A Saddam Chronology

Hussein is one of the world’s great monsters. Nothing would
be more welcome than to have him put on trial, a trial which could
offer Iraqis and the world an honest accounting of his many crimes.
However, as so often happens when a trial is organized by those
who are themselves guilty of serious crimes, truth is not the goal.
Instead the historical record is falsified to make the indicted
monster seem uniquely blameworthy and the ones running the show
above criticism. 

saw this pattern in the Tokyo trials following World War II, where
the crimes of Japanese officials were documented in gruesome detail
(except for the biological warfare programs, which Washington wanted
to use and except for the involvement of the emperor, who was to
serve U.S. purposes during the occupation), while the crimes of
the victors, such as the horrific fire-bombing raids and the destruction
of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, were disregarded. 

Panamanian ruler Manuel Noriega was a thug who certainly belonged
in the dock. But when the U.S. military invaded Panama in violation
of international law and seized him for trial in the United States,
there was no intention that the trial would reveal the long-time
ties between Noriega and the U.S. government, particularly between
Noriega and former CIA director George H. W. Bush. 

is a matter of principle in Washington that U.S. citizens not be
held to the same international standards as others. Thus, the U.S.
refuses to endorse the International Criminal Court and demands
that its allies give up their right to invoke the jurisdiction of
the court when U.S. citizens are involved. But those of us who care
about justice ought to demand that Hussein be tried before a court
that is in no way subject to U.S. control or manipulation. Only
in that way can the truth come out. 

however, much of the media is falling into line in framing Hussein’s
crimes. For example, the

Washington Post

website offers a
summary of “Events in the Life of Saddam Hussein” from
the Associated Press. But the chronology is seriously incomplete.
Below is that chronology, corrected to include some of the most
serious omissions (the

Washington Post’

s entries are
in italics; facts omitted by AP and the


are in brackets). 

glance at the life of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein: 

  • April 28,
    1937—Born in village near desert town of Tikrit, north of


  • 1957—Joins
    underground Baath Socialist Party.


  • 1958—Arrested
    for killing his brother-in-law, a Communist, spends six months
    in prison.


  • October 7,
    1959—On Baath assassination team that ambushes Iraqi Gen.
    Abdel-Karim Kassem in Baghdad, wounding him. Saddam Hussein, wounded
    in leg, flees to Syria then Egypt.

    [This was not the only
    attempt to assassinate Kassem. In April 1960, the CIA approved
    using a poisoned handkerchief to kill Kassem. The “handkerchief
    was duly dispatched to Kassem, but whether or not it ever reached
    him, it certainly did not kill him.” (Thomas Powers,

    Man Who Kept the Secrets: Richard Helms and the CIA

    , New York:
    Knopf, 1979.)] 

  • February
    8, 1963—Returns from Egypt after Baath takes part in coup
    that overthrows and kills Kassem. Baath ousted by military in

    [The coup was backed by the CIA. “As its instrument
    the CIA had chosen the authoritarian and anti-Communist Baath
    Party, in 1963 still a relatively small political faction influential
    in the Iraqi Army. According to the former Baathist leader Hani
    Fkaiki, among party members colluding with the CIA in 1962 and
    1963 was Saddam Hussein…. 

    to Western scholars, as well as Iraqi refugees and a British human
    rights organization, the 1963 coup was accompanied by a bloodbath.
    Using lists of suspected Communists and other leftists provided
    by the CIA, the Baathists systematically murdered untold numbers
    of Iraq’s educated elite—killings in which Saddam Hussein
    himself is said to have participated. No one knows the exact toll,
    but accounts agree that the victims included hundreds of doctors,
    teachers, technicians, lawyers and other professionals as well
    as military and political figures.” (Roger Morris, “A
    Tyrant 40 Years in the Making,”

    New York Times

    , March
    14, 2003.)] 

