President of Iraq
Huddled in an underground bunker with his country smoldering in ruins
around him, Iraqi President SADDAM HUSSEIN seemed buried for good in
February 1992. U.N. forces had devastated Iraq in the six-week Persian
Gulf War; sewage systems and telephone lines were out, electrical grids
were down, and roads were impassable. Harsh international sanctions
and reparation debts hobbled recovery prospects for the oil-rich republic
of Iraq. But Hussein resurfaced, unrepentant for the failed invasion
of Kuwait and its enormous toll.
The man who would become known as the enemy
of the Western world had beaten the odds before. Hussein grew up in
Auja, a village of mud-brick huts northwest of Baghdad. His parents
were poor farmers, but inspired by his uncle Khayrallah Tulfah, an Iraqi
army officer and crusader for Arab unity, Hussein gravitated to politics
as a teenager.
joined the socialist Baath party when he was 19. He made his mark three
years later when he participated in a 1959 assassination attempt against
Iraqi Prime Minister Abudul Karim Kassim. Saddam was shot in the leg
during the botched effort and fled the country for several years, first
to Syria, then Egypt.
In 1968 he helped lead the revolt that finally
brought the Baath party to power under Gen. Ahmed Hassan Bakr. In the
process, he landed the vice president’s post, from which he built
an elaborate network of secret police to root out dissidents. Eleven
years later he deposed Bakr and plastered the streets with 20-foot-high
portraits of himself.
Saddam’s years as a revolutionary left
him keenly aware of the danger of dissent. Shortly after taking office,
he purged and murdered dozens of government officials suspected of disloyalty.
In the early 1980s, he used chemical weapons to crush a Kurdish rebellion
in northern Iraq. Saddam’s power struggles extended well beyond
his country’s borders; bent on dominating the Muslim world, he
attacked neighboring countries. In 1980 he invaded Iran, launching an
eight-year war that ended in stalemate.
In August 1990 he invaded the oil sheikdom of
Kuwait, proclaiming it Iraq’s 19th province. He defied U.N. directives
to retreat from Kuwait, provoking what he called “the mother of
all battles,” the Persian Gulf War. That brief conflict decimated
Saddam’s military forces, but he has managed to rebuild his republic
and his power base, beginning with the secret police force.
April 1937 Saddam Hussein was born in the village Al-Awja near Tikrit,
Iraq, north of Baghdad. He was sent to live with his maternal uncle
soon after he was born. During his early years, reports have linked
Saddam to the murders of a school teacher and/or a cousin.
1955 Saddam moved to Baghdad.
1956 Saddam joined the Arab Baath Socialist Party.
1957 Saddam was denied the admission to the Baghdad Military Academy.
He joins the underground Baath Socialist Party.
1958 Saddam married Sajida. He is arrested for killing his brother-in-law
and spends six months in prison.
7 October 1959 Saddam was a member of a Baath assassination team which
attempted to assassinate the Prime Minister of Iraq, Gen. Abdel-Karim
Kassem. Shot in the leg by the prime minister's bodyguard, Saddam fled
to Syria, then Egypt.
25 February 1960 After being tried in absentia, Saddam was sentenced
1962 Saddam completed his secondary studies.
1962-1963 Saddam studied law in Cairo, but he did not complete it.
8 February 1963 Saddam returned to Iraq after the Ramadan Revolution.
November 1963 The new regime was ousted by a military coup.
14 October 1964 Saddam was arrested for charges accusing him of rebelling
against the regime. He remained in prison until his escape in 1967.
September 1966 While in prison, Saddam was elected the Deputy Secretary
General of the Baath Party Leadership.
1967 Saddam escaped from prison.
July 1968 Saddam participated in a coup in which Baathists and army
officers overthrew the Iraqi regime.
1968 Saddam graduated from the College of Law.
30 July 1968 Saddam took charge of internal security after Baath Party
consolidated its power and authority passed to the Revolutionary Command
Council, led by Saddam's cousin, Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr.
9 November 1969 Saddam was elected the Vice-chairman of the Revolution
1 June 1972 Saddam nationalized all of the oil companies in Iraq.
1 July 1973 Saddam was dubbed the rank of Lieutenant general and the
Rafadain Order, First Class.
11 March 1974 Saddam helped to implement the Autonomy Law for Iraqi
Kurdish Citizens. The Kurds were forced to go to Iran.
1 February 1976 Saddam was awarded M.A. Honors Degree in Military Sciences
late 1970s As Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr's health failed, Saddam emerged as
the de facto leader of Iraq.
8 October 1977 Saddam was elected the Assistant Secretary General of
the National Pan-Arab Leadership of the Baath Party.
1979 Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr negotiated with Syria to unify Iraq and Syria.
Syrian President Hafez al-Assad would have become deputy leader of the
new union, leaving Saddam's political future uncertain.
16 July 1979 Saddam forced Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr to resign and was elected
as the President of Iraq and as the Chairman of Revolution Command Council.
