What was Saddam Hussein's personal and political background?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)
The Permanent Mission of Iraq to the United Nations had the following biography of Saddam Hussein on its website (accessed Mar. 10, 2003):

  • "Personal:

    • Born on April 28, 1937, in Tikrit, the seat of the Saladdin Province where he finished his primary school.

    • Married in 1963 with five children, two boys and three girls.

  • Academic:

    • Escaped to Syria and thence to Egypt where he completed his secondary school studies in 1962.

    • Admitted into the College of Law in Cairo and attended in the period 1962-1963.

    • Having completed his third and fourth year of studies, following the July 17th Revolution, he obtained a graduate degree from the College of Law.

    • On February 1, 1976, he was awarded a Master of Art Honors Degree in Military Science together with the Staff Degree.

    • In 1984, the University of Baghdad awarded him Honorary Doctorate in Law.

  • Political Career:

    • Joined the Arab Baath Socialist Party (A.B.S.P) in 1956

    • Arrested and imprisoned for six months, while he was a secondary school student, over the years 1958 and 1959 for his political activities against the regime at the time. He took part in the revolutionary operation against the dictator Abdul-Karim Qassim who was Prime Minister in 1959. The operation resulted in the dictator receiving several shots. Saddam Hussein was wounded in the leg as a result a shot fired from a bodyguard.

    • Sentenced to death in absentia on February 25, 1960.

    • Returned to Iraq after the 14th of Ramadhan Revolution (February 8) 1963.

    • Discontinued his studies at the college, when in 1963 he had to return to Baghdad to lead the revolutionary struggle against the reactionary draconian regime that had previously toppled the Baath Government.

    • He was not spared by the round-up campaign waged by the authorities that began on September 4, 1964. He was arrested on October 14, 1963, with charges relating to his leadership of the Baath Party's struggle against the backward regime.

    • While he was under arrest, he completed and passed his first year studies at the College of Law.

    • Elected as member of the Baath Party's Pan-Arab National Leadership in 1965 while still under arrest.

    • In September 1966, he was elected Deputy-Secretary General of the Baath Party Leadership in Iraq.

    • Escaped from prison in 1967, to resume the leadership of the Baath Party struggle. He was once again obliged to discontinue his studies because he was chased by the secret police.

    • On July 17,1968, mounting the first tank that besieged the headquarter (the Presidential Palace) of the head of the regime, he led a group of Party members that forced their way into the palace in order to overthrow the reactionary regime. Saddam Hussein played a leading and key role in planning and then carrying out the Revolution that day.

    • On July 30, 1968, he was personally in charge of a swift operation to purge the new government of the July 17 Revolution of certain of the old regime's figures, who for purely tactical reasons, cooperated with the Baath Party revolutionaries.

    • He all but officially undertook the role of Vice-Chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council as early as July 1968; but was constitutionally elected for the post of Vice-Chairman on November 9, 1969.

    • On June 1, 1972, he led the process of nationalizing Western oil companies that had the monopoly of Iraq's oil.

    • On July 1, 1974, he was dubbed the rank of Lieutenant General and awarded the Rafidain Order, First Class (of Military type).

    • He played a principle role in formulating and implementing the Autonomy Law for the Kurdish citizens on March 11, 1974.

    • On October 8, 1977, he was elected Assistant Secretary General of the National Pan-Arab Leadership of the Baath Party.

  • Presidential Career:

    • On July 16, 1979, he was elected Secretary General of the Regional Leadership of the Baath Party in Iraq, Chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council, and President of the Republic of Iraq.

    • On July 17, 1979, President Saddam Hussein was promoted to the rank of Field Marshal.

    • On October 8, 1979, he was elected Deputy Secretary General of the National Pan-Arab Leadership of the Baath Party.

    • On September 4, 1980, President Saddam Hussein led the Iraqi people and the Army wisely and bravely against the aggression initiated and launched against Iraq by Ayatollah Khomeini's regime. The war ended in Iraq's great victory on August 8, 1988.

    • On July 30, 1983, he was dubbed the Revolution Order First Class.

    • On April 28, 1988, he was dubbed the Order of the people.