  • July 17,
    1968—Baathists and army officers overthrow regime.

    this coup, amid more factional violence, came with CIA backing.
    Serving on the staff of the National Security Council under Lyndon
    Johnson and Richard Nixon in the late 1960s, I often heard CIA
    officers—including Archibald Roosevelt, grandson of Theodore
    Roosevelt and a ranking CIA official for the Near East and Africa
    at the time—speak openly about their close relations with
    the Iraqi Baathists.” (Morris, ibid.)] 

  • July 30,
    1968—Takes charge of internal security after Baath ousts
    erstwhile allies and authority passes to Revolutionary Command
    Council under Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr, Saddam’s cousin.

    [From 1973-75, the United States, Iran, and Israel supported a
    Kurdish insurgency in Iraq. Documents examined by the U.S. House
    Select Committee on Intelligence “clearly show that the President,
    Dr. Kissinger and the [Shah] hoped that our clients [the Kurds]
    would not prevail. They preferred instead that the insurgents
    simply continue a level of hostilities sufficient to sap [Iraqi]
    resources…. This policy was not imparted to our clients, who
    were encouraged to continue fighting. Even in the context of covert
    action, ours was a cynical enterprise.” 

    in 1975, the Shah and Saddam Hussein of Iraq signed an agreement
    giving Iran territorial concessions in return for Iran’s
    closing its border to Kurdish guerrillas. Teheran and Washington
    promptly cut off their aid to the Kurds and, while Iraq massacred
    the rebels, the United States refused them asylum. Kissinger justified
    this U.S. policy in closed testimony: “covert action should
    not be confused with missionary work.” (U.S. House of Representatives,
    Select Committee on Intelligence, Jan. 19, 1976 [Pike Report]

    Village Voic

    e, Feb. 16, 1976. The Pike Report attributes
    the last quote only to a “senior official”; William

    Safire’s Washington

    , New York: Times Books,
    1980,  identifies the official as Kissinger.)] 

  • July 16,
    1979—Takes over as president from al-Bakr, launches massive
    purge of Baath

    . [In the late 1970s, Saddam also purged the
    Iraqi Communist Party and other oppositionists. (Marion Farouk-Sluglett
    and Peter Sluglett,

    Iraq Since 1958

    , London: I. B. Tauris,
    1990.) “We see no fundamental incompatibility of interests
    between the United States and Iraq,” declared U.S. National
    Security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski in April 1980. (Quoted in
    Barry Rubin, “The United States and Iraq: From Appeasement
    to War,” in

    Iraq’s Road to War

    , ed. Amatzia Baram
    and Barry Rubin, New York: St. Martin’s 1993.)] 

  • Sept. 22,
    1980—Sends forces into Iran; war lasts eight years.

    Iraq invaded Iran, the United Nations Security Council waited
    four days before holding a meeting. On September 28, it passed
    Resolution 479 calling for an end to the fighting, but which significantly
    did not condemn (or even mention) the Iraqi aggression and did
    not demand a return to internationally recognized boundaries.
    As Ralph King, who has studied the UN response in detail, concluded,
    “The Council more or less deliberately ignored Iraq’s
    actions in September 1980.” The U.S. delegate noted that
    Iran, which had violated Security Council resolutions on the U.S.
    embassy hostages, could hardly complain about the Council’s
    lackluster response. (R.P.H. King, “The United Nations and
    the IranIraq War, 1980-1986,” in

    The United Nations and

    the Iran-Iraq War

    , ed. Brian Urquhart and Gary Sick,  New
    York: Ford Foundation, August 1987.)

    the fact that Iraq had been the aggressor in this war and that
    Iraq was the first to use chemical weapons, the first to launch
    air attacks on cities, and the initiator of the tanker war, the
    United States tilted toward Iraq. The U.S. removed Iraq from its
    list of terrorist states in 1982, sent Donald Rumsfeld to Baghdad
    as Reagan’s envoy to meet with Saddam Hussein in 1983 and
    1984 to discuss economic cooperation, re-established diplomatic
    relations in November 1984, made available extensive loans and
    subsidies, provided intelligence information, encouraged its allies
    to arm Iraq, and engaged in military actions in the Persian Gulf
    against Iran. The United States also provided dual-use equipment
    that it knew Iraq was using for military purposes. (Joyce Battle,
    ed., “Shaking Hands with Saddam Hussein: The U.S. Tilts toward
    Iraq, 1980-1984,” National Security Archive Electronic Briefing
    Book No. 82, Feb. 25, 2003, www.gwu.edu/ ~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB82/.)] 

