NOT EVEN FAM­ILY MEM­BERS ARE SAFE

IRAQ, 1979-2003 250,000 KILLED

World of Knowledge (Australia) - - History -

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.”

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