chapter  7
23 Pages

The dictatorship of Saddam Husayn, 1979–2003

A lmost immediately after assuming the presidency, SaddamHusayn conducted an extensive purge of the government and party. One after the other party officials, many who had worked with him

for decades, were paraded on national television. With Saddam looking

on, they “confessed” to being party to a Syrian “plot” against Iraq. Once the

terrifying show was over, 22 were duly executed, with others receiving long

prison terms. Naturally, the relationship with Syria that had just improved

deteriorated greatly. After the elimination of all his rivals, Saddam arranged

for the country’s first elections for a National Assembly since the 1958 revolu-

tion. The elections were a complete sham, with no meaningful opposition

permitted. The National Assembly was a powerless body which basically

rubber-stamped all the president’s decisions. For the next 24 years, the dictator-

ship would put Iraq through several gruelling wars, paralyzing international

sanctions and a reign of terror that threatened the country’s national unity.