  • March 28,
    1988—Uses chemical weapons against Kurdish town of Halabja,
    killing estimated 5,000 civilians

    .[From Iraq’s first
    use of chemical weapons in 1983, the U.S. took a very restrained
    view. When the evidence of Iraqi use of these weapons could no
    longer be denied, the U.S. issued a mild condemnation, but made
    clear that this would have no effect on commercial or diplomatic
    relations between the United States and Iraq. Iran asked the Security
    Council to condemn Iraq’s chemical weapons use, but the U.S.
    delegate to the UN was instructed to try to prevent a resolution
    from coming to a vote or else to abstain. An Iraqi official told
    the U.S. that Iraq strongly preferred a Security Council presidential
    statement to a resolution and did not want any specific country
    identified as responsible for chemical weapons use. On March 30,
    1984, the Security Council issued a presidential statement condemning
    the use of chemical weapons, without naming Iraq as the offending
    party. (Battle, ibid.) 

    the same time that the U.S. government had knowledge of that the
    Iraqi military was using chemical weapons, it was providing intelligence
    and planning assistance to the Iraqi armed forces. (Patrick Tyler,
    “Officers Say U.S. Aided Iraq In War Despite Use Of Gas,”

    New York Times

    , Aug. 18, 2002.) 

    Iraq used chemical weapons in March 1988 against Halabja, there
    was no condemnation from Washington. (Dilip Hiro, “When U.S.
    turned a blind eye to poison gas,” the


    , September
    1, 2002.) “In September 1988, the House of Representatives
    voted 388 to 16 in favor of economic sanctions against Iraq, but
    the White House succeeded in having the Senate water down the
    proposal. In exchange for Export-Import Bank credits, Iraq merely
    had to promise not to use chemical weapons again, with agricultural
    credits exempted even from this limited requirement.” (Rubin,

  • Aug. 2, 1990—Invades

    [The chronology omits one of Saddam Hussein’s
    most egregious atrocities, his Anfal campaign against the Kurds
    from 1987-89, in which at least 50,000 and possibly 100,000 Kurds
    were systematically slaughtered. (Middle East Watch, Genocide
    in Iraq: The Anfal Campaign Against the Kurds, New York: Human
    Rights Watch, 1993.) 

    response of the new Bush administration was to increase Iraq’s
    commodity credits from half a billion to a billion dollars, making
    it the second largest user of the credit program in the world.
    As late as April 1990, the administration was opposing sanctions
    against Iraq—“They would hurt U.S. exporters and worsen
    our trade deficit,” said the State Department. (Guy Gugliotta,
    Charles R. Babcock, and Benjamin Weiser, “At War, Iraq Courted
    U.S. Into Economic Embrace,”

    Washington Post

    , Sept.
    16, 1990.) The administration also blocked efforts to cut back
    high-tech exports to Iraq with obvious military applications.
    (Douglas Frantz and Murray Waas, “Bush insisted on aiding
    Iraq until war’s onset,”

    Chicago Sun-Times

    , Feb.
    23, 1992.) And the United States provided intelligence data to
    Iraq until three months before the invasion. (Murray Waas, Douglas
    Frantz, “U.S. shared intelligence with Iraq until 3 months
    before invasion of Kuwait,”

    Houston Chronicle

    , March
    10, 1992.)] 

