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Saddam Hussein

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Hussein's mugshot.
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Evil incarnation of the Mario Brothers, also goes by the name 'Wario'. Has been known to terrorize the country of Iraq and the Mushroom Kingdom, resides in Bagdhad, Tikrit, Drain Pipes, and The cloud level.
Urban Dictionary on Saddam Hussein
As far as Saddam Hussein being a great military strategist: He is neither a strategist, nor is he schooled in the operational art, nor is he a tactician, nor is he a general, nor is he a soldier. Other than that, he's a great military man.
—"Stormin'" Norman Schwarzkopf, 4-star US General.[1]

Saddam Hussein (28 April, 1937–30 December, 2006) was the amalgamation of every tinpot dictator ever seen. (The "Blood Quran",[2] his psychopathic eldest son,[3] the open admiration of Josef Stalin,[4] the generally flamboyant attitude.[5]) His brutality and cagey political skill managed to impress the likes of Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and Donald Trump, probably the three worst Presidents we've had in terms of foresight in the modern era. He is a textbook case of blowback, gassing the Kurds with supplies from the United States[6][7] when he was supposed to be gassing the Iranians. He kept more of a grasp on reality in his later years as a result, which made dealing with him easier; he was essential to our victory in the First Gulf War. He is the true rarity of a serial mass-murderer.

One day, he made the critical mistake of attacking another sovereign state (Kuwait) to avoid paying some bills. While, up to that point, he'd been a staunch ally of the United States, President George H. W. Bush knew that allowing Hussein to get away scot-free would be a really bad precedent. The US goal was to boot Saddam out of Kuwait, and then use that leverage in order to squash the Arab peace process with Israel,[8][9] and dispel the ghosts of Vietnam once and for all. Bush Sr. accomplished all three without destroying the delicate balance of power; Saddam never rebuilt his conventional forces fully and didn't pose a serious threat to his neighbors again. Détente.

Ten or so years of no-fly zones and economic sanctions later, Hussein was toying with the idea of selling oil in Euros, when he accidentally failed to get deeply involved in sending a bunch of al-Qaeda operatives to attack the United States on 9/11 while also attempting to deploy bio-weapons that he actually sold before the turn of the millennium.

Even in death, the monster poses a philosophical dilemma to the mainstream left. Did Iraq provide the opening to show that these brutal dictators could, in fact, be removed from power? If we hadn't removed him, would there currently be an Islamist terror-state in Asia with no Western "imperial" power to rally against?

Note: Never make the mistake of describing the Kurds as Saddam Hussein's "own people!", especially in front of a Kurd. Kurds are not Arabs, thank you very much.

Rise to power[edit]

Youth and education[edit]

Saddam Hussein was sent to live with his uncle Khairallah Talfah by his lazy mother, who named him "Saddam" meaning "One who resists" due to his failure to succumb to any of her manual abortion attempts. After his uncle, a member of the Nationalist Ba'ath Party, was imprisoned for taking part in a nationalist revolution, Saddam was sent to live with his mother and abusive stepfather who raised him as a thief. After Khairallah was released from gaol, Saddam fled his mother and stepfather's home to live with him. Raised by his uncle in nationalist, socialist and Nazi ideas and given a gun for his tenth birthday which he used to shoot a teacher, the young Saddam became a ruthless criminal. Few people could have imagined he would one day emerge from his poor surroundings to become one of the most well-known, intelligent, manipulative, charismatic, and renowned political leaders of his era.

Saddam had an avid interest in history from his early years, a passion that would deepen after he became president. He was an admirer of Hitler, Stalin, the Mafia and FDR. A self-avowed Socialist, Saddam was strongly aligned with the Soviet Union in the Cold War. Nonetheless, he maintained repeatedly that he had a deep respect for the United States and that the technological achievements of America had no equal in any other nation.

Saddam studied briefly at an Iraqi law school, but dropped out in 1957 to join the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party that would later dominate the country. Founded by Syrian Christians, the party was based on such principles as Arab nationalism, anti-Communism, staunch secularism, anti-capitalism, and educational advancement. It was an outspoken advocate for improving women's rights in the Arab world and for abolishing the political power of the clergy.

Saddam, even as a rebellious teenager, felt strongly about the political issues of the day. He deeply admired his uncle for his role in fighting the British in the Anglo-Iraqi war of 1941 (Tulfah would later author "Three Whom God Should Not Have Created: Persians, Jews, and Flies," a racist Iraqi government propaganda pamphlet). He despised Israel, viewing it as an outpost of colonialism in the region. His hero was Abdel Nasser of Egypt, and Saddam was inspired by his example to join the revolution against monarchy throughout the Arab world, a movement which saw the collapse of such regimes in Libya, Iraq, and Egypt. It is widely believed that Saddam belonged to the Futuwa, a paramilitary youth organization which was modeled on the Hitler Youth and was formed in Baghdad in the late 1950s.

