oil from its wells to pay off a
Saddam had always argued that Kuwait was historically an integral
part of Iraq, and that Kuwait had only come into being through the
maneuverings of British imperialism; this echoed a belief that
Iraqi nationalists had voiced for the past 50 years. This belief
was one of the few articles of faith uniting the political scene in
a nation rife with sharp social, ethnic, religious, and ideological
The extent of Kuwaiti oil reserves also intensified tensions in the
region. The oil reserves of Kuwait (with a population of 2 million
next to Iraq's 25) were roughly equal to those of Iraq.
together, Iraq and Kuwait sat on top of some 20 percent of the
world's known oil reserves; as an article of comparison, Saudi Arabia holds 25 percent.
complained to the U.S. State Department that the Kuwaiti
monarchy had slant drilled oil out of wells that Iraq
considered to be within its disputed border with Kuwait.
Saddam still had an experienced and well-equipped army, which he
used to influence regional affairs. He later ordered troops to the
Iraq-Kuwait relations rapidly deteriorated, Saddam was receiving
conflicting information about how the U.S. would respond to the
prospects of an invasion. For one, Washington had been taking
measures to cultivate a constructive relationship with Iraq for
roughly a decade. The Reagan
gave Saddam roughly $40 billion in aid in the
1980s to fight Iran, nearly all of it on credit. The U.S. also gave
Saddam billions of dollars to keep him from forming a strong
alliance with the Soviets.
Saddam's Iraq became "the third-largest
recipient of US assistance".
U.S. ambassador to Iraq April Glaspie
met with Saddam in an emergency meeting on July 25, where the Iraqi
leader stated his intention to continue talks. U.S. officials
attempted to maintain a conciliatory line with Iraq, indicating
that while George H. W. Bush
and James Baker
did not want force used,
they would not take any position on the Iraq–Kuwait boundary
dispute and did not want to become involved. Whatever Glapsie did
or did not say in her interview with Saddam, the Iraqis assumed
that the United States had invested too much in building relations
with Iraq over the 1980s to sacrifice them for Kuwait. Later, Iraq
and Kuwait met for a final negotiation session, which failed.
Saddam then sent his troops into Kuwait. As tensions between
Washington and Saddam began to escalate, the Soviet Union, under Mikhail
Gorbachev, strengthened its military relationship with the
Iraqi leader, providing him military advisors, arms and
On 2 August 1990, Saddam invaded and annexed Kuwait, thus sparking
an international crisis. Just two years after the 1988 Iraq and
Iran truce, "Saddam Hussein did what his Gulf patrons had earlier
paid him to prevent." Having removed the threat of Iranian
fundamentalism he "overran Kuwait and confronted his Gulf neighbors
in the name of Arab nationalism and Islam."
The U.S. had provided assistance to Saddam Hussein in the war with
Iran, but with Iraq's seizure of the oil-rich emirate of Kuwait in
August 1990 the United States led a United Nations
coalition that drove Iraq's
troops from Kuwait in February 1991. The ability for Saddam Hussein
to pursue such military aggression was from a "military machine
paid for in large part by the tens of billions of dollars Kuwait
and the Gulf states had poured into Iraq and the weapons and
technology provided by the Soviet Union, Germany, and
U.S. President George H. W. Bush
responded cautiously for the first several days. On one hand, Kuwait,
prior to this point, had been a virulent enemy of Israel and was the
Persian Gulf monarchy that had had the most friendly relations with
On the other hand, Washington foreign
policymakers, along with Middle East experts, military critics, and
firms heavily invested in the region, were extremely concerned with
stability in this region. The invasion immediately triggered fears
that the world's price of oil
therefore control of the world economy, was at stake. Britain
profited heavily from billions of dollars of Kuwaiti investments
and bank deposits. Bush was perhaps swayed while meeting with
British prime minister Margaret
, who happened to be in the U.S. at the time.
