By Adeshola Fashola
Saddam came from humble beginnings. He was born in the town of Tikrit to a family of Shepherds and so grew up tending to sheep. His name ‘Saddam’, which was given to him by his mother, means “One who confronts” in Arabic. Growing up; he never knew his father, Hussein ‘Abid al-Majid, who disappeared six months before Saddam was born.
His mother remarried, and Saddam gained three half-brothers through this marriage. His stepfather, Ibrahim al-Hassan, treated Saddam harshly after his return. And at age 10, Saddam fled the family to live in Baghdad with his uncle Tulfah.
His turbulent childhood was not to be compared with his adulthood that saw him seize power and supress both the Kurds and Shias in his regime which lasted for 24 years. Saddam attacked anybody he sensed was a threat to him and became a most brutal dictator.
According to the New York Times; Saddam murdered as many as a million of his people! Many with poison gas. He tortured, maimed and imprisoned countless more. His unprovoked invasion of Iran is estimated to have left another million people dead. His seizure of Kuwait threw the Middle East into crisis. More insidious, arguably, was the psychological damage he inflicted on his own land. Hussein created a nation of informants — friends against friends, circles against circles. Others have estimated 800,000 deaths caused by Saddam not counting the Iran-Iraq war.Estimates as to the number of Iraqis executed by Saddam’s regime vary from 300–500,000 to over 600,000, estimates as to the number of Kurds he massacred vary from 70,000 to 300,000 and estimates as to the number killed in the put-down of the 1991 rebellion vary from 60,000 to 200,000!
His reign of terror hit a brick wall during the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq. President Bush accused Saddam of harbouring weapons of mass destruction. And it was hard to blame the Bush administration at the time as Saddam himself had boasted to having nuclear weapons. A claim Saddam later admitted to making to make him look powerful!
Saddam went missing in April 2003 after the fall of Baghdad. He was subsequently placed at the top of the U.S. list of “most-wanted Iraqis”. In July 2003, his sons Uday and Qusay and 14-year-old grandson Mustapha were killed in a three-hour gunfight with U.S. forces.
Saddam Hussein was eventually captured by U.S. forces at a farmhouse in ad-Dawr near Tikrit in a hole. And on this day (December 14th) in 2003; the US announced his capture as well as released video footage to back it up.
He was subsequently tried by his people and executed for the many murders he ordered.
Today we remember his capture which was not just a huge relief, but a significant day in the history of his people.