The rise of the Ba'ath Party[edit]

See the main articles on this topic: Ba'ath Party and Fascism
Saddam and his asshole crew in Cairo, 1960s.

The US-backed Iraqi monarchy was overthrown in 1958, an event which shocked then President Eisenhower. Worse, the new regime was led by a de facto Communist dictator, General Abdel Karim Qassem. Qassem was far bloodier than his predecessor. Further, he withdrew from the Baghdad Pact, an agreement between Iraq, Iran, Pakistan and other countries in the Middle East intended to deter the Soviets from intruding in the affairs of the region. Openly admiring of the USSR, Qassem repeatedly threatened his neighbors, including Iran, where a CIA-sponsored coup had saved the Shah's regime from collapse in 1953. He publicly declared that Khuzestan province in southwestern Iran[10] was really a part of Iraq, and allegedly armed secessionist revolts from the Arabs who lived there. He amassed troops to invade Kuwait, a move that nearly led to war between Iraq and the United Kingdom (which was committed by treaty to defend Kuwait).

Qassem was overthrown in a 1963 coup orchestrated significantly by the Ba'ath Party. The Ba'ath Party gained limited power in the new government, though it lacked control of the Presidency. It struggled with the military men who had assisted the coup for absolute power. The Ba'ath was purged a few months later, and would have to work to regain political influence. A series of coups and power struggles plagued Iraq until 1968, when the Ba'ath Party gained long-term power. During this time, Saddam gained increasing prominence in the Ba'ath Party. He consolidated more control as a result of the 1963 and 1966 purges within the party that removed the "moderates" and dissidents from within. Remembering the internal squabbles that cost the Ba'ath the limited power that it had gained in 1963, Saddam promoted party loyalty and would later design the security apparatus that enabled the creation of an effective police state.

In July 1968, a bloodless coup led by General Ahmad Hassan al-Bakr, Saddam Hussein and Salah Omar Al-Ali besieged the Iraqi presidential palace and forced Iraqi President Abdul Rahman Arif to resign. The new regime immediately freed all of the Communist and leftist political prisoners of the regime, and heightened tensions with Iran. The Lyndon Johnson administration was vociferously opposed to the new regime, viewing it as a "radical" government brought to power in a "counter-coup" that strengthened the Soviet Union.[11] As a result, diplomatic relations with Iraq, cut off due to the 1967 Six-Day WarWikipedia with Israel, remained completely severed for the next 16 years. The Iraqi government promptly seized all foreign oil fields for the purposes of "combating imperialism." The US made all arms sales to Iraq under this new regime formally illegal in a law passed by the US Congress.

Covert subversion[edit]

Hussein meets Hafez al-Assad at the Arab Summit of 1978.

Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, with the support of National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger, used the CIA to orchestrate a campaign of sabotage and subversion from 1972 to 1975 for the express purpose of bringing down the government of Iraq. The CIA infiltrated Iraq via Iran and worked with Iranian agents in Northern Iraq to supply arms to Kurdish rebels then trying to topple the regime. Fearful the Iraqis would suspect Iran's role, the US protected its ally Shah Pahlavi by sending Iran large quantities of Russian arms captured by Israel from the Arabs in the 1967 war. These weapons were used to arm the revolt, but they could not be traced to the Iranians. Kissinger, a geopolitical realist concerned with global stability but uninterested in reforming the world, decided to abandon the Kurds in 1975. After a series of border skirmishes between Iraq and Iran over the Khuzestan province, he helped draft a peace treaty between Iran and Iraq to avoid potential bloodshed. To ease tensions, both he and the Shah proposed ending aid to the rebels. The peace treaty was signed, but many Kurds were subsequently slaughtered. "Covert action should not be confused with missionary work," Kissinger opined.

In the midst of this impasse, it was not often remarked that perhaps covert action does not always lead to an intended or desirable result. Ironically, the Ba'ath Party had first risen to prominence in a CIA-sponsored coup. The CIA under Eisenhower and Kennedy had dealt with the rather similar problem of Qassem's leftist regime in a rather similar manner: CIA-sponsored regime change. The CIA repeatedly attempted to assassinate Qassem, armed Kurdish rebels against his regime, allegedly plotted a joint US-Turkey invasion of Iraq to remove him, and worked to isolate him diplomatically. The CIA had contacts with the Ba'athist plotters of the 1963 coup in Iraq and Egypt, and CIA records suggest it financially assisted the coup. Writing in his memoirs of the 1963 coup, long time OSS and CIA intelligence analyst Harry Rositzke presented it as an example of one on which they had good intelligence in contrast to others that caught the agency by surprise. The Ba’ath overthrow “was forecast in exact detail by CIA agents.”