Co-operation between the United States and the Soviet Union made
possible the passage of resolutions in the United Nations Security
giving Iraq a deadline to leave Kuwait and approving
the use of force if Saddam did not comply with the timetable.
officials feared Iraqi retaliation against oil-rich Saudi Arabia, since the 1940s a close ally of Washington, for
the Saudis' opposition to the invasion of Kuwait.
Accordingly, the U.S. and a group of allies,
including countries as diverse as Egypt, Syria and Czechoslovakia, deployed a massive amount of troops along the
Saudi border with Kuwait and Iraq in order to encircle the Iraqi
army, the largest in the Middle East.
the period of negotiations and threats following the invasion,
Saddam focused renewed attention on the Palestinian problem by promising to withdraw his
forces from Kuwait if Israel would
relinquish the occupied territories in the West Bank, the Golan Heights, and the Gaza Strip.
Saddam's proposal further split the Arab
world, pitting U.S.- and Western-supported Arab states against the
Palestinians. The allies ultimately rejected any linkage between
the Kuwait crisis and Palestinian issues.
Saddam ignored the Security Council deadline. Backed by the
Security Council, a U.S.-led coalition launched round-the-clock
missile and aerial attacks on Iraq, beginning 16 January 1991.
Israel, though subjected to attack by Iraqi missiles, refrained
from retaliating in order not to provoke Arab states into leaving
the coalition. A ground force comprised largely of U.S. and British
armoured and infantry divisions ejected Saddam's army from Kuwait
in February 1991 and occupied the southern portion of Iraq as far
as the Euphrates
On 6 March 1991, Bush announced:
In the end, the over-manned and under-equipped Iraqi army proved
unable to compete on the battlefield with the highly mobile
coalition land forces and their overpowering air support. Some
175,000 Iraqis were taken prisoner and casualties were estimated at
over 85,000. As part of the cease-fire agreement, Iraq agreed to
scrap all poison gas and germ
and allow UN observers to inspect the sites. UN trade
sanctions would remain in effect until Iraq complied with all
terms. Saddam publicly claimed victory at the end of the war.
Iraq's ethnic and religious divisions, together with the brutality
of the conflict that this had engendered, laid the groundwork for
postwar rebellions. In the aftermath of the fighting, social and
ethnic unrest among Shi'ite Muslims, Kurds, and dissident military
units threatened the stability of Saddam's government. Uprisings
erupted in the Kurdish north and Shi'a southern and central parts
of Iraq, but were ruthlessly repressed.
The United States, which had urged Iraqis to rise up against
Saddam, did nothing to assist the rebellions. The Iranians, who had
earlier called for the overthrow of Saddam, were in no state to
even intervene on behalf of the rebellions due to the disastrous
state of its economy and military and another conflict was the last
thing Iran needed at the time. U.S. ally Turkey opposed any
prospect of Kurdish independence, and the Saudis and other
conservative Arab states feared an Iran-style Shi'ite
Saddam, having survived the immediate crisis in
the wake of defeat, was left firmly in control of Iraq, although
the country never recovered either economically or militarily from
the Gulf War. Saddam routinely cited his survival as "proof" that
Iraq had in fact won the war against the U.S. This message earned
Saddam a great deal of popularity in many sectors of the Arab
world. John Esposito, however, claims that "Arabs and Muslims were
pulled in two directions. That they rallied not so much to Saddam
Hussein as to the bipolar nature of the confrontation (the West
versus the Arab Muslim world) and the issues that Saddam
proclaimed: Arab unity, self-sufficiency, and social justice." As a
result, Saddam Hussein appealed to many people for the same reasons
that attracted more and more followers to Islamic revivalism and
also for the same reasons that fueled anti-Western feelings. "As
one U.S. Muslim observer noted: People forgot about Saddam's record
and concentrated on America...Saddam Hussein might be wrong, but it
is not America who should correct him." A shift was, therefore,
clearly visible among many Islamic movements in the post war period
"from an initial Islamic ideological rejection of Saddam Hussein,
the secular persecutor of Islamic movements, and his invasion of
Kuwait to a more populist Arab nationalist
, anti-imperialist support for Saddam
(or more precisely those issues he represented or championed) and
the condemnation of foreign intervention and occupation."