17 July 1979 Saddam was promoted to the rank of Field Marshall.
22 July 1979 Saddam convened an assembly of Baath leaders. A list of
potential opponents to Saddam was read. Those on the list were branded
disloyal, removed from the assembly, and shot.
8 October 1979 Saddam was elected Deputy Secretary General of the Pan-Arab
Leadership of the Baath party.
4 September 1980 Saddam initiated a war with Iran, seeking to obtain
Iranian oil reserves.
1982 Former President Bakr died mysteriously. It was widely suspected
that Saddam was involved.
30 July 1983 Saddam was dubbed the Revolution Order, First Class.
1984 Saddam was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Law from the University
1987-1988 Saddam launched the Anfal Campaign against the Kurds. 180,000
Kurds disappeared and 4,000 villages were destroyed.
28 April 1988 Saddam was dubbed the Order of the People.
28 March 1988 The Kurdish town, Halabaja, was gassed. 5,000 people were
killed and 10,000 were injured.
8 August 1988 Saddam agreed to a cease-fire with Iran. Iraq won the
August 1988 Many Kurdish villages on the Turkish border were gassed.
Thousands of people died.
2 August 1990 Saddam seized Kuwait.
16 January 1991 The United States began bombing Baghdad in response
to Saddam not turning over Kuwait.
February 1991 The Persian Gulf War ended. President George Bush of the
United States declared a cease-fire.
March 1991 Saddam's regime crushes a Kurdish revolt in northern Iraq
and a Shiite revolt in the south.
1993 Saddam broke the peace terms from the end of the Persian Gulf War.
The United States bombed Iraq as a result.
29 September 1998 The United States passed the Iraq Liberation Act.
The Act stated that they wanted to remove Saddam Hussein from office
and replace the government with a democratic institution.
October 1998 Saddam failed to comply with the united Nations weapons
inspectors. This action led to a four-day bombing raid by the United
16-19 December 1998 The United Nations pulled their workers out of Iraq.
The United States and the United Kingdom began air raids on Iraq called
Operation Desert Fox.
1999 Throughout the year continual air strikes hit Iraq.
2000 It is reported that Saddam has used humanitarian funds to build
presidential palaces and for other personal enrichment items.
2002 The United States began to initiate a plan to overthrow Saddam.
8 November 2002 UN Security Council resolution threatens "serious
consequences" if Iraq refuses to disarm.
27 November 2002 Saddam allows the United Nations weapons inspectors
to return to Iraq.
7 December 2002 Iraq delivers to the United Nations a declaration denying
it has weapons of mass destruction.
January 2003 Other Arab leaders in the middle east request that Saddam
Hussein go into exile to avoid war with the United States.
February 2003 Saddam Hussein interviewed with news reporter, Dan Rather.
Saddam said that he would not go into exile and that he would not surrender
in a possible war. He claimed that Iraq does not have any weapons that
go against UN resolutions.
17 March 2003 United States President George W. Bush gave Saddam an
ultimatum. Either he leave Iraq within 48 hours with his sons or the
United States would pursue military action.
18 March 2003 Iraqi leadership rejects US ultimatum.
19 March 2003 The United States and other coalition forces started Operation Iraqi Freedom in
an effort to remove Saddam Hussein and his regime from power.
24 March 2003 Saddam delivered a defiant speech on Iraqi television
trying to rally his troops and unite his people in the war against the
End of March 2003 Saddam Hussein made various television speeches that
had been pre-recorded. Many analysts believed that they had been recorded
before the war even started, because he did not reference any of the
specific war activities.
4 April 2003 Saddam made a televised appearance and finally referenced
specific details of the war. He called on the Iraqis to hit the coalition
9 April 2003 Jubilant crowds greet US troops in Baghdad, then topple
a large statue of Saddam.
7 May 2003 A tape thought to be Saddam Hussein was made public. It called
on the Iraqi citizens to reject the visitors and to overhtorw the Americans.
July 2003 US forces raid locations in Mosul and Tikrit, then report
missing Saddam by "a matter of hours."
13 December 2003 Saddam is captured at 8:30 p.m. in Adwar, ten miles
south of Tikrit, while hiding in a specially prepared "spider hole."
Hussein insists that the Gulf War was a victory for Iraq
Middle East analyst Gerald Butt
Hussein, President of Iraq for the past two decades, has the dubious
distinction of being the world's best known and most hated Arab leader.
in a region where despotic rule is the norm, he is more feared by his
own people than any other head of state.
former Iraqi diplomat living in exile summed up Saddam's rule in one
sentence: "Saddam is a dictator who is ready to sacrifice his country,
just so long as he can remain on his throne in Baghdad." Few Iraqis
would disagree with this. Although none living in Iraq would dare to
say so publicly.
