30 Facts About the Rise and Fall of Saddam Hussein, the Butcher of Baghdad
30 Facts About the Rise and Fall of Saddam Hussein, the Butcher of Baghdad

30 Facts About the Rise and Fall of Saddam Hussein, the Butcher of Baghdad

Trista - December 25, 2018

30 Facts About the Rise and Fall of Saddam Hussein, the Butcher of Baghdad
St George’s Church located in Baghdad in 1947. Room for Diplomacy.

28. His Stepfather Was Abusive

Saddam’s mother remarried, to a man named Ibrahim al-Hassan. He returned to his mother, but his stepfather was so abusive that when he was 10, he fled back to his uncle’s home and spent the rest of his childhood in Baghdad. He went on to study law.

30 Facts About the Rise and Fall of Saddam Hussein, the Butcher of Baghdad
Saddam Hussein and the Ba’ath Party student cell, Cairo, in the period 1959-1963. Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain.

27. Saddam Hussein Joined the Ba’ath Party

Saddam’s uncle, Kharaillah Talfah, was a Ba’athist nationalist. The Ba’athist party promoted pan-Arab unity across the Middle East as a response to colonialism and imperialism, particularly in regards to the region’s oil. Saddam joined the party when he was 20, when pan-Arab nationalists were gaining power in the Middle East.

30 Facts About the Rise and Fall of Saddam Hussein, the Butcher of Baghdad
Abdul Karim Qasim, the prime minister of Iraq 1958-1963. The Iraqi revolution : one year of progress and achievement, 1958-1959/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain.

26. In 1959, Hussein Attempted to Assassinate the President

Iraq’s current president, Abd al-Karim Qasim, did not want to join the United Arab Republic, a nascent pan-Arab union, and he allied with Iraq’s growing communist party. The Ba’athists tried to assassinate him, and Saddam was part of the attempt.

30 Facts About the Rise and Fall of Saddam Hussein, the Butcher of Baghdad
A photograph of Saddam Hussein. Express.

25. He Fled to Egypt

Following the failed assassination attempt, Saddam fled to Syria, the birthplace of the Ba’athist movement, then to Egypt, where pan-Arab nationalism was strong under President Gamal Abdel Nasser. While in Egypt, he continued to study law. He remained there for about three years before he returned to Iraq in 1963.

30 Facts About the Rise and Fall of Saddam Hussein, the Butcher of Baghdad
Saddam Hussein firing a gun. Blogspot.

24. He Was Imprisoned in Iraq But Escaped

He participated in an assassination attempt against Iraq’s new president, Abdul Salam ‘Aarif, and was imprisoned in October 1964. He remained in prison for two years before successfully escaping in 1966. He became Deputy Secretary of the Regional Command under Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr, who would later become president.

30 Facts About the Rise and Fall of Saddam Hussein, the Butcher of Baghdad
Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr (left), the Regional Secretary of the Iraqi Ba’ath, shaking hands with Michel Aflaq, principal founder of Ba’athist thought, in 1968. Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain.

23. Hussein Participated in a Coup

In 1968, the Ba’athist leader Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr led a bloodless coup against Abdul Salam ‘Aarif’s brother and successor, Abdul Rahman ‘Aarif. Saddam’s role in the coup was insignificant, but with al-Bakr as the head of the new government, Saddam became his deputy. He then eliminated the non-Ba’athist leaders who had participated in the coup.

30 Facts About the Rise and Fall of Saddam Hussein, the Butcher of Baghdad
Saddam Hussein smoking a cigar. Rodolfogrimaldi.

22. Saddam Hussein Nationalized the Oil Industry

As deputy, Saddam carried out many modernizing reforms, bringing about improvements to Iraq’s healthcare, education, agriculture, and transportation. He also brought the oil industry under Iraqi control so that it could no longer be exploited by Western powers, especially the United Kingdom and the United States.

30 Facts About the Rise and Fall of Saddam Hussein, the Butcher of Baghdad
A close up shot of Saddam Hussein. Mirror.

21. He Also Developed Chemical Weapons

In addition to modernizing reforms, he believed that the future and security of Iraq and the pan-Arab state that he hoped would come about, depended on military might. He developed chemical weapons that he frequently used against Iraqi civilians, mainly the Kurds, who lived in the northern part of the country.

30 Facts About the Rise and Fall of Saddam Hussein, the Butcher of Baghdad
Saddam Hussein circa 1979, the year he assumed the Iraqi presidency. INA (Iraqi News Agency) – Dar al-Ma’mun from the book “Arabische Strategie weist Herausforderungen zurück”/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain.

20. Hussein Became President in 1979

Saddam had been the de facto leader of Iraq for years, and in 1979, he forced al-Bakr to resign. This event happened the same year as the Iranian Revolution, and the world watched anxiously to see what effects the revolution would have on Iraq’s Shi’a majority.

30 Facts About the Rise and Fall of Saddam Hussein, the Butcher of Baghdad
Saddam Hussein was viewed as a corrupt and dangerous dictator. Mirror.

