Last updated on: 3/12/2008 1:13:00 PM PST
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):
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)