Iraqi people are forced to consume a daily diet of triumphalist slogans,
fattened by fawning praise of the president.
is portrayed as a valiant knight leading the Arabs into battle against
the infidel, or as an eighth-century caliph who founded the city of
Baghdad. Evoking the glory of Arab history, Saddam claims to be leading
his people to new glory.
reality looks very different. Iraq is bankrupt, its economy and infrastructure
shattered by years of economic sanctions imposed by the United Nations
following the invasion of Kuwait.
Hussein remains largely isolated from his people, keeping the company
of a diminishing circle of trusted advisers - largely drawn from his
close family or from the extended clan based around the town of Takrit,
north of Baghdad.
path to power
Iraqi president was born in a village just outside Takrit in April 1937.
In his teenage years, he immersed himself in the anti-British and anti-Western
atmosphere of the day. At college in Baghdad he joined the Baath party.
the overthrow of the monarchy in 1958, Saddam connived in a plot to
kill the prime minister, Abdel-Karim Qassem. But the conspiracy was
discovered, and Saddam fled the country.
1963, with the Baath party in control in Baghdad, Saddam Hussein returned
home and began jostling for a position of influence. During this period
he married his cousin Sajida. They later had two sons and three daughters.
within months, the Baath party had been overthrown and he was jailed,
remaining there until the party returned to power in a coup in July
1968. Showing ruthless determination that was to become a hallmark of
his leadership, Saddam Hussein gained a position on the ruling Revolutionary
years he was the power behind the ailing figure of the president, Ahmed
Hassan Bakr. In 1979, he achieved his ambition of becoming head of state.
The new president started as he intended to go on - putting to death
dozens of his rivals.
together a disparate nation
Saddam Hussein might defend his autocratic style of leadership by arguing
that nothing else could have kept such a vast and diverse nation united.
for all that Saddam Hussein is criticised and reviled, his opponents
have not been able to nominate anyone else who might hold Iraq together
- with its Kurds in the north, Sunni Muslims in the centre and Shi'ia
in the south. What the outside world calls terror, Saddam calls expediency.
years ago a European interviewer nervously quoted reports that the Baghdad
authorities might, on occasions, have tortured and perhaps even killed
opponents of the regime.
this true? Saddam Hussein was not offended. Rather, he seemed surprised
by the naivete of the question. "Of course," he replied. "What
do you expect if they oppose the regime?"
his tactic of imposing his authority by terror has gone far beyond the
occasional arrest and execution of opponents. In attempts to suppress
the Kurds, for example, he has systematically used chemical weapons.
And in putting down a rebellion of Shi'ia in the south he has razed
towns to the ground and drained marshland.
that you would recognise the figure of a tyrant in the portraits that
adorn every building and street corner in Iraq.
you see Saddam, usually smiling benevolently, in a variety of guises
and poses - in military uniform, say, or in traditional ethnic dress,
or tweed cap and sports jacket; he might be surrounded by his family
or be seen jiggling a young child on his knee - the would-be father-figure
of the Iraqi nation.
question of judgement
fiction of Saddam Hussein as a benevolent ruler was exposed by two major
and catastrophic miscalculations of foreign policy for which his country
and his people have paid dearly.
1980, Saddam thought he saw an opportunity for glory - to put Iraq at
the forefront of the Arab world. He ordered a surprise cross-border
attack on Iran. This was meant to be a swift operation to capture the
Shatt al-Arab waterway leading to the Gulf.
Iranian resistance was far stronger than he had imagined. Eight years
later, with hundreds of thousands of young people killed and the country
deep in debt, he agreed on a ceasefire.
with enormous oil reserves, Iraq seemed to have the potential to make
a swift recovery. An increase in oil prices, Saddam Hussein surmised,
would speed up the country's revival still more.
by his failure to achieve agreement on a price rise by conventional
means, the Iraqi president allowed his long-harboured resentment against
Kuwait to get the better of him.
2 August 1990, he made another costly blunder by ordering his army into
the neighbouring Gulf state.
the months that led up to the war of 1991, Saddam Hussein displayed
qualities that still make him both adored and hated in the Arab world.
the streets of Arab cities he is admired as a leader who has dared to
defy and challenge Israel and the West, a symbol of Arab steadfastness
in the face of Western aggression.
the same time, Saddam is feared as a vicious dictator who threatens
the security of the Gulf region as a whole.
his older and favourite son Uday crippled in an assassination attempt,
his younger son Qusay now controls the elite Revolutionary Guards and
the Special Forces which guarantee the president's grip on power.
states and Western countries alike have come to realise that his grip
is stronger than it seems - and stronger by far than his grasp of reality
often appears to be.
insists that the 1991 Gulf War, which he famously described as the Mother-of-All-Battles,
ended in victory for Iraq.
the same token, Saddam boasts that Iraq can shrug off any Western military
attack. The Iraqi people have no choice but to nod in agreement.
it will go on until the moment comes for bombastic slogans to be replaced
by a succinct epitaph to one of the most infamous dictators of the century.
For the overwhelming majority of Iraqis, that moment can not come too
of Death: 2007, by hanging.