"Agents in the Ba’ath Party headquarters in Baghdad had for years kept Washington au courant on the party’s personnel and organization, its secret communications and sources of funds, and its penetrations of military and civilian hierarchies in several countries… CIA sources were in a perfect position to follow each step of Ba’th preparations for the Iraqi coup, which focused on making contacts with military and civilian leaders in Baghdad. The CIA’s major source, in an ideal catbird seat, reported the exact time of the coup and provided a list of the new cabinet members. …To call an upcoming coup requires the CIA to have sources within the group of plotters. Yet, from a diplomatic point of view, having secret contacts with plotters implies at least unofficial complicity in the plot."[12]

The CIA would have paid a lot of money for this steady supply of information, especially because American planners had determined that the Ba’ath Party would be the best for U.S. policy in Iraq going forward in 1962.[13] The First Political Secretary of the U.S. Embassy in Iraq in 1963 during the coup, Bill Lakeland, has admitted that CIA officer Ed Kane told him that the U.S. “had people who informed us about things…The CIA was kept aware of what was happening…[The CIA] had paid informants within the Ba’ath, but had no control of any operational…It was ultra secret….”[14] The best direct evidence that the U.S. was complicit is the memo from NSC staff member Bob Komer to President John F. Kennedy on the night of the coup, February 8, 1963. The last paragraph reads, "We will make informal friendly noises as soon as we can find out whom to talk with, and ought to recognize as soon as we’re sure these guys are firmly in the saddle. ________excellent reports on the plotting, but I doubt either they or UK should claim much credit for it."[15] Thus, when former CIA Near East Division Chief James Chritchfield claims the 1968 coup was a "radical" "counter-coup," perhaps his language reflects the reality that it overthrew a government the US covertly helped bring to power. It has been said that the Iraqi Ba'athists told their Syrian comrades, in their own defense, that they "had come to power on a CIA train," just as Lenin had been sent into Russia to launch his revolution on a German train in the First World War.

The US's temporary alliance with the Ba'ath ended briefly after the US-backed Iraqi President, Salam Arif, purged the Ba'ath from the government in late 1963. Saddam was apparently arrested in 1964 for trying to overthrow that government. A series of power struggles within the ruling party and the Ba'ath brought the most extremist elements of both to the fore. Salam Arif was overthrown in the 1966 coup that brought his brother, Abdul Rahman Arif, to power. Though the US continued to assist the regime due to the armed revolt against it by the Iraqi Communist Party (which was increasingly aligned with the Ba'ath); in 1967, in the wake of the war with Israel, Arif expelled all of the Americans from the country and cut off all ties with the US. Arif's regime collapsed just one year later, leading to the Ba'athist takeover of Iraq.

Taking power[edit]

Saddam seen here negotiating with a ruthless warlord.

General al-Bakr was named President. Though he was a little-known figure outside of Iraq, Saddam quickly became the second-most-important Iraqi official in the country. He was the formal vice-president by 1973. Saddam headed the security apparatus of the state, and thus had considerable leverage to intimidate opponents from within the party as well as from without. He visited countries such as France to represent Iraq throughout the seventies, and signed a treaty of friendship between Iraq and the Soviet Union. While the US worked to destabilize the regime, Moscow's massive supplies of military aid helped to keep it afloat and to avoid a collapse. The Soviet Union played a crucial role in training Iraq's secret police. However, relations between the two countries did occasionally grow strained, due to Brezhnev's open disgust at the persecution of Iraqi Communists by the state, and Iraq's hostility towards Soviet-aligned Syria.

Saddam would regularly tell his colleagues that he sought to make Iraq "into a Stalinist state." They all assumed he was joking, and when they began to suspect he was serious, it was too late to stop him. Al-Bakr attempted in 1979 to demote Saddam to a position of relative obscurity. Saddam responded with a counter-coup, forcing al-Bakr to resign and conducting a ruthless purge of hundreds of Ba'athists to intimidate the rest of the party into acquiescence. He was named President of Iraq on July 16, 1979.

War with Iran[edit]

Hussein in talks with the leader of the People's Mujahedin of Iran.
See the main article on this topic: Iran-Iraq War

Now the undisputed dictator of Iraq, Saddam started looking elsewhere, beyond Iraq's borders. Incidentally, in 1979, the Iranian Revolution took place, ending in the establishment of the Islamic Republic and the hostage crises that Jimmy Carter had to suffer through. Over in Iraq, there were fears that the long-oppressed Shia majority would stage a similar revolt. Add that to Iraq's longstanding desire to supplant Iran as the dominant force over the Persian Gulf, Saddam's insanity, and Ruhollah Khomeini's fanaticism, and you had a recipe for disaster waiting to boil over. Border skirmishes between Iran and Iraq increased in number by September 1980, with Iraq shelling and launching border incursions in the disputed territories that Iraq wanted from Iran (but that Iran owned). Iran responded by shelling several Iraqi border towns and posts, and it all went downhill from there.

