**Warning: The following post contains descriptions of horrors which are unsuitable for those under the age of 18. Please do not read if you are either under 18 or likely to be shocked/ haunted by graphic descriptions and images**
I have studied many dictators in a lot of depth- and I do not state lightly that I think that Saddam Hussein might be the worst dictator in history. If he is not the worst, then he should be considered among the worst tyrants of all time.
Why do I feel the need to write an article explaining exactly just who Saddam Hussein was? Well, because far too many people on both the left and the right, now see Saddam Hussein as “the good guy” or, in some ways worse, they state that Saddam was “Okay, a bad guy…” or “Yeah, we know he was a bad guy…” I have found that this statement is akin to the “I’m not racist but…” phrase. Nothing that follows can usually be of any good, but is rather a naive and misguided attempt at justifying the unjustifiable.
Just a week ago, Donald Trump praised Saddam Hussein for his ability to kill terrorists (implying that the fact that Saddam’s courtrooms had no serious regard for human rights was a good thing), and preferenced his statement with the “a really bad guy” description . But for once, Trump was not alone in his praise of Saddam Hussein; too often now, I hear people from the far right to the far left acting like Saddam Hussein was the hero of a sordid tale.
While I’ve no intention of registering any support for the 2003 Iraq war, it is simply foolish to claim that Saddam was a hero trying to protect his people. I’m told all too often that Saddam had to rule his country with “an iron fist”, lest the country descend into chaos. They see it as unthinkable that Iraq could possibly be controlled by anyone but a vicious tyrant. I hardly need to tell you that these people often have no idea who Saddam Hussein was, or the horrors which the Iraqi people endured at his hands.
But how insulting to the people of Iraq! Telling them that “you are too barbaric and backwards to build a democratic society!” How can people do this?
And before people start telling me that “most people get that he was a bad guy” or “people know how bad Saddam was”, look in the comments section of a YouTube video about Saddam Hussein. So often, you won’t fail to find a whole host of people declaring that Saddam was a hero   .
If you like, this is why I wrote this article: to make it clear that Saddam Hussein was a brutal Ba’athist dictator, with utter contempt for human rights and the life of people in Iraq. If you are opposed to the politics of Hitler’s Germany in the 1930s, then it seems to me that you are required to be opposed to the politics of Saddam Hussein.
Understand who this man was, truly understand who he was, and you will realise how utterly contemptible it is to relativize support for Saddam Hussein.
To understand who Saddam was, it is important to understand the political party which he ruled in Iraq, and the politics he held to. Anyone who is on the left and can seriously say that they would recommend supporting a Ba’athist regime, simply doesn’t understand what Ba’athism is.
Ba’athism can be thought of as a form of Arabic Naziism, although the former is older than the latter, Naziism had a heavy impact on Ba’athism as it began to grow and spread. The Ba’ath party was first formed in Syria when it was a French colony in the 1930s. The Ba’athists were national socialists at first, seeking to remove western influence, but also communist influence, and restore Arabic nations based on racial supremacy and other Nazi ideas.
In 1941, the Ba’athists rallied to support the pro-Hitler coup against the (British influenced) Iraqi monarchy, organized by Rashid Ali al-Kailani. And although unsuccessful, the Ba’ath party did remain the dominant fascist political force in the region.
In Iraq, it took off more than anywhere else: in order to become a full member of the Ba’ath party, people would have to go through a series of vigorous tests and four stages of initial membership. During Saddam’s reign, the people who progressed most in the party were those who showed the most fanatic loyalty to their leader. You can imagine, then, how Saddam became the commander of an insane army of fanatically loyal zealots.
The Ba’athists took control of Syria in 1963 (and they still hold it to this day) and secured their hold of Iraq in 1968 .
But what of Saddam Hussein himself?
Saddam was born in 1937 in the Iraqi town of Tikrit (تكريت) to a mother who didn’t want him, and tried to commit suicide several times.
