Together with Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin, history ranks Saddam Hussein as one of the most brutal dictators of the 20th century. He intensely admired Stalin, following his example to rule Iraq with an iron fist to keep his country under control. Serving as the Iraqi president from 1979 until 2003, Hussein left a horrific legacy for crimes against humanity and earned international notoriety for murdering and torturing thousands of his own people.
Hussein began his campaign of infamy in July 1982 when his motorcade visited the town of Dujail which is 50 miles north of Baghdad. A group of Dawa militants staged an assassination attempt. In reprisal, Hussein punished the entire town. His troops rounded up more than 140 men who simply disappeared. He also incarcerated and tortured 1,500 other residents including the elderly, women and children. His troops razed the town by bulldozing the structures and demolishing the orchards.
Anfal Kurd Genocide
For eight to 10 months in 1988, Hussein's regime carried out a campaign against the Kurdish population in northern Iraq. The stated reason behind this atrocity was to solidify Iraqi control over the area. Iraqi troops attacked, leveled the villages and rounded up the occupants. They isolated the men from age 13 to 70 and buried them in mass graves after their executions. The women, children and elderly survivors were relocated and forced to live in squalid conditions which killed many of them. In some areas, the troops simply marched in and killed everyone. During the Anfal genocide campaign, estimates show that up to 182,000 civilians were murdered. The Iraqi troops also used chemical weapons such as mustard gas with nerve agents on approximately 40 Kurdish towns. They shot volleys of bombs down on the villages. Those who did not die immediately suffered from blindness, nausea, convulsions and asphyxiation. More than 5,000 died, but the 10,000 survivors suffered from permanent blindness, cancer and disfigurement.
The 1990 Kuwait Invasion
Iraq owed Kuwait a large war debt which Hussein did not intend to pay. He decided to acquire Kuwait's oil resources for his own use. After Iraqi troops invaded the country, the United States was drawn into the six-week Persian Gulf War. The Iraqi army could not stand against the Americans. As they retreated, Hussein order the oil wells to be set afire. More than 1 billion barrels of oil burned along with 700 wells. They also ruptured the pipelines, releasing 10 million barrels of oil into the Gulf. The fires and the oil spill caused a monstrous environmental disaster in the area.
The Shiite-Marsh Arab Uprising
After the Gulf War ended in 1991, the southern Shiites and the remaining Kurds rebelled against Hussein's regime. Since the Marsh Arabs supported the Kurds, Hussein authorized his army to destroy their villages. These Arabs had resided in the marshlands of southern Iraq for thousands of years, but Hussein destroyed their way of life by building a network of dams and canals to drain the water. Leaving another environmental disaster, this ecosystem was devastated and the Marsh Arabs fled from their ancestral homes.
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