Often called "World War I in the Cold War," this conflict consisted of large-scale trench warfare with barbed wire stretched across trenches, manned machine-gun posts, bayonet charges, human wave attacks across a no-man's land, and extensive use of chemical weapons such as mustard gas. Half a million Iraqi and Iranian soldiers, with an equivalent number of civilians, were killed in this war. Nevertheless, there were absolutely no reparations or border changes, making the entire thing a pointless exercise of human cruelty[note 1], all because this asshole wanted to flex his muscle over an old rival.

Feud with Syria[edit]

Despite being the world's sole two Ba'athist states, Iraq and Syria had had poor relations since the 1966 Syrian coup d'étatWikipedia, in which hardline Marxist-Leninist army officers ousted Syria's moderate(ish) civilian Ba'athist government and implemented an utterly totalitarian, quasi-Stalinist reinterpretation of Ba'athism. Michel AflaqWikipedia, Ba'athism's Syrian-born founder, fled to Brazil and denounced his old party while still proclaiming himself its rightful leader. The then-underground Iraqi Ba'athists supported Aflaq's claim, which led to a party schism, with each branch proclaiming itself the legitimate Ba'ath Party.

But soon, the Syrian Ba'athists' star fell and the Iraqis' rose. In May of 1967, Gamal Abdel Nasser made several critical mistakesWikipedia that made war with Israel virtually inevitable. Most Arab governments followed Nasser's lead, but none did so as eagerly as Syria's. The ensuing Six-Day WarWikipedia was an unmitigated disaster for the Arab coalition, and Syria's performance was especially bad: years of purges and mutinies left its army unready for war, and the embarrassment set off more power struggles within the Syrian Ba'athist Party. Iraq's ruling Nasserist Arab Socialist Union PartyWikipedia likewise lost face, was toppled by a Ba'athist coup in 1968. With the Ba'athists now ruling Iraq, Aflaq immediately settled there, where he was appointed General Secretary of the party. With both Iraq and Syria now single-party Ba'athist states, the old intra-party enmity turned into geopolitical hostility.

Saddam, who was a young man at the time, had no role in the original schism, and certainly didn't share Aflaq's principled objections to Syria's totalitarian turn. But Saddam knew that Aflaq's presence gave the Iraqi Ba'ath a certain legitimacy, and he kept Aflaq around as General Secretary until Aflaq's death in 1989. Aflaq and Saddam were personally friendly, but Aflaq had no meaningful influence over Iraqi policy.[16]

In 1980 Saddam gave weapons and safe haven to the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood seeking to overthrow Syria's Hafez al Assad, whose Alawite regime was allied with Shi'a Iran. This was the beginning of Saddam's support for international terrorism.

Gulf War[edit]

Saddam in 1996.

And he just couldn't sit quiet for longer than an hour, huh? Evidently not, as Saddam figured to invade and annex Kuwait in August 1990 so he could get its oil and wipe out his foreign debt with Kuwait which bankrolled his war with Iran to the tune of $90 billion.

He was wrong. Sanctions against Iraq were immediately imposed by members of the U.N. Security Council. George H. W. Bush deployed U.S. forces into Saudi Arabia, and urged other countries to send their own forces to the scene. Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom and Egypt were among the main supporters of Bush's campaign against Saddam in Kuwait.

Now here's where things get murky. Kuwait, a major oil publisher, lowered oil prices worldwide, which undercut Iraq's efforts to rebuild its war-ravaged economy and infrastructure. When his pleas to OPEC for better treatment to Iraq went unheeded, he chose military action. When he informed American ambassador April Glaspie about it, Glaspie actually said "We have no opinion on your border dispute with Kuwait," which he interpreted as effectively green-lighting his invasion since the Americans flat-out said they didn't care. At this point, he wasn't an enemy of America, so had Glaspie and the Secretary of State told him to piss off, he probably wouldn't have attacked Kuwait.

With pressure from Saudi Arabia, itself an oil giant and ally of the U.S., Bush reneged on the apathy and began prepping for war. Saddam offered to withdraw in exchange for convening a peace summit, but he was ignored, since a lot of money, oil, and news ratings were to be earned on the western side due to this war. As a result, Kuwait was the first "front lines" conflict broadcast live, leading to a new wave of pro-war propaganda by the mainstream media. It started with aerial bombardment on 17 January 1991, followed by a ground assault on 24 February. Saddam's forces turned tail, Kuwait was liberated and Coalition forces advanced into Iraq, but Bush called for a ceasefire 100 hours after the ground campaign started, believing that a war against Saddam in Iraq would prove disastrous.


