On This Day

Associated Press
Hussein in 1980.

On This Day: Saddam Hussein Survives Assassination Attempt

July 08, 2009 02:00 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
On July 8, 1982, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein survived an attempted assassination in the town of Dujail. His brutal retaliation for the attack led to his execution in 2006.

“Seeking Justice in Dujail”

During a 1982 visit to the town of Dujail, Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was nearly assassinated by a group of anti-Baath militants. His intention was to build support for Iraq’s war with Iran. As his convoy was departing from the town, a group of men hiding in palm groves opened fire on his vehicle.

According to the BBC, after Hussein survived the attack, instead of fleeing from the area he returned and made a speech before the townspeople, promising to “root out the ‘small number’ of traitors in the town, ‘agents of foreigners’ he [said], meaning the Iranians.”

Eighteen months prior to the attempt, on Sept. 22, 1980, Hussein invaded Iran in order to protect his power from Ayatollah Khomeini, who had only recently risen to power during a major revolution. While the war appeared to be a territorial dispute, Hussein’s singular goal, in the words of the BBC, was “to overthrow the Khomeini regime before that regime could overthrow him.” Ultimately, the Iran–Iraq war became a “war of attrition,” with both nations showing a disregard for its cost in human lives.

One irony of the Dujail attempt is that Hussein himself had ordered hundreds of political assassinations. He had also been associated with countless human rights violations, killing 5,000 Kurds with chemical weapons and invading Kuwait. This last assault incited a war, during which 34 countries drove Iraqi soldiers out of the oil-rich nation, reported PBS.

The Dujail assassination attempt led to one of Hussein’s greatest displays of brutality: 143 people from Dujail, some of them children, were killed in retaliation.

Kadhem Jaafar, the father of one of the gunmen, was arrested along with his wife and seven daughters. He told the BBC, “They took us to the intelligence headquarters for a month or so, then to Abu Ghraib for two years and then they sent us to the desert.”

Hussein imprisoned people by the hundreds, without evidence of wrongdoing. Many were never heard from again.

After Hussein’s capture by American troops in 2003, it was this brutal and public display of power that caused Iraqi courts to convict Hussein to death. According to The New York Times he was found guilty of 143 counts of murder and hanged on Dec. 30, 2006.

Key Players: Saddam Hussein

Saddam Hussein was born on April 28, 1937, to a peasant family in a small desert village north of Baghdad. He never knew his father, who died before Saddam was born, and was raised mainly by his uncle, FoxNews reported.

Until he was 10, Hussein couldn’t read or write. Said Aburish, author of “Saddam Hussein: The Politics of Revenge,” told PBS, “He heard that his cousin could read and write and demanded that he be afforded the same opportunity.”

He joined the Baath Socialist Party in 1957. A year later, he was sent to prison for six-months for murdering his brother-in-law, a communist, according to Fox. At 22, he helped plot and attempt the assassination of Iraqi Prime Minister General Abdel-Karim Qassem. He and the other Baathists failed. After taking a bullet in the leg, Hussein fled to Syria, then Egypt, where he hid for several years.

In 1963 he returned to Iraq, during what turned out to be a short spell of power for the Baath party. When the party fell, Hussein was arrested. According to PBS he escaped three years later and a stronger, reunited Baath party plotted a successful coup in 1968. Hussein rose from vice chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council in 1969 to president of Iraq a decade later.

Later Developments: Operation Desert Storm, the Iraq War, Hussein executed

From 1990 to 1991, the United states and allied forces went to war in order to liberate Kuwait from Iraqi forces. PBS examines the Gulf War “through the eyes and words of those who played major roles.” In one interview, General Wafic Al Samarrai, Head of Iraqi Military Intelligence for Iraq, explained that for Hussein, Kuwait represented a kind of financial “salvation,” after war with Iran had sunk the nation’s coffers.

In 2003 the U.S. and its allies returned to Iraq “for the stated purpose of deposing Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and preventing his use of suspected nuclear weapons,” according to the Library of Congress Web Archives. (The LOC Archives provide access to government sites, support groups for military personnel, anti-war groups, news sources and a host of other resources.)

On Dec. 30, 2006, Saddam Hussein was executed for ordering 143 people killed after his attempted assassination in Dujail. At 6:10 a.m., a government news porgram, Iraqiya television, announced his hanging. Fourteen Iraqi officials were present at the event, which took place in a U.S. base in Baghdad. According to The New York Times, “Those in the room said that Mr. Hussein was dressed entirely in black and carrying a Koran and that he was compliant as the noose was draped around his neck.”

Reference: Iraqi history


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