His Uncle, Khairallah Talfah (خير الله طلفاح) took care of the young Saddam, and taught him to be suspicious of outsiders, and bestowed upon him a belief in many of the tenets of Iraqi Nationalism. A hatred of Persians and Jewish people was taught to him by his saviour in the form of Talfah, until Talfah was imprisoned for his radical politics .
Saddam was then placed back into the care of his mother, who allowed his stepfather to beat him, and abuse him, in a way reminiscent of the manner in which Stalin was abused in his childhood.
When Saddam was ten years old, he returned to the freed Talfah, who gave him his first gun.
No one has ever been able to prove it, but it is broadly agreed that Saddam’s first victim was shot by the boy shortly afterwards , and Talfah then sheltered him from the authorities.
In 1957, at the age of 20 Saddam joined the Ba’ath party as a contract killer. In 1964, Saddam was arrested with his cousin, Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr, for opposing the government at the time, and from inside prison, Ahmed and Saddam planned their takeover of Iraq. While he was there, Saddam also began to study his hero- a man who he idolized despite the Ba’ath party’s founders hating communism so much:- the dictator Josef Stalin.
Saddam idolized Stalin, from the employment of terror to gain and maintain control, to his moustache, which was a replica of Stalin’s own, Saddam attempted to mimic his dictatorial role model. In 1968, their plan finally succeeded and al-Bakr became the President of Iraq, putting Saddam in charge of the Mukhabarat (the Iraqi secret police). So often I am told “Saddam couldn’t have been Stalinist and a Nazi”, but this fails to take into account that the Ba’ath party actually allied themselves with the communist party in the 1960s, and that Saddam never actually declared any support for communism, but rather, for the brutal terror tactics of control used by Josef Stalin.
Like the Nazi’s before them, the Ba’athist government made one of their primary victims the Jewish people. After 1963, in a show of power mimicking that of the Nazis, all Jewish Iraqis were required by law to carry yellow identification badges, and were banned from commerce, had their bank accounts frozen, and the new regime’s first public executions were a group of 14 “traitors”, 11 of whom were Jewish, hanged in the centre of Baghdad.
Using the fear of Israel, and Nazi-esque anti-Jewish sentiment, Saddam secured his hold over the people of Iraq . However, Saddam and the Ba’athists also had another people whom they were trying to obliterate from the region; the Kurdish people. There is absolutely no doubt that Saddam Hussein wanted to commit genocide against the Kurdish people, and see them extinct from Iraq forever.
Saddam brought to the secret police a new level of horror heavily influenced by Stalin- one in which the families of the torture victims were used to torture them further. Some might say that Stalin wasn’t even as bad as that- Stalin never liked to get his hands dirty, but Saddam seemed to enjoy it, and entered the world of torture as a self-proclaimed expert.
Abdul Rasul al-Hayder, who was a torture victim sentenced to death, described how a colleague of his was taken to the torture chamber, accused of being affiliated with an Islamic political party in opposition to the Ba’ath party, and his wife was brought before him with his infant son, and he was forced to watch while she was raped twice by the guards, tortured. The colleague’s infant son was then thrown head first against the wall by the guards until he was dead, and the colleague himself was shot. His wife was allowed to go free, but only so that she could keep the terror alive- keep the rumours about the horrors of the regime’s torture chambers going. To keep the Iraqi people in line.
This was what it meant to live in Saddam’s Iraq. Can you honestly imagine, even for a moment, what it might be like to live in such a place? And if so, can you honestly tell me that you would be willing to let other human beings suffer in such a place?
Saddam finally took power in July 1979 by forcing al-Bakr to give up his presidency, and ordered a meeting of 400 members of the Ba’ath party elite. He then announced that he had uncovered a plot conducted by rival Ba’athists, and all of the conspirators could be found somewhere amongst the 400 people.