Saddam being captured and looking very unhappy about it.
He has not developed any significant capability with respect to weapons of mass destruction. He is unable to project conventional power against his neighbors.
Colin Powell, 24 February 2001
We are able to keep arms from him. His military forces have not been rebuilt.
—Condoleezza Rice, "CNN Late Edition With Wolf Blitzer," 29 July 2001

12 years later, he was proven right. In the lead-up to the invasion, Saddam committed the following blunders:

  • He kept firing at US planes that were enforcing the US-declared no-fly zonesWikipedia. The no-fly zones had zero standing under international law and the southern one was pointless, seeing as it was only set up after Saddam had already slaughtered the Shiites who had been provoked into rebellion (via a CIA run radio station based in Saudi Arabia) while everyone else (US included) sat back and watched the "fun".Wikipedia
  • He also (supposedlyWikipedia) made an attempt on George H. W. Bush's life. Dubya swore revenge.
  • Another claim is that the US was pissed at Saddam for toying with the idea of trading oil for Euros, not dollars.
  • Hussein was absolutely dicking about with Hans Blix, drawing things out as long as possible. He wanted Iran to believe that his weapons program was much bigger than it was. He was performing a balancing act with the West and Iran, making the West believe he had nothing to hide but Iran to think he was sitting on a huge cache, which led to UN resolution 1441. Saddam Hussein then realized that he had gone too far and allowed unfettered access to the U.N., but by then the US had committed its forces, and told the inspectors to pull out.

Saddam was tried and executed for crimes against humanity, but Iraq is still suffering through a period where their dictator isn't providing electricity to their homes. And that's the idealistic take on what happened.

His downfall made North Korea even more paranoid, due to both nations being run under Stalinist totalitarianism. His downfall also shows the consequences that would result from overthrowing the Kim dynasty without careful planning. Iraq descended into chaos to this day, even though the invasion only took a month. At this point, the country is mostly run as a democracy, which is good, but not remotely stable. Pretty much immediately after the invasion, Sunni-Shi'a disputes broke out, leading to the insurgency. This also spawned the Islamic State of Iraq, or ISI, which is the predecessor to ISIS, which is in a close race for most repressive regime with the DPRK, meaning that Iraq is still, to a certain extent, in this competition with North Korea. Look like the Saudis will never be able to make it past third place. The insurgency became a civil war in 2014, between the somewhat democratic government, the fully democratic Kurdish nationalists, and the previously mentioned psychopaths.

Crimes against humanity[edit]

See the main article on this topic: Crimes against humanity
I have been to Baghdad a number of times. Being in Iraq is like creeping around inside someone else’s migraine. The fear is so omnipresent you could almost eat it. No one talks.
—BBC Correspondent John Sweeney[17]

Saddam Hussein was a uniquely brutal tyrant, far worse than QassemWikipedia or Al-BakrWikipedia; in the modern Arab world, Omar al-BashirWikipedia arguably approaches. He made Hafez al-Assad of Syria look mild comparison. It is estimated that at least 250,000 were killed or disappeared by Saddam's regime[18] Other sources claim the death toll could be as high as 500,000[19] or 600,000.[20]

When one factors in each of Saddam's notable atrocities that number of deaths may be far higher for example:

