Saddam Hussein: how a deadly purge of opponents set up his ruthless dictatorship

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    The scene, a large smoke-filled room in Baghdad 40 years ago on July 22 1979. About a hundred unsuspecting Ba'athist party members sat listening to their newly installed president, Saddam Hussein, denouncing a conspiracy against him.

    Suddenly a man was brought before the conference, bearing the marks of torture and the vacant expression of a broken mind and soul. Muhyi Adbek Hussein, one of the senior Ba’athist leaders, proceeded to confess his role in a plot to overthrow Saddam’s new regime and name his alleged co-conspirators. One by one, 50 names were called out, each man escorted from the room by uniformed guards.

    It was a chilling sight. The remaining members, now visibly afraid, started chanting vociferous allegiance to Saddam in the hope of avoiding the fate of their colleagues. These survivors of his brutal crackdown were then handed guns, and ordered to execute their fellow Ba’athist colleagues, making them complicit in their leader’s crimes. Journalist Christopher Hitchens compared the shocking scene to the Night of the Long Knives in Nazi Germany, when Hitler ordered a similar purge of his own perceived opponents in 1934.
    Original languageEnglish
    Specialist publicationThe Conversation
    Publication statusPublished - 22 Jul 2019


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