Saddam Hussein was one of the most notorious and controversial political figures of the 20th century. Born in Tikrit, Iraq, in 1937, Hussein rose to power as the president of Iraq in 1979, following a series of coups and political purges. He remained in power until his capture and execution in 2006, a period marked by war, oppression, and human rights abuses. In this blog, we will examine the life and legacy of Saddam Hussein, his rise to power, his domestic and foreign policies, and the events that led to his downfall.
Early Life and Rise to Power
Saddam Hussein was born to a poor family in Tikrit, a small town north of Baghdad. His father died shortly after his birth, and his mother remarried. As a child, Hussein was raised by his stepfather, who reportedly abused him. In spite of these challenges, Hussein excelled in school and showed a keen interest in politics. He joined the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party in 1957 and quickly rose through the ranks, becoming a leading figure in the party’s underground movement to overthrow the Iraqi monarchy.
In 1963, the Ba’ath Party successfully staged a coup and seized power in Iraq. Hussein played a key role in the coup, and he was appointed deputy secretary-general of the party. However, the Ba’athist government was short-lived, and it was overthrown by a group of military officers in 1968. Hussein emerged as a leading figure in the new government, serving as vice president of the Revolutionary Command Council.
Presidency and Domestic Policies
In 1979, Hussein became the president of Iraq, following the resignation of his predecessor, Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr. As president, Hussein embarked on a series of ambitious domestic policies aimed at modernizing and industrializing Iraq. He invested heavily in infrastructure, building new highways, bridges, and airports, as well as factories, power plants, and refineries.
At the same time, however, Hussein’s regime was characterized by brutal repression and human rights abuses. Political dissent was not tolerated, and those who spoke out against the regime were subject to arrest, torture, and execution. Hussein’s regime was particularly brutal towards the Kurds, a minority ethnic group in northern Iraq. In 1988, his forces carried out a chemical attack on the town of Halabja, killing an estimated 5,000 people.
Hussein’s foreign policy was marked by aggression towards Iraq’s neighbors and a willingness to use military force to achieve his goals. In 1980, Hussein ordered an invasion of Iran, sparking an eight-year war that devastated both countries. The war ended in a stalemate, with neither side emerging as a clear winner.
In 1990, Hussein’s forces invaded Kuwait, accusing the small Gulf state of stealing Iraqi oil. The invasion sparked a military response from a coalition of forces led by the United States. The Gulf War, as it came to be known, lasted just over a month and ended with the expulsion of Iraqi forces from Kuwait. The war had a devastating impact on Iraq’s economy, leading to widespread poverty and suffering among the Iraqi people.
International Sanctions and Downfall
Following the Gulf War, Iraq was subject to a series of economic sanctions imposed by the United Nations. The sanctions had a crippling effect on the Iraqi economy, leading to shortages of food, medicine, and other basic necessities. Hussein’s regime was accused of diverting funds away from the Iraqi people and using them to build palaces and fund military programs.
In 2003, the United States and its allies launched a second war against Iraq, accusing Hussein of developing weapons of mass destruction and harboring terrorists. The war was controversial and sparked protests around the world.
Capture, Trial and Death
In the months that followed, an intensive search for Saddam began. While in hiding, Saddam released several audio recordings, in which he denounced Iraq’s invaders and called for resistance. Finally, on December 13, 2003, Saddam was found hiding in a small underground bunker near a farmhouse in ad-Dawr, near Tikrit. From there, he was moved to a U.S. base in Baghdad, where he would remain until June 30, 2004, when he was officially handed over to the interim Iraqi government to stand trial for crimes against humanity.
During the subsequent trial, Saddam would prove to be a belligerent defendant, often boisterously challenging the court’s authority and making bizarre statements. On November 5, 2006, Saddam was found guilty and sentenced to death. The sentencing was appealed, but was ultimately upheld by a court of appeals. On December 30, 2006, at Camp Justice, an Iraqi base in Baghdad, Saddam was hanged, despite his request to be shot. He was buried in Al-Awja, his birthplace, on December 31, 2006.