Human remains found in at a mass gravesite near Zahko, Iraqi Kurdistan, July 15, 2005. The US Army Criminal Investigation Command, along with Department of Defense forensic pathologists, are in Iraq investigating a mass grave crime scene to gather evidence for possible war crimes trials.
  • 77,500 to 506,100 Kurds were killed in the destruction of Kurdish villages during the Iraqi Arabization campaign including: 2,500[21] to 12,500[21] in the Ba'athist Arabization campaigns in North Iraq, 10,000[22] to 25,000[23][24] were killed during the Feyli Kurds operation, 5,000[25] to 8,000[26] Kurds were disapeared in the 1983 Barzani killings, 50,000[27] to 100,000[27] (although Kurdish sources have cited a higher figure of 182,000;[28] and other sources cite figures as high as 200,000[29][30] or even 300,000[30][31]) more Kurds were massacred in the Anfal genocide, and at least 10,000[32] to 20,000[33] were disappeared during the 1991 Iraqi uprising notwithstanding an additional 48,400[34] to 140,600[34] Kurdish refugees that starved to death along the Iranian and Turkish borders.
  • During the 1991 Iraqi uprising Saddam's forces killed 25,000 to 100,000 people (mostly civilians in southern Iraq,[35] Other sources estimate 30,000 to 60,000 Shi'as were disappeared in the uprising.[33] However this may be an underestimate as a survey of 1,178 citizens estimated Saddam executed 61,000 in Baghdad alone.[36] The uprising also coincided with the draining of the Mesopotamian Marshes and the displacement of more than 200,000 of Ma'dan (Marsh Arabs) causing the associated state-sponsored campaign of violence against them has led the United States and others to describe the draining of the marshes as genocide or ethnic cleansing.[37] After the campaign only 20,000 Marsh Arabs were left in Iraq with only 1,600 living in their traditional dabins.[38] At least several thousand[22] perished and another source guessed the draining caused 24,000 deaths.[39] More than 100 Turkmen were massacred in the city of Kirkuk.[40]
  • The Anfal also saw the killing of 2,000 Assyrian Christians during the Halabja chemical attack.[41] This was among several other miscellaneous persecution under Saddam. Around 50,000[22] opposition activist, Kurds, communists, disloyal Ba'athists, and other minorities were disappeared in the 1980s and early 90s, 50,000 to 70,000 Shi'as were disappeared in the 80s never to be seen again along with hundreds of their clerics,[22] 4,000 were also killed by Saddam in a bloody purge in Abu Ghraib prison .[42] One source claimed "200,000 disappeared into Iraq's Gulags" which may overlap with some of the disappearances listed hear and in other events.[43] "Amnesty International reported that in 1981 over 350 people were officially executed in Iraq ... the Committee Against Repression in Iraq gives biographic particulars on 798 executions (along with 264 killings of unknown persons, and 428 biographies of unsentenced detainees and disappeared persons)." During the end of the Iran-Iraq War 1,300[44] to 5,596[45] Egyptian migrant workers were tortured to death by Saddam's regime. At least 1,000 Turkmen were disappeared throughout Saddam's reign.[46]
  • 11,000 to 16,000 and 1,000 civilians were killed in Saddam's invasions of Iran and Kuwait respectively.[citation needed] Tens of thousands (?10,000-90,000?) still remained "disappeared" in Iran due to the invasion.[47] Rudolph Rummel claims over 100,000 civilians[48] were killed in Iran-Iraq but this figure is disputed.[49]
  • Concurrently to the sanctions against Iraq Saddam Hussein cut public health funding by 90 percent, contributing to a substantial deterioration in health care.[50] During that period, maternal mortality increased nearly threefold, and the salaries of medical personnel decreased drastically.[50] Medical facilities, which in 1980 were among the best in the Middle East, deteriorated.[50]Conditions were especially serious in the south, where malnutrition and water-borne diseases became common in the 1990s.[50] Health indicators deteriorated during the 1990s. In the late 1990s, Iraq's infant mortality rates more than doubled.[50] Because treatment and diagnosis of cancer and diabetes decreased in the 1990s, complications and deaths resulting from those diseases increased drastically in the late 1990s and early 2000s.[50]

These figures suggest between 210,000 and over 825,000 non combatants were killed under Saddam's reign. This is not withstanding the 305,000 (or less)[51] to 1,250,000[51] and 25,000[52] to 50,000[53] military deaths in the Iran-Iraq War and Gulf War respectively; bringing the total for Saddam's victims as less than 540,000 to 2,125,000 or more. Considering possible overlap in some events the actual number is likely between these figures.

A First Lieutenant of the U.S. 25th Infantry Division patrolling a local cemetery for some 1,500 victims in 2003
More of Iraq's mass graves.

Saddam took Machiavelli's advice that "it is far safer to be feared than to be loved" and ran with it, making the rookie mistake of forgetting that the guy immediately after said that it is above all else important to not be hated. In 1979, six days after formally assuming the presidency of Iraq, Saddam called a summit of 400 of the seniormost Ba'ath Party members. Saddam's costar at this summit was a hapless political opponent of his, Muhyi Abdel-Hussein al-Mashhadi, who had already been booted from the Party and tortured into "confessing" to plotting against Saddam with Syrian agents. At the summit, al-Mashhadi told the stunned audience that his co-conspirators were among their ranks. He proceeded to read through the Ba'ath elite's roster, ultimately denouncing 68 of the men in the room for treason. One by one, the unlucky 68 were dragged out, as terrified audience members began to weep, shake, and even chant "long live Saddam Hussein!". Saddam sat and watched the whole ordeal, smoking a cigar.

Hangings during the Saddam regime in Iraq.

To make sure that even those absent could be terrified, Saddam had the entire scene filmed[54]. The 68 accused were given show trials, 22 were sentenced to death by firing squad, and the executions were carried out that very same day; an easy logistical feat, since the trials lasted minutes. In a final sadistic twist, Saddam forced the summit's surviving attendees to serve on the firing squads.[55] Cesare Borgia would have been proud.

