Who Is Saddam Hussein?
By Charlie Keenan

An official photo of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. (Photo: Mission of Iraq to the UN)
Saddam Hussein, the President of Iraq, has used any means necessary to hold onto power for more than two decades. His reign continues even in the face of U.S. plans to overthrow him.

In January, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld announced that Hussein should leave Iraq. By the end of January, the U.S. is expected to have Iraq surrounded by about 150,000 troops. Hussein responded in defiance to talk of war. In a nationally televised broadcast, he told the people of Iraq to prepare for a war he was sure they would win.

Such defiance comes from a determination for power from an early age. Hussein was born in 1937 in Al-jawa, a village in north-central Iraq. He was raised by his widowed mother and other relatives. After moving to Baghdad in 1955, he joined the Baath Party, which opposed Iraq's government. In 1968, the party came to power through a coup, or an overthrow of the government.

Hussein took over as President in 1979. He already had considerable influence, which grew as he eliminated his rivals. He trusts very few people. His inner circle consists of family members or extended relatives. Others are paid for their loyalty with cash and cars.

Hussein has used violence against his people as well as against his rivals. He used chemical weapons on the Kurds, an ethnic group in northern Iraq. He has defeated rebellions by Shiites (Shee-ITES), a Muslim sect in the south, by attacking their towns and draining their marshlands.

The 6-foot 2-inch-tall Hussein surrounds himself with tight security. He sleeps only four to five hours a night, and he never sleeps in one of his 20 palaces. He constantly moves about, staying in secret houses and tents. U.S. intelligence sources believe Hussein has at least a dozen doubles who stand in for him at public events.

Because he is believed to be developing chemical, biological, and possibly nuclear weapons, UN weapons inspectors are combing his country looking for proof.

"He is a dangerous man possessing the world's most dangerous weapons," says President Bush, who has threatened to attack Iraq at the first sign that Iraq is not complying with a UN resolution banning weapons of mass destruction.