Saddam Hussein

Saddam Hussein (sädäm´ hōōsān´), 1937–2006, Iraqi political leader. A member of the Ba'ath party, he fled Iraq after participating (1959) in an assassination attempt on the country's prime minister; in Egypt he attended law school. Returning to Iraq in 1963 after the Ba'athists briefly came to power, he played a significant role in the 1968 revolution that secured Ba'ath hegemony. Hussein held key economic and political posts before becoming Iraq's president in 1979.

As president, he focused on strengthening the Iraqi oil industry and military and gaining a greater foothold in the Arab world while using brutal measures to maintain his power. In 1980 he escalated a long-standing dispute with Iran over the Shatt al Arab waterway into a full-scale war (see Iran-Iraq War) lasting eight years. On Aug. 2, 1990, Hussein ordered an Iraqi invasion of neighboring Kuwait; however, Iraq was forced out in early 1991 by an international military coalition (see Iraq; Persian Gulf War).

Following the war, Hussein weathered a Kurdish rebellion in the north and quelled a Shiite insurrection in the south, while his country suffered the effects of international economic sanctions. Hussein's resistance to UN-supervised weapons inspections imposed as part of the conditions for ending the Gulf War led to U.S. and British bombing raids against Iraq beginning in 1998. With the threat of war with the U.S. and Britain looming in 2002, Iraq agreed to let UN inspectors return, but the failure of Iraq to cooperate fully with the United Nations led to a U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in Mar., 2003. In a little less than a month Anglo-American forces ended Hussein's control over nearly all Iraq, although guerrillas continued to mount attacks in the following months. Hussein survived the invasion, but was not captured until Dec., 2003.

In 2004 he was transferred to Iraqi legal custody and arraigned on charges stemming from his presidency. The Iraqi government put Hussein on trial in 2005 for crimes against humanity, for ordering the execution of 143 men in the Shiite village of Dujail following an assassination attempt on him there in 1982. In 2006, charges of genocide, resulting from the anti-Kurd Anfal campaign in the late 1980s, also were brought against him. Hussein was convicted and sentenced to death in the Dujail case in Nov., 2006; after an unsuccessful appeal he was hanged in Dec., 2006.

See K. M. Woods et al., ed., The Saddam Tapes (2011).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2013, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

Saddam's Word: The Political Discourse in Iraq
Ofra Bengio.
Oxford University Press, 2002
Nationalism, Sectarianism, and the Future of the U.S. Presence in Post-Saddam Iraq
W. Andrew Terrill.
Strategic Studies Institute, 2003
Saddam Hussein's Gulf Wars: Ambivalent Stakes in the Middle East
Miron Rezun.
Praeger, 1992
The Capture of Saddam Hussein
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The World and I, Vol. 19, No. 2, February 2004
After Saddam a Post-War Iraq: Some of the Pressing Issues the United States Will Be Forced to Confront When It Topples the Regime of Saddam Hussein. Given That Some Measure of Death and Destruction Is Inevitable in Any Conflict, What Kind of State Might Be Expected to Emerge from the Ashes? (Current Affairs)
Darwish, Adel.
The Middle East, April 2003
Horror Stories: Millions of Secret Police and Intelligence Files Seized by U.S. Forces Detail the Unspeakable Atrocities Sanctioned by Saddam Hussein
Maier, Timothy W.
Insight on the News, Vol. 19, No. 11, May 13, 2003
Neighbors, Not Friends: Iraq and Iran after the Gulf Wars
Dilip Hiro.
Routledge, 2001
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 1 "Saddam Center Stage, Exit Bush" and Chap. 3 "A Shattering Betrayal, Then Lucky Breaks for Saddam"
Saddam & the New Order
Darwish, Adel.
The Middle East, April 2001
Rewriting the Textbooks: Education Policy in Post-Hussein Iraq
Wang, Tina.
Harvard International Review, Vol. 26, No. 4, Winter 2005
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