Methods of torture employed by Saddam's regime included: amputation of tongues, crucifixion, eye-gouging, genital electric shock, gang rape, mutilation with electric drills and vats of acid, imprisonment in confined spaces in darkness for years at a time, and the amputation of limbs; the latter being a punishment for theft in Sharia law.[56]

Veteran BBC correspondent John Sweeney said during Saddam's rule: "I have been to Baghdad a number of times. Being in Iraq is like creeping around inside someone else’s migraine. The fear is so omnipresent you could almost eat it. No one talks." Saddam's deliberate manipulation of the sanctions regime, and his skimming from humanitarian aid programs, cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, most of whom were women, children, or elderly.[57] Because when your people are suffering for the crimes and fuck-ups you caused, you are now given free rein to use those sanctions to further torment your people, while lining your pockets with embezzled aid. North Korea's use of permanent crisis to maintain control has some similarities.

Prior to 2017 Saddam held the honor dishonor of being the only dictator since Adolf Hitler to commit genocide using chemical weapons. In 1987-88, Saddam presided over the "AnfalWikipedia" (meaning "spoils of war"), where his government and military instigated the mass murder of hundreds of thousands of Kurdish (and Shia) civilians. Iraqi Air Force helicopters rained chemical weapons – including mustard gas, Sarin, and VX nerve gas – upon scores of Kurdish villages, causing tens of thousands of Kurds to die of suffocation and burning. He would also use it on the Iranians during the war, with help from the CIA. The Anfal led to the destruction of thousands of villages, the deportation of thousands of Kurds to southern and central Iraq, and the deaths of between one-hundred and two-hundred thousand Kurds.

Some people think that Saddam was the best of two terrible evils, seeing as the country was the most peaceful it had been (since the 50s and 60s) under his iron boot. The truth is, sadly, each path only leads to more death. It just depends on what we find worst- knowing about evil acts and choosing to ignore them, or going in and stopping said acts at the cost of thousands of lives- and making a hundred new smaller evils in the process. While we detest the Iraq War, we can say that we are not losing any sleep at his ultimate departure from the world.

See also[edit]

  • Osama bin Laden, his only real rival and ideological enemy. Which Bush Jr. somehow failed to grasp.
  • Muammar al-Gaddafi, his arguably zanier and dumber counterpart in Libya.
  • Hafez Al-Assad. He was better at playing dictator than his son Bashar Al-Assad. Very politically skilled, as utterly paranoid and ruthless as Saddam but without his more outrageous eccentricities and delusions of grandeur. The other bitter rival of Saddam, despite their similar political systems.


  1. It could be argued that even reparations and border changes wouldn't have changed that fact that it was still a pointless exercise of human cruelty.


