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The Personal History of Saddam Hussein

Saddam Hussein is an interesting profile of a ruler and leader who is known to the world as a violent, iron-handed dictator, yet he was many things, including a man who struggled to raise his country out of a long history of internal conflict and old-fashioned idiom including promoting literacy and education of women in the 70s.

Early Years

Understanding Saddam Hussein requires understanding his early life. Born in the rural Al-Awja in Tikrt, Iraq on April 28, 1937, Saddam began life with his path laid out. Even his name (also spelt Addm Usayn al-Tikriti in his native language) that means "he who confronts" seemed to bear witness to all aspects of his future, from taking on social issues head-on, and meeting enemies with forceful aggression. He had a tumultuous early life with a father who was missing. Reports vary on what happened to Saddam's biological father. Whether he was killed or simply left, Saddam was left to grow up in a contentious situation with a step-father whom he hated for his brutality, and ignorance.

In spite of the hatred for his step-father, Saddam never turned his back on his peasant roots, and sported a tribal tattoo on his right wrist that children in those areas of the region were often branded with. Like others who came from those areas, Saddam grew up believing that strength equaled right, and power was asserted through domination.

When Saddam was 10 years old, the tension between he and his step-father was so great, he was sent to live with his mother's brother in Baghdad. The influence of his uncle, recently released from prison was strong, and Saddam attended a nationalistic school in Baghdad, and followed that with law studies before he dropped out and joined the pan-Arab Ba'ath Party becoming the revolutionist he would follow the rest of his life.

Rise to Power

After many struggles in neighboring Syria and Egypt, Saddam was drawn to Iraq where Ba'th's recent overthrow put them back in power. Hussein was elected vice-president, but in reality, he ruled the elected President Ahma Hasan al-Bakr through manipulation. From 1969 through 1979, Hussein initiated many economic and social improvements. It was also the time when he nearly single-handedly changed the face of Middle East oil control by breaking ties with the American/Arab oil companies and nationalizing IBC, the foreign-owned oil company. The combination of social changes and oil control created an atmosphere of prosperity, and evolution. During that time, Iraq, through its leadership, worked on its ties to the Soviet Union, and broke away from its former unions with the West. That included a strong stance on the isolation of Egypt, and a hard stance on Israel when Anwar Sadat made agreements with Israel's then prime minister Menachem Begin.

President Hussein

When Ahmad al-Bakr resigned in 1979, Saddam Hussein was elected the president of Iraq. That began one of the most visible publicity campaign of any President ever. No matter where you turned in Iraq you were met with towering billboards and posters of Hussein. All of the posters were designed to show him in various roles, and ingratiate himself as a family man who was strong and powerful, and worthy of public trust.

Domination and Rulership

On the outside, the image of humanitarian and social support was countered by the internal turmoil of Saddam's rule. He brutally crushed any who opposed him, or threatened his reign. As soon as he assumed the thrown of President, he initiated a sweep of the party officials who were thought to have ties to Syria, and plotted to overthrow the new government.

Rebellions from inside were met with execution, and close leadership appointments were doled out to family and friends that would support and protect him. However, even those people were not safe from Saddam's aggressive stance against any opposition. When a brother-in-law died in a helicopter accident, it didn't seem so accidental to those who knew of the recent dispute in the family. Saddam openly ordered the execution of sons-in-law who fled to Jordan to escape his influence.

The Persian Gulf War brought Saddam into stark relief in the Western media when he refused the UN access to inspection when they sought out illegal weapons of chemical warfare. In spite of his world-wide reputation, no one in Baghdad would criticize Hussein, and no one was safe from his wrath. He even was said to have put his wife under arrest, and confined to home after the shooting of his son Uday.

Even as his public image of family man and social leader crumbled and disappeared, Saddam continued, more openly with his iron-fisted reign, even raining down poison over Halabja, a Kurdish village accused of being disloyal, and killing, or wounding 15,000 area citizens.

The Final Straw

The reign of terror climaxed on September 11, 2001 when a terrorist attack on the U.S. led a path right to the doorstep of Saddam Hussein. He went into hiding, issuing messages to the public via recordings from as many as 30 hiding places.

In December of 2003 he was finally tracked down in the little village of Ad-Dwar just 9 miles from where Saddam was born in Tikrit after a clan member leaked his location when captured. He was discovered hiding in an eight-foot hole beneath a trap door in a farmhouse.

He was charged with crimes committed against Dujail by an Iraqi Special Tribunal, and on November 5, 2006, he was found guilty of crimes against humanity and sentenced to death. He was hung on December 30, 2006.