NOT EVEN FAMILY MEMBERS ARE SAFE
IRAQ, 1979-2003 250,000 KILLED
In 1979, more than a decade before he would become a household name during the first Gulf War, Saddam Hussein stood before a gathering of several hundred elite members of his Ba’ath Party. He’d just pushed aside ageing President Bakr. The Iraqi leadership was his. Standing at the podium, Saddam read from a list of dozens of people he believed were involved in a Syrian-led coup. His guards began to drag out those accused, while a hysterical crowd chanted that the traitors be put to death, and Saddam puffed casually on a cigar.
While even his harshest critics note that Saddam, using the country’s skyrocketing oil reserves, modernised Iraq during the 1970s and 1980s, his regime was defined by savagery, and a thirst for absolute power. His secret police force established a network of torture centres throughout Iraq. Citizens were banned from assembling in public unless it was to support the government; non-ba’ath political parties were closely monitored.
Like many despots, Saddam surrounded himself with members of his own clan – in this case, Sunni Arabs, a minority that made up only 20% of the Iraqi population. His hatred for other ethnic groups was legendary, especially Kurds and Shiite Muslims - and fed the appetite of his most violent politics. In 1988, during the closing days of the Iraq-iran War, Saddam’s troops attacked the Kurdish town of Halabja with poison gas, killing 5,000 people and injuring 7,000. In the years that followed, thousands more died of related complications, and birth defects in the region were common [see below].
Even family members weren’t safe from Saddam’s ire. At a diplomatic party in 1997, his eldest son Uday murdered his father’s personal valet with an electric carving knife in front of horrified guests. Saddam’s response? He sentenced his first born to death (though he later retracted the order). No such luck for the husbands of his two eldest daughters, though, who were gunned down for defecting from Iraq. >
STATE MURDER Idi Amin’s secret police terrorised Uganda in the 1970s. Here, men lay dead in the city of Kampala after being massacred by Amin’s henchmen.
IDIAMIN,TOAN ADVISERBEFORE DINNER “IWANTYOUR HEART.IWANTTO EATYOUR CHILDREN.”