  1. Norman Schwarzkopf, Jr. Wikiquote
  2. Chulov, Martin, "Qur'an etched in Saddam Hussein's blood poses dilemma for Iraq leaders", The Guardian (12/19/10 15.30 EST).
  3. Freeman, Colin, "Saddam's demon seed"., The Telegraph (8/6/11 10:00PM BST).
  4. Aburish, Said K., The Politics of Revenge (2002).
  5. Kalder, Daniel, "Dictator-lit: Saddam Hussein tortured metaphors, too", Guardian (3/31/11 11.17 EDT).
  8. Said, Edward, "Lost between War and Peace", London Review of Books Vol. 18 No. 17 · 5 September 1996 p. 10-14. Said: I was an early dissenter from what I saw as a poor deal for Palestinians...after the Gulf War, and Arafat’s disastrous alliance with Saddam Hussein, I had lost confidence in his ability to represent our national interests.
  9. Sela, Avraham, "Difficult Dialogue: The Oslo Process in Israeli Perspective", Hebrew University of Jerusalem
  12. Harry Rositzke, The CIA’s Secret Operations: Espionage, Counterespionage, and Covert Action (Boulder, CO: 1977), 109-110.
  13. United States, Department of State, Nina J. Noring and Glenn W. LaFantasie eds. Foreign Relations of the United States, 1961-1963, vol. XVII: Near East 1961-1962, 364-365.
  14. William J. Zeman, "U.S. Covert Intervention in Iraq 1958-1963: The Origins of U.S. Supported Regime Change in Modern Iraq," (Thesis (M.A.)--California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. Dept. of History, 2006), 52.
  15. Zeman, 97.
  16. Shair, Kamal (2006). Out of the Middle East: The Emergence of an Arab Global Business. I.B. Tauris. ISBN 978-1845112714. 
  17. Sweeney, "Iraq's Tortured Children", BBC (6/22/02, 11:26 GMT 12:26 UK).
  18. Roth, “War in Iraq: Not a Humanitarian Intervention,” Human Rights Watch, January 2004: "twenty-five years of Ba`th Party rule ... murdered or 'disappeared' some quarter of a million Iraqis.
  21. 21.0 21.1 row 1313 and 1314 1,000,000 and 10,000 to 2,000,000 and 100,000 Kurds were displaced and killed respectively between 1963 and 1987; 250,000 of them in 1977 and 1978. If deaths are proportional to the displacement then 2,500 to 12,500 Kurds would have died during this period depending on the scale of overall displacement and deaths used.
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 22.3,000&source=bl&ots=eXaELIGsQx&sig=ACfU3U25LViPBYu9tm5YnPXMY4ys-69NLQ&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjEuqS62_XlAhXRvJ4KHSo9BpMQ6AEwDHoECAkQAQ#v=onepage&q=feyli%20kurds%20disappeared%2012%2C000&f=false
  23. Jaffar Al-Faylee, Zaki (2010). Tareekh Al-Kurd Al-Faylyoon. Beirut. pp. 485, 499–501.
  24. Al-Hakeem, Dr. Sahib (2003). Untold stories of more than 4000 women raped killed and tortured in Iraq, the country of mass graves. pp. 489–492.
  27. 27.0 27.1
  29. David McDowall, A Modern History of the Kurds (1996)
  30. 30.0 30.1 Time 1 June 1992
  31. 1987 War Annual:
  32. 23 May 1999 Denver Rocky Mtn News: 280,000 (1961-1999)
  33. 33.0 33.1
  34. 34.0 34.1 1,000 deaths per day in April, May and June along Turkish border a - "Iraqi Deaths from the Gulf War as of April 1992," Greenpeace, Washington, D.C. See also "Aftermath of War: The Persian Gulf War Refugee Crisis," Staff Report to the Senate Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on Immigration and Refugee Affairs, May 20, 1991. The figure of nearly 1,000 deaths per day is also given in "Kurdistan in the Time of Saddam Hussein," Staff Report to the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, November 1991, p.14. "hundreds" (100 to 900?) died per day along Iranian border b - Kurdish Refugees Straggle Into Iran, Followed By Tragedy, Associated Press, Apr 13, 1991 1,100 to 1,900 (a + b) deaths per day from at least April 13th (b) up to between May 1st and May 31st (a ); which suggests 44 to 74 days: 1,100(44)= 48,400 1,900(74)= 140,600
  35. Middle East Watch does not have an independent estimate of the number of casualties that occurred during the uprising. Iraq has not released any official statistics or estimates, in keeping with apparent government policy of not disclosing such data. An independent French organization called The Truth About the Gulf War reported in June 1991 after a trip to Iraq that authorities were vague about the toll of the uprising, but "the figures given for those killed, most of them in southern Iraq and the overwhelming majority of them civilians, ranged from 25,000 to 100,000 dead." ("Violence Increasing in N. Iraq," Washington Post, June 4, 1991.)
  36. Saddam's regime may have killed 61,000 - survey Mon, Dec 8, 2003, 00:00
  37. "The Marsh Arabs of Iraq: Hussein's Lesser Known Victims". United States Institute of Peace. November 25, 2002. Nadeem A Kazmi, Sayyid (2000). "The Marshlands of Southern Iraq: A Very Humanitarian Dilemma" (PDF). III Jornadas de Medio Oriente. Retrieved 20 June 2018.
  38. Juan Cole, Marsh Arab Rebellion, Indiana University Bloomington, 2005,
  41. Certrez, Donabed, and Makko (2012). The Assyrian Heritage: Threads of Continuity and Influence. Uppsala University. p. 289. ISBN 978-91-554-8303-6.
  42. Chauhan, Sharad S. (2003). War on Iraq. APH Publishing. p. 65. ISBN 9788176484787.
  48. Rumel, Rudolph. "Lesser Murdering States, Quasi-States, and Groups: Estimates, Sources, and Calculations". Power Kills. University of Hawai'i
  50. 50.0 50.1 50.2 50.3 50.4 50.5
  51. 51.0 51.1
  52. Bourque, Stephen A. (2001). Jayhawk! The 7th Corps in the Persian Gulf War. Center of Military History, United States Army. LCCN 2001028533. OCLC 51313637. pg 455
  53. Bourque, Stephen A. (2001). Jayhawk! The 7th Corps in the Persian Gulf War. Center of Military History, United States Army. LCCN 2001028533. OCLC 51313637. pg 455
  56. "Nigeria's Zamfara Sharia court orders amputation". BBC. 9 September 2011. "An Islamic court in northern Nigeria's Zamfara state has sentenced two youths to amputation of their right hands for stealing a bull."