19. Saddam Hussein Had Many of His Opponents Executed

Less than a week after formally ascending to the presidency, Saddam called a meeting with all leaders of the Ba’ath party. He read from a list of 68 names, and as he called out each name, that person was arrested and imprisoned. All were tried for treason, and 22 were executed. Within a year, most of his opponents had been killed.

30 Facts About the Rise and Fall of Saddam Hussein, the Butcher of Baghdad
Kurdish peshmerga (opposition forces) in northern Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War. Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain.

18. He Went to War With Iran

In September 1980, Saddam invaded Iran, presumably to quell the Shi’a uprising there and prevent it from spreading to Iraq, in what Iran came to see as an act of war. The Iran-Iraq War would last for nearly a decade and claim over a million lives on each side.

30 Facts About the Rise and Fall of Saddam Hussein, the Butcher of Baghdad
Image of Saddam Hussein from Iraqi state television. Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain.

17. The United States Supported Him

Though Iraq was clearly the belligerent and had made the first move by invading Iran, many countries, including the United States, threw their support behind Iraq and provided Saddam with much of the weaponry, ammunition, and funds that he used to fight the war against Iran.

30 Facts About the Rise and Fall of Saddam Hussein, the Butcher of Baghdad
Kuwait circa 1990 after the invasion. fhaiddotcom.

16. Saddam Hussein Invaded Kuwait in 1990

In 1988, an internationally brokered ceasefire brought about an end to the Iran-Iraq War. Neither side was declared victorious, and Saddam had gained neither territory nor oil rights. In 1990, he attempted to gain control of Kuwait’s oil fields in an invasion that sparked the Persian Gulf War.

30 Facts About the Rise and Fall of Saddam Hussein, the Butcher of Baghdad
The Halabja chemical attack in 1988. Kurdsat/dckurd.org.

15. He Used Chemical Weapons Against His Fellow Iraqis

Part of the terms of ending the Persian Gulf War included Iraq dismantling its chemical weapons program, which had been used to kill many Iraqi civilians. One of the most notorious was the Halabja chemical attack, in which mustard gas and unidentified nerve agents killed or injured as many as 15,000 people.

30 Facts About the Rise and Fall of Saddam Hussein, the Butcher of Baghdad
Baath Party founder Michel Aflaq (left) with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein (right) in 1988. Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain.

14. Hussein Was Popularly Elected

Though his rise in politics was mired in intrigue and subversion, he held regular elections and continued to be popularly elected by the people. The catch is that his name was the only one that was allowed on the ballot. No wonder he consistently won with 100% of the vote.

30 Facts About the Rise and Fall of Saddam Hussein, the Butcher of Baghdad
NASA Landsat 7 image of Baghdad, 2 April 2003. The dark streaks are smoke from oil well fires set in an attempt to hinder attacking air forces. USGS EROS Data Center Satellite Systems Branch/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain.

13. The US Invaded Iraq in 2003

Following the September 11 attacks, Vladimir Putin of Russia suggested that Iraq had been building weapons of mass destruction, which could be used in an even greater terrorist attack. Allegations of WMDs led to the US invasion of Iraq, but the alleged weapons were never recovered.

30 Facts About the Rise and Fall of Saddam Hussein, the Butcher of Baghdad
Charlie Company, Twentynine Palms, California (CA), cover each other with 5.56 mm M16A2 assault rifles as they prepare to enter one of Saddam Hussein’s palaces in Baghdad as they takeover the complex during Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. Lance Corporal Kevin C. Quihuis Jr. (USMC) – Defense Visual Information Center US Marines Corps (USMC) Marines from the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines/Wikimedia Commons.

12. A Massive Manhunt for Saddam Hussein Ensued

Though the United States had initially supported Saddam, mainly through the 1980s, one of the primary goals of the 2003 invasion was to find Saddam. Baghdad quickly fell to the American forces, but Saddam was nowhere to be seen. The military undertook a massive search to try to get him.

30 Facts About the Rise and Fall of Saddam Hussein, the Butcher of Baghdad
Iraqi-American, Samir, 34, pinning deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to the ground during his capture in Tikrit, on Saturday, December 13, 2003. US Army Photo/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain.

11. Hussein Was Found in December 2003

Eight months after the first invasion of Iraq, a group of American soldiers found him hiding in a bunker near a farmhouse just outside of his hometown of Tikrit. His beard was overgrown, so they forced him to shave so that they could verify his identity.

30 Facts About the Rise and Fall of Saddam Hussein, the Butcher of Baghdad
Saddam Hussein shortly after capture in 2003. Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain.

10. He Was Tried for Crimes Against Humanity

Saddam was physically placed in the custody of the United States government and its operations in Iraq, but he was legally handed over to the interim Iraqi government for trial. Amongst other heinous crimes, he had ordered the use of rape as a political tool.

30 Facts About the Rise and Fall of Saddam Hussein, the Butcher of Baghdad
Saddam Hussein argues with a judge in court in July of 2004. Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain.

