Introduction: Saddam Hussein (03:12)
This episode of “The Dictator’s Playbook” examines the rise to power of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein. The United States invaded Iraq in 2003 and Hussein was discovered hiding on a farm near Tikrit, thus ending one of the most brutal regimes of the 20th century.
Using Violence (08:10)
Hussein was born in Al-Awja on April 28, 1937. He learned to use violence from a young age, initially to fight bullies and later as an enforcer for the revolutionary Ba’ath Party in Baghdad. Brutal and often random violence was used to suppress dissent during his later reign.
Creating a Myth (04:03)
In 1959, Hussein volunteered for a Ba’ath hit squad that attempted to assassinate Abd Al-Karim Qasim, who had seized power during the 14 July Revolution the previous year. Hussein used the incident to create a heroic narrative for himself, notably with the 1980 film, “The Long Days.”
Controlling the Secret Police (05:20)
The Ba’ath Party took over the government in 1968 under Hussein’s cousin, Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr. Hussein became vice president and used the country’s secret police to root out suspected traitors. He claimed to have uncovered a broad conspiracy against the state in 1969 and made a public spectacle of hanging alleged conspirators.
Controlling the Elites (06:34)
Days after becoming prime minister, Hussein rounded up alleged conspirators during a meeting of the Revolutionary Command Council. He forced remaining government officials to personally execute their arrested colleagues. He used a mix of intimidation, gifts and beneficial economic and social programs to keep elites and the general public in line.
Creating an Enemy (06:01)
The rise of Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini presented a new threat; Khomeini openly called for Iraq’s Shia Muslims to rise up and overthrow Iraq’s government. Hussein used the threat to rally the public behind him and launched a pre-emptive invasion that sparked the Iran-Iraq War. The U.S. backed his efforts under Ronald Reagan’s administration.
Creating Terror (03:56)
As many as 500,000 Iraqis died during the eight-year Iran-Iraq War. The conflict weakened Hussein’s grip on power at home, and Kurdish rebels seized the border town of Halabja. Hussein’s forces used chemical weapons to crush the rebellion and frighten enemies into submission.
Hussein used propaganda to spin the disastrous Iran-Iraq War into a glorious victory. Neighboring Saudi Arabia and Kuwait refused to forgive the debt his government now owed, thanks to the war. Thus incensed, Hussein invaded Kuwait on Aug. 2, 1990, prompting a swift response from the United States and leading to the Gulf War.
Hussein's Capture (08:55)
Hussein remained in the crosshairs of the United States. President George W. Bush’s administration used the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 to justify a second invasion of Iraq in 2003. A bodyguard revealed Hussein’s hiding place, and the deposed dictator was captured, tried and sentenced to death.
Credits: Saddam Hussein (00:32)
Credits: Saddam Hussein
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