  • Jan. 17,
    1991—Attacked by U.S.-led coalition; Kuwait liberated in
    a month.

    [As part of the U.S.-led attack, the civilian infrastructure
    of Iraq was intentionally targeted (Barton Gellman, “Allied
    Air War Struck Broadly in Iraq; Officials Acknowledge Strategy
    Went Beyond Purely Military Targets,”

    Washington Post

    23 June 1991; Thomas J. Nagy, “The Secret Behind the Sanctions,”


    , Sept. 2001), which together with more than
    a decade of economic sanctions would lead to hundreds of thousands
    of excess deaths. (See Richard Garfield, “Morbidity and Mortality
    Among Iraqi Children From 1990 through 1998: Assessing the Impact
    of the Gulf War and Economic Sanctions,” March 1999, www.fourthfreedom.org/php/t-si-index.php?hinc=garf-inde

  • March, 1991—Crushes
    Shiite revolt in south and Kurd revolt in north.

    [After urging
    Iraqis to rise up against Saddam Hussein, the U.S. denied the
    rebels access to captured Iraqi weapons and allowed Saddam Hussein
    to use his helicopters to slaughter the insurgents as U.S. aircraft
    circled overhead. (Andrew Cockburn and Patrick Cockburn,

    of the Ashes: The Resurrection of Saddam Hussein

    , New York:
    Harperperennial. 1999.)] 

  • April 17,
    1991—Complying with U.N. Resolution 687, starts providing
    information on weapons of mass destruction, but accused of cheating.


  • Feb. 20,
    1996—Orders killing of two sons-in-law who in 1995 defected
    to Jordan and had just returned to Baghdad after receiving guarantees
    of safety.


  • Dec. 16,
    1998—Weapons inspectors withdrawn from Iraq. Hours later,
    four days of U.S.-British air and missile strikes begin as punishment
    for lack of cooperation.

    [The bombing was conducted without
    Security Council approval and without consultations with allies.
    The withdrawal of the inspectors was ordered by Richard Butler,
    the head of UNSCOM. “France was also annoyed with Washington
    for getting Mr. Butler to pull out his inspectors from Iraq without
    discussion with the Security Council.” U.S. Secretary of
    State “Albright did not speak with Secretary General Kofi
    Annan at the United Nations, officials said. Mr. Annan issued
    a personal statement, calling this ‘a sad day’ for the
    world and ‘me personally,’ because of his failure to
    avert the use of force.” (Steven Erlanger, “U.S. Decision
    to Act Fast, and Then Search for Support, Angers Some Allies,”

    New York Times

    , Dec. 17, 1998.)]

  • Nov.
    8, 2002—Threatened with “serious consequences”
    if he does not disarm in U.N. Security Council resolution.


  • Nov.
    27, 2002—Allows UN experts to begin work in Iraq for first
    time since 1998.


  • Dec.
    7, 2002—Delivers to United Nations declaration denying Iraq
    has weapons of mass destruction; later, United States says declaration
    is untruthful and United Nations says it is incomplete

  • March
    1, 2003—United Arab Emirates, at an Arab League summit, becomes
    first Arab nation to propose publicly that Saddam step down.


  • March
    7—United States, Britain, and Spain propose ordering Saddam
    to give up banned weapons by March 17 or face war; other nations
    led by France on polarized U.N. Security Council oppose any new
    resolution that would authorize military action.


  • March
    17—United States, Britain and Spain declare time for diplomacy
    over, withdraw proposed resolution. President Bush gives Saddam
    48 hours to leave Iraq.

    [Actually, U.S. officials made clear
    that U.S. troops would enter Iraq whether or not Saddam and his
    sons left the country. (Michael R. Gordon, “Allies Will Move
    In, Even if Saddam Hussein Moves Out,”

    New York Times

    March 18, 2003.)] 

  • March
    18—Iraq’s leadership rejects Bush’s ultimatum.