If you watch the footage, which can be found very easily on YouTube  (and if you want to see something really terrifying, look how many comments there are under that video praising Saddam as a “hero”) you can see Saddam sitting at the head of the conference, and a man is brought in- tortured and broken, but the man has been promised his life in return for his cooperation. While Saddam sits there smiling and smoking a cigar, he reads out a list of all the 400 people gathered in that room, and asks after each one; “is he a conspirator?”
If the answer is yes, then the person is grabbed by the Mukhabarat and dragged outside. Imagine what it might have been like to be in that room- to have to wait in the agonizing fear, just waiting for your name to be read out, and wondering if this might be the last day of your life. Some in the room couldn’t take it, and you can see them cracking- they stand up and start yelling “Glory to Saddam” and similar phrases, praising him in desperation, hoping that their name would not be read out.
No such plot existed, or has ever been proven to exist, but this was but another example of Saddam following Stalin’s lead- randomly slaughtering half of the political elite, simply because he could. The message was clear: the leader will kill you without a reason, so stay in line, shut up, be obedient, and don’t question him; that way you won’t give him a reason to kill you.
And then, once all the “conspirators” had been removed, Saddam once again addressed the remains of the room, and thanked them for their loyalty. Saddam said that as a reward, they would get to shoot their colleagues the following morning.
Many people have pointed out that this was a measure which even Stalin hadn’t thought of- binding the country’s remaining leaders to him by making them commit murder in his name. The fact they were shooting close colleagues and friends would serve as a constant reminder of what happened in Saddam’s Iraq if you upset the leader in any way, haunting them for the rest of their lives.
Saddam then really begins to build his cult of personality, with giant statues of himself being built across Iraq, and films being made about his early exploits. Through the ministry of culture and information , Saddam’s Ba’ath party maintained such a tight control over the media that even the type writers and computers had to be checked by party officials before use. Owning a Satellite dish or mobile telephone in Iraq under Saddam’s rule was punishable by death. All of this, to maintain total control over a tortured and terrified Iraqi people.
Hazim Oraha  was a young gallery owner accused of sponsoring anti-Ba’athist art when Saddam took power, and was sent to the torture chamber by Saddam’s secret police the Mukhabarat (or Jihaz Al-Mukhabarat Al-Amma).
Oraha was severely beaten and shocked with electricity, before his hands were bound behind his back and he was suspended from a rotating ceiling fan. His tormentors then grabbed him by the legs and held him still, letting the ceiling fan turn until his back was twisted round until it gave way and his back finally broke.
Oraha was then left paralyzed on the floor of his cell for 2 months before he could walk and was freed from the prison. Inside the prisons, prisoners were often forced to watch executions- which could range from affairs involving boiling oil, electricity, and acid, to a slow hanging.
One Iraqi prisoner recalled:
“inmates were sometimes murdered by being dropped into shredding machines. Some prisoners went in headfirst and died quickly, while others were put in feet first and died screaming. The witness said that on at least one occasion, Qusai [Qusay] supervised shredding-machine murders.” 
If they cried, they were immediately executed in the same manner as the execution that they were watching. Many Iraqi prisoners can also tell stories of the “games” that the guards would play in Baghdad’s prisons, such as forcing prisoners to drink petrol, and then firing guns at them. So often in these prisons, routine patterns were noticed, like the guards offering a choice of four electric cables when the prisoners first entered, then whipping them with their chosen cable until they bled, before making them swim in sewer water that was knee deep for the amusement of the guards.
One ex-prisoner stated in his recall of life in the Ba’athist prisons:
“Then they put me inside a circle and told me to run round and round for nine hours. After that they threw me on the hot pavement and a fat guard sat on my chest. Then they pulled me along by my ankles so that my back was streaming with blood.” 
One of the most shocking things about Iraq, was that at every level of Iraqi society, people could be found who could tell sordid tales of the brutalities which they or their friends endured at the hands of the Ba’ath party:
“When I was in Iraq a doctor from Basra told me that, after being jailed by the police some years ago, he refused to tell his inquisitors whatever it was they wanted to hear. Instead of beating him, he told me, they brought in his 3-month-old daughter. The interrogator tore the screaming infant’s eye out. When the desired answers were still not forthcoming, the questioner hurled the little girl against the concrete wall and smashed her skull.” 