Saddam, therefore, increasingly portrayed himself as a devout
, in an effort to co-opt the
conservative religious segments of society. Some elements of Sharia
law were re-introduced, and the ritual phrase "Allahu Akbar
" ("God is great"), in Saddam's
handwriting, was added to the national flag.
Relations between the United States and Iraq remained tense
following the Gulf War. The U.S. launched a missile attack aimed at
Iraq's intelligence headquarters in Baghdad 26 June
1993, citing evidence of repeated Iraqi violations of the "no fly
zones" imposed after the Gulf War and for incursions into
The UN sanctions placed upon Iraq when it invaded Kuwait were not
lifted, blocking Iraqi oil exports. This caused immense hardship in
Iraq and virtually destroyed the Iraqi economy and state
infrastructure. Only smuggling across the Syrian border, and
humanitarian aid ameliorated the humanitarian crisis.
December 1996 the United Nations
allowed Saddam's government to begin selling limited amounts of oil
for food and medicine. Limited amounts of income from the United
Nations started flowing into Iraq through the UN Oil for Food program
U.S. officials continued to accuse Saddam of violating the terms of
the Gulf War's cease fire, by developing weapons of mass destruction
other banned weaponry, and violating the UN-imposed sanctions and
"no-fly zones." Isolated military strikes by U.S. and British
forces continued on Iraq sporadically, the largest being Operation Desert Fox
in 1998. Western
charges of Iraqi resistance to UN access to suspected weapons were
the pretext for crises between 1997 and 1998, culminating in
intensive U.S. and British missile strikes on Iraq, 16-19 December
1998. After two years of intermittent activity, U.S. and British
warplanes struck harder at sites near Baghdad in February
Saddam's support base of Tikriti tribesmen, family members, and
other supporters was divided after the war, and in the following
years, contributing to the government's increasingly repressive and
arbitrary nature. Domestic repression inside Iraq grew worse, and
Saddam's sons, Uday
and Qusay Hussein
, became increasingly powerful
and carried out a private reign of terror.
Iraqi co-operation with UN weapons inspection teams was
intermittent throughout the 1990s.
2003 invasion of Iraq
The U.S. continued to view Saddam as a bellicose tyrant who was a
threat to the stability of the region. During the 1990s, President
maintained sanctions and
ordered air strikes in the "Iraqi no-fly zones" (Operation Desert Fox
the hope that Saddam would be overthrown by political enemies
The domestic political equation changed in the U.S. after the
September 11, 2001
; in his January 2002 state of the union address
President George W. Bush spoke of an "axis of evil" consisting of Iran, North Korea, and Iraq.
Moreover, Bush announced that he would possibly take action to
topple the Iraqi government, because of the alleged threat of its
"weapons of mass
." Bush claimed, "The Iraqi regime has plotted to
, and nerve gas
, and nuclear
for over a decade... Iraq continues to flaunt its
hostility toward America and to support terror." Saddam Hussein
claimed that he falsely led the world to believe Iraq possessed
nuclear weapons in order to appear strong against Iran.
With war looming on 24 February 2003, Saddam Hussein talked with
for more than three hours, his first interview with a
U.S. reporter in over a decade. CBS aired the taped interview later
The Iraqi government and military collapsed within three weeks of
the beginning of the U.S.-led 2003
invasion of Iraq
on 20 March. The United States made at least
two attempts to kill Saddam with targeted air strikes, but both
failed to hit their target, killing civilians instead. By the
beginning of April, U.S.-led forces occupied much of Iraq. The
resistance of the much-weakened Iraqi Army either crumbled or
shifted to guerrilla
tactics, and it
appeared that Saddam had lost control of Iraq. He was last seen in
a video which purported to show him in the Baghdad suburbs
surrounded by supporters. When Baghdad fell to U.S-led forces on 9
April Saddam was nowhere to be found.
