In 1957, Saddam joined the Ba’ath Party at the age of 20, whose ultimate ideological aim was the unity of Arab states in the Middle East. In a failed attempt to assassinate Iraq’s then-president, Abd al-Karim Qasim, Saddam managed to escape to Syria with a bullet wound. In 1963, when Qasim’s government was overthrown in the so-called Ramadan Revolution, Saddam returned to Iraq. In 1968, Saddam participated in a bloodless but successful Ba’athist coup that resulted in Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr becoming Iraq’s president and Saddam his deputy. Saddam did much to modernize Iraq’s infrastructure, industry, and health-care system, and raised social services, education. Saddam also helped develop Iraq’s first chemical weapons program.
In 1979, Saddam forced al-Bakr to resign, and became president of Iraq. In 1980, Saddam ordered Iraqi forces to invade the oil-rich region of Khuzestan in Iran. After years of intense conflict that left hundreds of thousands dead on both sides, a ceasefire agreement was finally reached in 1988. In 1990, using the justification that Kuwait was a historical part of Iraq, Saddam ordered the invasion of Kuwait. UN coalition force headed by the United States defeated Iraqi forces.
Soon after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City, Soviet intelligence relayed information to the U.S. government that indicated Iraq was planning further terrorist attacks against the United States. UN inspection in Iraq did not find any weapons of mass destructions. Despite this, on March 20, 2003, under the pretense that Iraq did in fact have a covert weapons program and that it was planning attacks, a U.S.-led coalition invaded Iraq. Within weeks, the government and military had been toppled, and on April 9, 2003, Baghdad fell. Saddam, however, managed to elude capture. In the months that followed, an intensive search for Saddam began. Finally, on December 13, 2003, Saddam was found hiding in a small underground bunker near a farmhouse in ad-Dawr, near Tikrit. He was officially handed over to the interim Iraqi government to stand trial for crimes against humanity. On November 5, 2006, Saddam was found guilty and sentenced to death. On December 30, 2006, at Camp Justice, an Iraqi base in Baghdad, Saddam was hanged.