Dr. Hussein Shahristani was ordered by Saddam in 1979 to build nuclear devices for military use. When he refused, Dr.Shahristani was sent to the torture chambers for 22 days and nights, until, in his own words “I was completely paralyzed.”
Under normal circumstances, refusing a direct order from the president was a crime that could result in electric drills being pushed up against the bones until the tip of the drill carved its way through the bone and appeared on the other side of the body, or submerging body parts in sulphuric acid until they burned away.
But Saddam could not risk Iraq’s top nuclear scientist, so instead, he was hung from the ceiling by his hands and electrocuted with high voltage probes, and then beaten (with only minutes to rest between sessions) for 22 days, to the point of paralysis.  Shahristani was kept with the other prisoners, whom he described as having been tortured in even more brutal ways: fingers removed with electric saws and private parts burnt away with fire. This was a mere glimpse at the reality of horror that was Saddam’s Iraq.
In 1982, Saddam carried out his infamous “Dujail” massacre. The story from the courtroom at the trial of Saddam  states that the leader was visiting the village as a photo opportunity, when a Shiite group (an oppressed majority in Iraq under the Ba’ath party) attempted to shoot Saddam. They failed, but even though there were only two shooters, Saddam executed 145 people from Dujail, including an 11 year old boy.
During the 1980s, the situation was vastly complicated when Saddam invaded neighbouring Iran, hoping to expand his power. In 1983, the invasion came to a stalemate when Iran constructed a massive counter force to repel Saddam’s attack. When Saddam called an emergency meeting of his government, he asked, under his breath, if he should resign. His health minister replied “Yes.”
So, Saddam had him arrested there, and that evening, the health minister’s wife came to Saddam and pleaded him to please return her husband to her. She said that he had always been a loyal servant of Saddam’s Ba’ath party, and that he could continue to serve if he was returned to her. So Saddam agreed. Shortly afterwards, she received a black canvas bag, with the carved up pieces of her husband inside it. Such stories are surprisingly commonplace among survivors of Saddam’s brutal regime.
The stalemate ended shortly afterwards, when Reagan, Thatcher, and Andreotti (Italian PM) began funding the Iraqi military. It was felt that Saddam’s staunch anti-communism (despite his admiration of Stalin, Saddam viewed the post-Khrushchev soviet union as a communist abomination- the direct opposite of his own political views) would be of great help to US interests in the middle east. But they didn’t just supply him with conventional weaponry- they also put chemical weapons in the hands of the Iraqi dictator. His first taste of WMD .
They used Mustard gas and a cocktail of nerve agents against the Iranians. Saddam even had the weapons modified to make them more dangerous. In eight years, Saddam’s attempts to dominate Iran claimed 2 million lives and only ended once the subsequent Iranian nationalist counter attack, that he had unwittingly unleashed, agreed to a ceasefire under UN resolution 598. The Iraqi people were essentially defeated, but nonetheless, the insane dictator hailed it as a victory, and built the massive “arc of triumph” which can still be seen in Baghdad today, in celebration of the leader’s great victory.
Then, Saddam’s wrath turned on the Kurdish people living in Northern Iraq, conducting an operation known as the Anfal campaign, to slaughter Kurdish men, women, and children. In March 1988, Saddam attacked Halabja  with his new chemical weapons, and in just three days, five thousand people were killed by the chemical weapons while still in their homes, with thousands of the survivors bearing horrific scars, even mutations in their skin cells, as a result of that single assault.
Many have compared the Anfal campaign to Hitler’s persecution of the Jews- it was Saddam’s “final solution” to the Kurdish people. It is estimated that at least 100,000 people were killed by the Anfal campaign in the Northern provinces of Iraq, with stories of Iraqi Kurds being buried alive in mass graves .