Incarceration and trial
Capture and incarceration
In April 2003, Saddam's whereabouts remained in question during the
weeks following the fall of Baghdad and the conclusion of the major
fighting of the war. Various sightings of Saddam were reported in
the weeks following the war but none was authenticated. At various
times Saddam released audio tapes promoting popular resistance to
the U.S.-led occupation.
Saddam was placed at the top of the U.S. list of "most-wanted Iraqis
." In July
2003, his sons Uday
and 14-year-old grandson Mustapha
were killed in a three-hour
gunfight with U.S. forces.
On 14 December 2003, U.S. administrator in Iraq L. Paul Bremer
announced that Saddam Hussein had been captured at a farmhouse in
near Tikrit. Bremer presented video
footage of Saddam in custody.
Saddam was shown with a full beard and hair longer than his
familiar appearance. He was described by U.S. officials as being in
good health. Bremer reported plans to put Saddam on trial, but
claimed that the details of such a trial had not yet been
determined. Iraqis and Americans who spoke with Saddam after his
capture generally reported that he remained self-assured,
describing himself as a "firm but just leader."
According to U.S. military sources, following his capture by U.S.
forces on 13 December Saddam was transported to a U.S. base near
Tikrit, and later taken to the U.S. base near Baghdad. The day
after his capture he was reportedly visited by longtime opponents
such as Ahmed Chalabi
British tabloid newspaper The
posted a picture of Saddam wearing white briefs on the
front cover of a newspaper. Other photographs inside the paper show
Saddam washing his trousers, shuffling, and sleeping. The United States Government
that it considers the release of the pictures a violation of the
, and that it
would investigate the photographs.During this period Hussein was interrogated
FBI agent George Piro
The guards at the Baghdad detention facility called their prisoner
"Vic," and let him plant a little garden near his cell.
nickname and the garden are among the details about the former
Iraqi leader that emerged during a 27 March 2008 tour of prison of
the Baghdad cell where
Saddam slept, bathed, and kept a journal in the final days before
June 2004, Saddam Hussein, held in custody by U.S. forces at the
U.S. base "Camp
Cropper," along with 11 other senior Baathist leaders, were
handed over legally (though not physically) to the interim Iraqi
government to stand trial for crimes against humanity and other
Saddam speaking at a pre-trial
A few weeks later, he was charged by the Iraqi Special Tribunal
committed against residents of Dujail
1982, following a failed assassination attempt against him.
Specific charges included the murder of 148 people, torture
of women and children and the illegal arrest
of 399 others. Among the many challenges of the trial were:
- Saddam and his lawyers’ contesting the court's authority and
maintaining that he was still the President of Iraq.
- The assassinations and attempts on the lives of several of
- Midway through the trial, the chief presiding judge was
On 5 November 2006, Saddam Hussein was found guilty of crimes
against humanity and sentenced to
. Saddam's half brother,
, and Awad Hamed al-Bandar
, head of Iraq's
Revolutionary Court in 1982, were convicted of similar charges. The
verdict and sentencing were both appealed
subsequently affirmed by Iraq's Supreme Court of Appeals. On
December 30, 2006, Saddam was hanged
Saddam was hanged on the first day of Eid
, 30 December 2006, despite his wish to be shot (which
he felt would be more dignified). The execution was carried out at Camp Justice, an Iraqi army base in Kadhimiya, a neighborhood of northeast Baghdad.
The execution was videotaped on a mobile
and he and his captors could be heard insulting each
other. The video was leaked to electronic media and posted on the
within hours, becoming the subject
of global controversy. It was later claimed by the head guard at
the tomb where his body remains that Saddam's body was stabbed six
times after the execution.
Not long before the execution, Saddam's lawyers released his last
letter. The following includes several excerpts:
A second unofficial video, apparently showing Saddam's body on a
trolley, emerged several days later. It sparked speculation that
the execution was carried out incorrectly as Saddam Hussein had a
gaping hole in his neck.
was buried at his birthplace of Al-Awja in Tikrit,
Iraq, 3 km (2 mi) from his sons Uday and Qusay
Hussein, on 31 December 2006.