    • President Saddam Hussein actively led the modernization of the Iraq economy, urging the construction of various developed industries and following their administration and execution. He also supervised the modernization of Iraq's countryside, the mechanization of agriculture, and the distribution of land to farmers. He effected a comprehensive revolution in energy industries as well as in public services such as transportation and education. He also initiated and led the National Campaign for the Eradication of Illiteracy and the implementation of Compulsory and Free Education in Iraq.

    • Led his country in confronting the aggression launched by 33 countries led by the US that waged war against Iraq. The Iraqis' confrontation that is called by Arabs and Iraqis 'The Mother of all Battles' (Um Al-Maarik), is where Iraq stood strong against the invasion, maintaining its sovereignty and political system.

  • Published Works:

    • President Saddam Hussein has published several works in the intellectual, political, economic, military, social, and educational fields. They are available in translation from Arabic in the basic world languages."

Mar. 10, 2003 - Permanent Mission of Iraq to the United Nations 

The Emergency Response & Research Institute's (ERRI) website presented the following biography of Saddam Hussein (accessed Jan. 3, 2007):

"The current leader of Iraq is was born on April 28, 1937, in a small village of al-Auja near the town of Takrit. His early childhood was spent in a mud hut in a mostly Sunni Muslim part of Iraq, which is approximately (100) one-hundred miles north of Baghdad. Hussein's father, Hussein al-Majid, died or abandoned the family (according to who is reporting the story), within a short time of his birth. Accurate records are difficult to obtain in a country where Hussein's birthday is celebrated as a national holiday.

He was reared alone by his mother Subha, until she took a second husband, Ibrahim Hassan. Hassan, often said to have been brutal and a thief, was a sheep herder by profession and enlisted Saddam in his ventures. According to a former personal secretary of Hussein, his step father abused Saddam and sent him to steal chicken and sheep to be sold. This pattern continued until 1947 when, at the age of ten, he was allowed to move in with his mother's brother, Khayrallah Tulfah, in Baghdad.

In Baghdad, Hussein began to learn more than reading and writing. His tutor, Khayrallah had been 'cashiered' from the Iraqi army for supporting a 'Pro-Nazi' coup attempt that failed. Khayrallah's bitterness towards the British and imperialism, soon was transferred to Saddam. In fact, some confidants of Hussein point to his relationship with Tulfah as a turning point in his political awareness. To demonstrate Tulfah's importance to Hussein, he was later made Mayor of Baghdad under the Hussein regime. Saddam finished intermediate school (roughly the equivalent of 9th Grade) at the age of sixteen, and attempted to be admitted to the prestigious Baghdad Military Academy.

Unfortunately, his poor grades prevented him from doing so, and he became more deeply involved in political matters. In 1956, he participated in a non-successful coup attempt against the monarchy of King Faisal II. In 1957, he joined the Ba'ath party, a radical nationalist movement. In 1958, a non-Ba'athist group of army officers succeeded in overthrowing the King. The group was led by General Abdul Qassim. In 1959, Saddam and a group of Ba'athist supporters attempted to assassinate General Qassim by a day-light machine-gun attack. The attack was unsuccessful, but it helped to place Hussein in a leadership position in the Ba'athist movement and furthered the process of nationalist political indoctrination. After the attack, in which Hussein is slightly wounded, he fled to Syria. From Syria, he went to Cairo, Egypt where he would spend the next four (4) years.

While receiving aid from Egypt, he finished high school at the age of twenty-four and continued his political education. While in Egypt, he was arrested on at least two occasions for threatening a fellow student and chasing another down the street with a knife, both for political differences. In 1961, he entered Cairo University School of Law, but did not finish his studies there. In 1963, a group of Ba'athist army officers tortured and assassinated General Qassim. This was done on Iraqi television. They also mutilated many of Qassim's devotees and showed their bodies (in close up) on the nightly news for more than one night. Saddam, hearing the news, quickly rushed back to Iraq to become involved in the revolution. And involved, he was, as both an interrigator and torturer at the infamous 'Palace of the End', in the basement of the former palace of King Faisal.