When Saddam invaded Kuwait in 1991, he tried to continue his holocaust against the Kurdish people, but the US were not on side with Saddam this time- US forces repelled Saddam from Kuwait, and a no fly zone was authorised by the UN to prevent genocide in Northern Iraq or Kuwait. In a speech following this, the insane dictator is claimed to have said that the only mistake he ever made was to invade Kuwait before he’d finished making a nuclear weapon .
Saddam had an interpreter named Mazen al-Zahawi, who was at the side of Saddam when the invasion of Kuwait was in its final stages, and Saddam was approached by foreign leaders, who ordered Saddam to withdraw from Iraq, many of them speaking to Saddam rather angrily, and in tones that no Iraqi would ever dare to speak to the President in. They threatened him with war, and Saddam, who had violated countless UN resolutions to invade Kuwait, was forced to sit there and take it, since he could not risk a full scale invasion of Iraq by a foreign power, let alone all of the western countries who now opposed him.
Unfortunately, al-Zahawi was there to witness this, and Saddam, the “great” leader, couldn’t have a witness to anyone speaking down to him. (Saddam thought so highly of himself that, at his trial after the invasion in 2003, he claimed that he was too great to be judged; “Even Saddam Hussein cannot be judged by Saddam Hussein!”) Zahawi could not be allowed to live after seeing someone speak down to Saddam Hussein. He was accused of being homosexual, so Saddam’s guards dragged him into a dungeon, where he was not just executed, but literally pulled apart .
The only people more dangerous than Saddam himself were his two sons, Uday Hussein and Qusay Hussein. Uday was born in 1964, and was taught from an early age to be ruthless. Saddam would take him and his younger brother Qusay (born in 1966) to the prisons when they were very young, and order them to shoot prisoners.
Uday quickly learned, and his first position was as head of the Iraqi Olympics committee. There, he tortured the athletes if they failed to perform well for him. He seemed to enjoy asking them what place they would come in a competition, and then having them whipped in front of their teammates until the skin of their back broke if they got it wrong.
Athletes who failed him often had their heads shaved (a huge dishonour and humiliation in Arabic culture) or were sealed inside a metal coffin to burn in the hot Iraqi sun. Uday would state to the athletes that unless they won the important games, he would have them killed, and all of their family inside Iraq would be executed.
It was not an idle threat. At least 50 athletes had this very punishment inflicted on them by Uday.
Latif Yahia, one of Uday’s body doubles payed to act as a decoy, described Uday as completely sick- he would regularly beat his bodyguards and Yahia with an “electric stick” (similar to an electric shock baton) for no apparent reason. Among the other things he witnessed, Yahia claims that one incident he was particularly horrified by was a time that Uday went to book into a hotel, and saw a married couple. Uday took an interest in the wife, and sent his thugs after them. The husband was beaten by Uday’s guards, while Uday raped the wife. According to Yahia, she committed suicide by jumping from the top floor of the hotel.
One of Uday’s favourite punishments was to have his victim’s feet held up between two sticks, back on the ground, and then Uday or one of his guards would take a baseball bat (contrary to the traditional punishment of whipping in such a position) and hit the feet of their victim until the feet were broken. Usually after this, Uday would have the victim beaten with electric cables as they dangled upside down from the ceiling. He seemed to take sadistic pleasure from his outlandish, psychopathic, bullying nature.
Uday would move from College to College, and at each location, he had a reputation for choosing the most attractive girl, and then having Ba’athist thugs hold her down while he raped her, and then have her executed .
But the elder of the two brothers proved even too psychopathic for Saddam’s Iraq; in 1988, he murdered a personal friend of Saddam Hussein in a drunken brawl by slashing a German made “flower picker” (essentially a stick with a pair of scissors at one end) across the neck of Hanna Jajou. Saddam had Uday arrested along with his friends, and sentenced him to execution, but after a time, relents, and exiles him to Switzerland for a year instead.