9. He Challenged the Court that Tried Him

During Saddam’s trial, he engaged in behavior that was considered by many to be bizarre and erratic, leading some to question his sanity. He contested the legitimacy of the court because he was still legally the president of Iraq. The trial lasted over two years.

30 Facts About the Rise and Fall of Saddam Hussein, the Butcher of Baghdad
Hussein had his beard shaven to confirm his identity after being captured. Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain.

8. Saddam Hussein Was Sentenced to Death

In December 2006, the court found Saddam to be guilty of crimes against humanity and given the death sentence. The same verdict and judgment were handed down to some of his family members, including two of his half-brothers. They all appealed the conviction, but it was upheld.

30 Facts About the Rise and Fall of Saddam Hussein, the Butcher of Baghdad
Iraqi national television station Al-iraqia shows the moments leading up to the execution of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein on December 30, 2006. CNN.

7. He Died by Hanging in December 2006

Saddam expressed the wish to be executed via a firing squad, but instead, he was hanged on December 30, 2006. This date was the first day of ‘Eid al-Adha, the festival of the sacrifice, in which devout Muslims commemorate the prophet Abraham’s near-sacrifice of his son. The irony, or perhaps symbolism, was not lost on the Iraqi people.

30 Facts About the Rise and Fall of Saddam Hussein, the Butcher of Baghdad
Propagandistic art to glorify Saddam after Iran-Iraq War in 1988. Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain.

6. Hussein Was Buried in His Hometown

Saddam’s daughter, Raghd, who lived in exile in the neighboring country of Jordan, requested that he be interred in Yemen until the violence in Iraq. Presumably, her request was made because she anticipated his burial could provoke more violence and unrest. Despite her request, he was buried in al-‘Awja, his hometown, near Tikrit.

30 Facts About the Rise and Fall of Saddam Hussein, the Butcher of Baghdad
Saddam Hussein’s sons Qusay and Uday were killed in a gun battle in Mosul on 22 July 2003.
Spc. Robert Woodward, U.S. Army/Wikimedia Commons.

5. Saddam Hussein’s Legacy is Full of Unsuccessful Wars

Like many other dictators, Saddam left behind a mixed legacy. He engaged in multiple unsuccessful wars, most notably in Iran and Kuwait, though he claimed victory in each. Following the collapse of Iraq’s interim government and the rise of ISIS, many Iraqis looked back fondly on the days of Saddam.

30 Facts About the Rise and Fall of Saddam Hussein, the Butcher of Baghdad
Photograph of Saddam Hussein. AP/Daily Mail.

4. Hussein Killed Many of His Own People

In addition to killing off many of his political opponents, Saddam tortured and killed many Iraqi civilians. His uncle who raised him had imbued within him a hatred of both Shi’as and Kurds, both of whom made up a large part of Iraq’s population. In 1991 alone, he had as many as 180,000 people killed.

30 Facts About the Rise and Fall of Saddam Hussein, the Butcher of Baghdad
Former CIA director under President Bill Clinton, Robert Baer. Index.

3. The CIA Had Previously Tried to Assassinate Him

President Bill Clinton ordered frequent airstrikes in Iraq throughout the 1990s and hoped that internal dissidents in Iraq would overthrow Saddam. CIA operative Robert Baer reported that in 1995, the CIA had attempted to assassinate him after trying for a decade to initiate an Iraqi-led coup against him.

30 Facts About the Rise and Fall of Saddam Hussein, the Butcher of Baghdad
The statue of Saddam Hussein topples in Baghdad’s Firdos Square on April 9, 2003. US Military/Wikimedia Commons.

2. Iraqis Toppled a Statue of Him

Following the American invasion in 2003, a giant statue of Saddam in Baghdad’s Firdos Square was toppled by the Iraqi people. Many went on to beat the figure with their shoes, a symbol of ultimate degradation and shame. The crumbling of the statue represented the end of the Battle of Baghdad and the end of Saddam’s reign of terror.

30 Facts About the Rise and Fall of Saddam Hussein, the Butcher of Baghdad
Flowers and pictures of the late Saddam Hussein. Yimg.

1. Saddam Hussein’s Grave Became a Shrine

Just a few hours after Saddam Hussein was buried in his hometown of al-Awja, nationalists from the Ba’ath party draped a giant Iraqi flag over his grave. Hundreds of people visit his grave every day, often with a sense of nostalgia for Iraq before the American invasion and later takeover by ISIS.

 

Where Did We Find This Stuff? Here Are Our Sources:

“Saddam Hussein,” by the editors of biography.com. April 27, 2017.

“Saddam Hussein,” by the editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica.

“Saddam Hussein.” Wikipedia.

“Watch: This is what Saddam Hussein’s tomb looks like after the Islamic State’s occupation of Tikrit,” by Adam Taylor. The Washington Post. March 16, 2015.

“Halabja chemical attack.” Wikipedia.

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