    [“On the eve of war, Iraq publicly offered unlimited access
    for American and British weapons hunters.” (David Rennie,
    “Saddam ‘offered Bush a huge oil deal to avert war’,”

    Daily Telegraph ,

    Nov. 7, 2003.) And privately Iraq went
    well beyond this. In several

    back-channel contacts with
    U.S. officials, Iraq offered the U.S. “direct U.S. involvement
    on the ground in disarming Iraq,” oil concessions, the turn-over
    of a wanted terrorist, cooperation on the Israeli-Palestinian
    peace-process, and even internationally-supervised elections within
    two years. (James Risen, “Iraq Said to Have Tried to Reach
    Last-Minute Deal to Avert War,”

    New York Times

    , Nov.
    6, 2003.) 

    doesn’t know where these offers may have led, since they
    were rejected by the U.S.: “A U.S. intelligence source insisted
    that the decision not to negotiate came from the White House,
    which was demanding complete surrender. According to an Arab source,
    a U.S. intermediary sent a Saudi official a set of requirements
    he believed Iraq would have to fulfill. Those demands included
    Saddam’s abdication and departure, first to a U.S. military
    base for interrogation and then into supervised exile, a surrender
    of Iraqi troops, and the admission that Iraq had weapons of mass
    destruction. (Julian Borger, Brian Whitaker, and Vikram Dodd “Saddam’s
    desperate offers to stave off war,”


    , Nov.
    7, 2003.)] 

  • March
    20—U.S. forces open war with military strike on Dora Farms,
    a target south of Baghdad where Saddam and his sons are said to
    be. Saddam appears on Iraqi television later in the day.


  • April
    4—Iraqi television shows video of Saddam walking a Baghdad


  • April
    7—U.S. warplanes bomb a section of the Mansour district in
    Baghdad where Saddam and his sons were said to be meeting

  • April
    9—Jubilant crowds greet U.S. troops in Baghdad, go on looting
    rampages, topple 40-foot statue of Saddam.


  • July
    22—Saddam’s sons, Qusai and Odai, killed in gunbattle
    with U.S. troops. American forces then raid the northern city
    of Mosul and later say they missed Saddam “by a matter of


  • July
    27—U.S. troops raid three farms in Tikrit. Again, officials
    later say they missed Saddam by 24 hours.


  • July
    31—Two of Saddam’s daughters, Raghad and Rana, and their
    nine children are given asylum by Jordan’s King Abdullah

    [That they would need asylum follows from the U.S. policy
    of detaining family members of those they are seeking, in violation
    of elementary standards of justice. (“The arrest of close
    relatives of fugitive regime members has been used by U.S. forces
    in the past both as a way to gather intelligence—through
    interrogation—and to put emotional pressure on the hunted
    men to surrender.” Colin Nickerson, “U.S. Troops Detain
    Wife, Daughter Of Key Hussein Aide Ex-Deputy Suspected Of Plotting
    Attacks In Iraqi Insurgency,”

    Boston Globe

    , Nov. 27,

  • Sept.
    5—Maj. Gen. Ray Odierno of the 4th Infantry Division says
    his troops have captured several of Saddam’s former bodyguards
    in the Tikrit area in the past month and may be closing in on
    the deposed Iraqi dictator.


  • Nov.
    16—The last of nine tapes attributed to Saddam Hussein since
    he was removed from power is released. It tells Iraqis to step
    up their resistance to the U.S.-led occupation, saying the United
    States and its allies misjudged the difficulty of occupying Iraq.

    [It didn’t take a genius to note that “the United States
    and its allies misjudged the difficulty of occupying Iraq.”] 

  • Dec.
    13—Saddam is captured at 8:30 PM in the town of Adwar, 10
    miles south of Tikrit. He is hiding in a specially prepared “spider

Shalom teaches political science at William Paterson University in
New Jersey, is a regular contributor to ZNet, and is the author of
several books, including the 2002 textbook called

Side are You On? An Introduction to Politics