When Uday returns, he has learnt nothing, and he continues to rape and murder his way across the Iraqi population with such brutality that he was creating countless enemies for the Ba’athists inside Iraq. So much so, that in 1996, Uday was on his way to a party in Baghdad, when he was shot eight times by an assassin, aiming to rid the people of the insane dauphin.
Uday survived the assassination attempt, although partially paralysed from the waist down, but Saddam felt that this was the last straw for Uday. Uday had become an embarrassment, and the Iraqi people were beginning to turn against the Ba’athists because of their brutality, and the regime needed to calm the public mood, particularly as UN sanctions came into place, and Iraqi children starved, while Saddam continued to build palaces for his family.
Not overplaying his hand when it came to cruelty, and instead adapting subtlety to keep the Iraqi people in line, was not, in Saddam’s mind, something that the blunt instrument of psychopathic mass murder that was Uday Hussein was any longer capable of.
So, Saddam named Qusay his successor, as Uday lay in his hospital bed. Qusay was by far the more intelligent of the two- quieter, although just as brutal as Uday, the younger brother didn’t kill without reason, and was not the random unpredictable force that Saddam saw Uday as. Qusay idolized his father, and adopted the familiar Stalin-esque moustache. Saddam placed him as the head of the secret police and security services, and began the process of grooming Qusay to be the next despotic mass murderer at the head of Iraqi government.
Uday did not take it well. To keep himself in power, Uday became the head of the Fedayeen Saddam- the Ba’athist militia which has been compared to the Hitler youth, but I feel might more accurately be compared to the Sturm Abteilung (SA) of the early Nazi years; a militia with tens of thousands of members designed to act as an unofficial machine of brutality for their fascist party. For exaple, in 2003, when the Fedayeen Saddam were given a list of 200 women “dissidents” who had spoken out for female rights in Saddam’s Iraq. And so, the Fedayeen marched into their villages and brutally beheaded each of them, one by one.  When Uday had received this position, his brutality continued, largely unchanged.
Uday’s personal executioner, Ahmad, revealed horrifying stories after the death of his former boss  which included a time that the Ba’ath party had ordered him to arrest two young students in Baghdad’s arts academy (he estimates that they were no older than 19) and with no explanation, two lions belonging to Uday were brought to the scene, and the two students were fed to the lions. Ahmad, who was a seasoned killer himself and no soft hearted man, recalled in horror at how he “saw the head of the first student literally come off his body with the first bite.”
On another occasion, Ahmad recalled how he was forced to behead a pregnant woman while she sobbed and begged for the life of her child. The cruelty of Saddam’s Iraq, and indeed Saddam’s sons, knew no bounds.
The reason that I recall these tales of horror from Saddam’s Iraq is not to shock or scare, but because I am genuinely worried that people think that Saddam Hussein was a just and fair ruler with a “tough but fair” attitude. He was nothing less than an insane dictator who saw himself as something more than human, as a godly image to be worshiped. Some in Iraq even tell tales of pictures of the “great leader” being damaged in Cafés, and the “offender” being carried away by the secret police for defiling a picture of the leader.
The cruelty of Saddam Hussein knew no bounds, and should never be forgotten. So the next time you see that disgraceful image of Saddam Hussein with “Miss me yet?” written across the top, take a second to remember which side Saddam Hussein was on. Michael Moore in his film “Faranheit 9/11” never once mentions the cruelty imposed by Saddam upon the people of Iraq, and you might even get the impression that Saddam was a quiet, fair ruler from that film and many other Western sources relating to the Iraq war.
I am not saying by any stretch that the Iraq war and the chaos that has followed was a good thing, but the cruelty of Saddam Hussein must be neither underestimated nor forgotten. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind, that Saddam Hussein will go down as one of the worst tyrant’s in history, and the people who state that he was a just and fair ruler, will be looked back on (perhaps unfairly in many cases where people simply do not know the above) in the same manner and join this “great leader” in the fascist moral sewers of history.