Marriage and family relationships
While Saddam has no official marital history he is believed to have
been married to at least four women, two of whom have been
confirmed as his wives, and has had five children.
- Saddam married his first wife and cousin Sajida Talfah in 1963 in an arranged marriage.
Sajida is the daughter of Khairallah Talfah, Saddam's uncle and
mentor. Their marriage was arranged for Hussein at age five when
Sajida was seven; however, the two never met until their wedding.
married in Egypt during his
exile. The couple had five children.
- *Uday Hussein (28 June 1964 - 22
July 2003), was Saddam's oldest son, who ran the Iraqi Football Association,
Fedayeen Saddam, and several media
corporations in Iraq including Iraqi TV and
the newspaper Babel.
Uday, while Saddam's favorite son and raised to succeed him,
eventually fell out of favour with his father due to his erratic
behavior; he was responsible for many car crashes and rapes around Baghdad, constant feuds with other members
his family, and killing his father's favorite valet and food taster
Kamel Hana Gegeo at a party in
Egypt honoring Egyptian first lady Suzanne Mubarak. He was widely known for his
paranoia and his obsession with torturing people who disappointed
him in any way, which included tardy girlfriends, friends who
disagreed with him and, most notoriously, Iraqi athletes who
performed poorly. He was briefly married to Izzat Ibrahim ad-Douri's daughter but
later divorced her. The couple had no children. He was killed in a
gun battle with US Forces in Mosul.
- *Qusay Hussein (17 May 1966 - 22
July 2003), was Saddam's second — and, after the mid-90's, his
favorite — son. Qusay was believed to have been Saddam's later
intended successor as he was less erratic than his older brother
and kept a low profile. He was second in command of the military
(behind his father) and ran the elite Iraqi Republican Guard and the
SSO. He was believed to have ordered the army to
kill thousands of rebelling Marsh Arabs
and frequently ordered airstrikes on Kurdish and Shi'ite
settlements. He was also believed to have assisted Ali Hassan al-Majid in the 1988 Halabja
and Dujail chemical attacks. He was married once and had three
children. His oldest son, Mustapha Hussein, was killed along with
Uday and Qusay in Mosul.
- *Raghad Hussein (2 September
1968) is Saddam's oldest daughter. After the war, Raghad fled to Amman, Jordan where she
received sanctuary from the royal family. She is currently
wanted by the Iraqi Government for
allegedly financing and supporting the insurgency and the now
banned Iraqi Ba'ath Party. The Jordanian royal family refused to
hand her over. She married Hussein
Kamel and has five children from this marriage.
- *Rana Hussein (c. 1969), is
Saddam's second daughter. She like her sister fled to Jordan and
has stood up for her father's rights. She was married to Saddam Kamel and has had four children from
- *Hala Hussein (c. 1972), is
Saddam's third and youngest daughter. Very little information is
known about her. Her father arranged for her to marry General Kamal
Mustafa Abdallah Sultan al-Tikriti in 1998. She fled with her
children and sisters to Jordan. The
couple have two children.
1995, Raghad and her husband Hussein Kamel
al-Majid and Rana and her husband, Saddam Kamel al-Majid, defected to Jordan, taking
their children with them.
- Saddam married his second wife, Samira Shahbandar, in 1988. She was
originally the wife of an Iraqi
Airways executive but later became his mistress and then had
her divorced from him to become his second wife. There have been no
political issues from this marriage. After the war, Samira
fled to Beirut, Lebanon. She is believed to have mothered Hussein's
sixth child Ali, but members of
Hussein's family have denied this.
- Saddam had allegedly married a third wife, Nidal al-Hamdani, the general manager of
the Solar Energy Research Center in the Council of Scientific
Research. She bore him no children. Her current whereabouts are
- Wafa el-Mullah
al-Howeish is rumoured to have married Saddam as his fourth
wife in 2002. There is no firm evidence for this marriage. Wafa is
the daughter of Abdul Tawab el-Mullah Howeish, a former minister of
military industry in Iraq and Saddam's last deputy Prime Minister.