According to reports by Hanna Batatu (a government reporter), Hussein rose quickly through the ranks, due to his extreme efficiency as a torturer. The Ba'athist party split in 1963 and Saddam had supported the 'winner' in the latest party struggle. He was appointed by Michel Aflaq to be a member of the Baath Regional Command. In 1964, Hussein was jailed by some 'rightist' military officers who opposed the Ba'athist takeover. Through other political influence provided by his older cousin, General Ahmad Hassan al-Bakr, Hussein became deputy Secretary-General of the Ba'athists in 1966.

In 1966, Hussein escaped from prison and set up a Ba'athist internal party security system known as the Jihaz Haneen. It was to serve as the continuation of his political and real rise to power in Iraq. In 1968, another major upheaval in Iraq gave Hussein the greatest opportunity for further advancement; his mentor, General Bakr and the Ba'athist seized the government. Hussein was made Deputy Chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council, in charge of internal security.

At the age of thirty-one he had acquired what could have been deemed the number two spot in the Ba'athist party. He would continue in the position for approximately the next ten years. During that time, he would continue to consolidate his power by appointing numerous family members to positions of authority in the Iraqi government. In his position of Deputy in Charge of Internal Security, he built an enormous security apparatus and had spies and informers everywhere in the circles of power in Iraq.

During this time, Hussein also began to accumulate the wealth and position that he so relished as a poor sheep-herder in the desert of al-Auja. He and his family, now firmly entrenched in the infrastructure of the country, began to control the country's oil and other industrial enterprises. With the help of his security network and several personal assassins, Hussein took control of many of the nation's leading businesses.

In 1978, Saddam had been working with other Arab nations to ostracize Egypt for it's diplomatic initiative in resolving Israel/Arab questions. An ally, President Hafez al-Assad of Syria, almost became the undoing of Hussein's ascension. If a Syrian/Iraqi federation were formed against Egypt, Assad, not Hussein, would rise to a position of greater power in the relationship. President Bakr would lead the federation with Assad as second in command. Hussein could not allow that to happen and began to urge the President to step down. Again with the help of his family and security apparatus, Hussein was able to accomplish his task.

On July 16, 1979, President Bakr resigned, officially due to health problems, but in reality a victim of Hussein's political in-fighting. Moving quickly to consolidate his power, he called a major Ba'athist meeting on July 22, 1979. During the meeting, various family members and other Hussein devotees urged that the party be 'cleansed.' Hussein then read a list of names and asked that they step outside. Once there, they are taken into custody.

A high-ranking member of the Revolutionary Command, the head of the labor unions, the leading Shiite member of the Command, and twenty (20) others are then systematically and personally killed by Hussein and his top party officials. During the next few days, reports indicate that as many as 450 other military officers, deputy prime ministers, and 'non-party faithful' were rounded up and killed. This purge insured Hussein's consolidation of power in Iraq.

In 1980, Iraq invaded Iran and conducted an eight year war against one of his nearest neighbors and the home of Shiite fundamentalist Muslims. Again, because it appeared that the Shiites could be a threat to his continued dictatorship, the Kurds (Iraqi minority) were sprayed with poison gas for participating with the Iranians in an attempted overthrow of his country. The war continued for eight years of brutality and even repression of Hussein's own countrymen (especially the Kurds).

In 1988, after millions being killed, Iraq and Iran conduct a cease-fire and ended the bloodshed. By 1984, as many as 1.5 million Iraqis were supporters of Hussein and the Ba'athists. He continued to enlarge his security apparatus and army. In insidious ways, the party apparatus formed numerous government agencies to control and manipulate the citizens of Iraq. A statistical analysis of the population indicated that as many as fifty per cent of the Iraqis or a member of their family were employed by the government or military. The party and the people have become one. Hussein's domination of the country is complete.

Even the war against Iran didn't end the peoples support for Hussein, although some small protests did dampen the population's support for the conflict with Iran. Ultimately however, the war with Iran only strengthened Hussein's resolve and, in some eyes, causes him to become a 'hero' of Arab nationalism. This brings us to the chapter of Hussein's life that has not been thoroughly researched and written. It involves the 1990, summer invasion of Kuwait over a dispute about oil prices and political control of the Persian Gulf. The subsequent United Nation Resolutions and United States intervention in the defense of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and other nearby countries will undoubtedly impact on the history of Saddam Hussein."

Jan. 3, 2007 - Emergency Response & Research Institute (ERRI)