There were no children from this marriage. Her current whereabouts
They returned to Iraq when they
received assurances that Saddam would pardon them. Within three
days of their return in February 1996, both of the Kamel brothers
were attacked and killed in a gunfight with other clan members who
considered them traitors. Saddam had made it clear that although
pardoned, they would lose all status and would not receive any
2003, Saddam's daughters Raghad and Rana received sanctuary in
Amman, Jordan, where they
are currently staying with their nine children.
they spoke with CNN
and the Arab satellite
in Amman. When asked
about her father, Raghad told CNN, "He was a very good father,
loving, has a big heart." Asked if she wanted to give a message to
her father, she said: "I love you and I miss you." Her sister Rana
also remarked, "He had so many feelings and he was very tender with
all of us."
List of government positions held
- Saddam, pronounced , is his personal
name, and means the stubborn one or he who
confronts in Arabic (in Iraq also a term for a car's
bumper). Hussein (Sometimes
also transliterated as Hussayn or
Hussain) is not a surname in the Western sense
but a patronymic,
his father's given personal name; Abid al-Majid his
grandfather's; al-Tikriti means he was born and raised in
(or near) Tikrit. He was
commonly referred to as Saddam Hussein, or Saddam
for short. The observation that referring to the deposed Iraqi
president as only Saddam is derogatory or inappropriate
may be based on the assumption that Hussein is a family name: thus,
York Times refers to him as "Mr. Hussein", while Encyclopædia Britannica uses
just Saddam . A full discussion can be found  (Blair Shewchuk, CBC News Online).
- Under his government, this date was his official date of birth.
His real date of birth was never recorded, but it is believed to be
a date between 1935 and 1939. From Con Coughlin, Saddam The
Secret Life Pan Books, 2003 (ISBN 0-330-39310-3).
- executed by hanging after being convicted of
crimes against humanity following
his trial and conviction
- Official State Biography of Saddam Hussein
- Online NewsHour Update: Coalition Says Iraqi Regime Has
Lost Control of Baghdad - 9 April 2003
- See PBS Frontline (2003), "The survival of Saddam: secrets of
his life and leadership: interview with Saïd K. Aburish" at
- BBC News, October
16, 2000 
- Theodolou, Michael. New Iraqi literary king is not-quite anonymous.
The Christian Science
Monitor: December 11, 2001.
- Boncompagni, Hala. Saddam's lawyer plans book on president's 'secrets'.
Middle East Online: February 23, 2007.
- Santora, Marc and John F. Burns. From Hussein, a florid farewell to the Iraqi
people. The New York Times: January 4,
- Barr, Robert. Hussein tends garden, pens poems, official
says. The Boston Globe: July 27, 2004.
- Hogg, Chris. 'Saddam novel' on sale in Tokyo. BBC News: May 18, 2006.
- Cockburn, Andrew and Patrick Cockburn.
Saddam Hussein: An American Obsession.
2002, p. xviii.
Wolf, et al. CIA corruption probe; President Bush to give
immigration speech Monday night; Iraq: militia challenge.
Cable News Network: May
12, 2006. Transcript.
- Federal Bureau of
Investigation. Interviewing Saddam: FBI agent gets to the truth.
United States Department of
Justice: January 28, 2008.
- Eric Davis, Memories of State: Politics, History, and
Collective Identity in Modern Iraq, University of California
- R. Stephen Humphreys, Between Memory and Desire: The Middle
East in a Troubled Age, University of California Press, 1999,
- Humphreys, 68
- Saddam Key in Early CIA Plot, NewsMax.com,
April 11, 2003
- The Old Social Classes and the Revolutionary Movements of
Iraq (Princeton 1978)."
- Saddam Key in Early CIA Plot
- CNN, "Hussein was symbol of autocracy, cruelty in Iraq,"
December 30, 2003. 
- Humphreys, 78
- Saddam Hussein, CBC News, December 29,
- Jessica Moore, The Iraq War player profile: Saddam Hussein's Rise
to Power, PBS Online Newshour
- Khadduri, Majid. Socialist Iraq. The Middle East
Institute, Washington, D.C., 1978.
- A Documentary on Saddam Hussein 5,
- Bay Fang. " When Saddam ruled the day." U.S. News and
World Report. July 11, 2004.
- Edward Mortimer. " The Thief of
Baghdad." New York Review of Books. 27 September 1990,
citing Fuad Matar. Saddam Hussein: A Biography. Highlight.
- Helen Chapin Metz (ed) Iraq: A
Country Study: " Internal Security in the 1980s", Library of Congress Country
- Helen Chapin Metz (ed) Iraq: A
Country Study: " The West", Library of Congress Country
- BBC, 1981: Israel bombs Baghdad nuclear reactor,
BBC On This Day 7 June 1981 referenced January 6,
- Esposito, John, 'Political Islam Revolution, Radicalism, or
Reform', 'Political Islam and Gulf Security', Lynne Rienner
Publishers, ISBN 1-55587-262-X, Page 56-58
- Kevin Woods, James Lacey, and Williamson Murray, "Saddam's Delusions: The View From the Inside",
Foreign Affairs, May/June 2006.
- Dr Khalil Ibrahim Al Isa, Iraqi Scientist Reports on German, Other Help for Iraq
Chemical Weapons Program, Al Zaman (London), 1
- Saddam's Chemical Weapons Campaign: Halabja, March 16,
1988 - Bureau of Public Affairs
- Stephen C. Pelletiere, "A War Crime or an Act of War?", New
York Times, 31 January 2003
- Humphreys, 105
- A free-access on-line archive relating to U.S.–Iraq relations
in the 1980s is offered by The National Security Archive
of the George Washington University.
It can be read on line at . The Mount Holyoke International Relations Program
also provides a free-access document briefing on U.S.–Iraq
relations (1904–present); this can be accessed on line at .
- Greg Palast:"Armed Madhouse" Chapter 2 , Plume.
- Humphreys, 106
- "Bush to Gorbachev: Choose Between Saddam and the
West," by Jay P. Kosminsky and Michael Johns, Heritage Foundation
Executive Memorandum #280, 30 August 1990.
- Walter LaFeber, Russia, America, and the Cold War,
McGraw-Hill, 2002, p. 358.
- For a statement asserting the overriding importance of oil to
U.S. national security and the U.S. economy, see, e.g., the
declassified document, "Responding to Iraqi Aggression in the
Gulf," The White House, National Security Directive (NSD 54), top
secret, 15 January 1991. This document can be read on line in
George Washington University's National Security Archive
Electronic Briefing Book No. 21 at .
- See Margaret Thatcher, The Downing Street Years
- Saddam underwear photo angers US BBC May
- Al-Ani, Dr. Abdul-Haq. The Trial of Saddam Hussein.
ISBN 978-0932863584. Clarity Press. 2008.
- Balaghi, Shiva. Saddam Hussein: A Biography. ISBN
978-0313330773. Greenwich Press. 2008.
- Coughlin, Con. Saddam: His Rise and Fall. ISBN
978-0060505431. Harper Perennial. 2005.
- Karsh, Efraim and Inari Rautsi. Saddam Hussein: A Political
Biography. ISBN 978-0802139788. Grove Press. 2002.
- MacKey, Sandra. The Reckoning: Iraq and the Legacy of
Saddam Hussein. ISBN 978-0393324280. W. W. Norton &
- Makiya, Kanan. Republic of Fear: The Politics of Modern
Iraq (Updated Edition). ISBN 978-0520214392. University of
California Press. 1998.
- Newton, Michael A. and Michael P. Scharf. Enemy of the
State: The Trial and Execution of Saddam Hussein. ISBN
978-0312385569. St. Martin's Press. 2008.