A Final term paper submitted by, (Buthaina)
at a Psychology course, I took, in 1989,
at Russel Sage, Alabny, NY, USA

An Analysis of Iraq's President Saddam Hussain's Personality


Saddam Hussain was born in 1939.  According to Iraqi political sources, he forged his birth date to April 28,1937 to identify it with the birth date of prophet Mohammed. His father Hussain Al-Majeed left his mother, then divorced her before his birth. Al-Majeed, who was a servant at a wealthy family in Baghdad, have not ever seen his son and died few years later. Following her divorce, his mother Sabha Talfah Al-Tikriti remarried and got divorced again, quickly. Later she moved with her little son, Saddam, to another village , where she married for the third time to a man who also divorced her, in a short time. Reportedly, she was known for her bad manners, loud voice and vulgarity. After that, she and her son went back to their hometown Takrit , where she met a married farmer, Ibrahim Al-Hassan. She, then, managed to have him marry her and abandoned his family, comprising a wife and three daughters.

Saddam, who became the sixth brother  for three sisters and two brothers, was strongly rejected by his step-father, Al-Hassan, who was well known for his aggressiveness and bad reputation in the town. He was brutal to Saddam , and used to send him in assignments to steel chickens and lambs from other farmers and when he fail to accomplish the task , Al-Hassan used to punish  him physically. Iraqi Present Leader, Saddam, remained in such unhealthy environment without education or work, for several years.When he was 10 years old he met his cousin Adnan Khairalla Talfah, who talked to him about education and encouraged him to join school to learn how to read , write and draw. (Ironically, Adnan became a member of Saddam’s government during the 80s, and was killed in an aircraft accident designed by Saddam  for disagreeing with him on certain administrative issues.) Saddam liked the idea of education, so one night while everybody were sleeping he ran away toward the capital Baghdad announcing to himself  an end for his suffering from his step-father, Al-Hassan.

In Baghdad he stayed with his uncle Khairalla Talfah, who welcomed him and sent him to school, but made him serve his family. As an adolescent, Saddam used to hang out in cafes, where  he mingled with older youths and learned a lot about the “Baath” political movement, which was opposing the Iraqi regime at that time. At the age of 20, he finished high school and joined “Baath” which means "the new life after death".

In 1959, he participated in the exploited assassination attempts against Iraqi president Abdulkarim Qassim. Police searched for Saddam, not only for this action , but also for killing one of his relatives from his father’s side , for competing with his uncle over a political position! However, some members of the movement arranged for his escape to Syria and then to Cairo, Egypt where he joined Law School of Cairo. At that point, he was very active and used to invite students to meetings focused on Arab political issues, trying to influence and engage a large number of Iraqi and other Arab students with the principles of “Baath” which became a party with a clear ideology at that time. Due to these activities, Saddam, eventually, managed to graduate, in 1963, and obtained a degree in Law , but with great difficulties. In 1968, he participated in the bloody revolution in Iraq, which allowed “Baath Party” to take over power and rule the country until now.

In 1973, Saddam became Deputy Leader of Iraqi "Baath Party", and later , in 1979 he became Leader of the Party and President of  the Republic of Iraq , adding to the world’s current history another brutal dictator.

It was noticed that Saddam, has never talked about his father, specially to media people, trying to avoid the subject whenever it was raised or mentioned. He used to claim that his father died before he was born. Furthermore, Saddam has shown many pictures of his mother, uncle and some relatives, but nothing of his father, yet. In addition, Saddam has been using his mother's family name, Al-Tikriti, instead of his last name, Al Majeed. Saddam owns seven presidential palaces, which he uses alternatively and secretely for security reasons, trying to escape assassination attempts or any kind of rebbelious attacks against him by Iraqi people. This is concrete evidence, showing that he is resented by Iraqi citizens because of his oppressive and aggressive policy.Saddam has been changing his sleeping place every night, for many years, and only members of his Republican Guards are aware of and have direct access to him. the Republican Guards are Saddam's Private Militias who are from his hometown, Tikrit. they are adopted by Saddam at a very young age, and well trained to be loyal to him, only.Saddam's food is coocked by one of them and tasted by another one of them before it is served, everyday.

Historical Background:

In 1980, Saddam started a war with Iran, violating the International Law by ignoring the 1975  boarders agreement signed by the two countries. In 1988, he used chemical weapons against his own people residing “Halebche”, a Kurdish village in northern Iraq, only for expressing a desire to separate from Iraq and have their own independent state.Moreover, on Thursday, August 2nd, 1990, Saddam invaded neighboring Arab State of kuwait, violating not only international law, but causing a devastating blow to Arabism and Islam. By this, he also contardicted a major concept and belief of his Baathist ideology, which emphasizes and strongly highlights support and solidarity with Arab countries, in general.

Furthermore, Saddam challenged a United Nations Resolution by preventing UN inspectors from searching for biological and chemical weapons in a number of sites in Iraq. However, UN President Kofi Anan's extended diplomatic efforts convinced Saddam to abide by the UN Resolution and saved the world from a destructive, massive war, earlier in 1998.

An Analasys of Saddam's Personality:(Psychological terms of some Modern theories of Personalities are used and based on the information included in the Biography and Historical Background mentioned above)

Saddam developed basic anxiety and hostility due to the inadequate parenting  of a mother who was busy looking for a husband, a father who has never shown up and a step father who was rejective and hateful.The incident of Saddam's leaving his home and running away at the age of 10 indicates that he chose the "moving away strategy" and adapted the "resignation solution", seeking freedom and putting an end to his suffering from his step-father. As he grew older he adapted the “expansive solution”, seeking mastery even if it impedes close relations with others; (e.g Halebche, Iran, and Kuwait). The "expansive solution" became a significant characteristic of Saddam's personality. It is evidenced in many incidents, including killing one of his relatives for the sake of his uncle to receive praise and obtain power, and participating in the assassination attempt against Iraqi President, Qasim, in 1959. Moreover, his thirst for power, recognition and admiration was reached by leading the “Baath” party and becoming President of Iraq. Saddam represents a type who seems to live by the motto “ if I have power no one can hurt me". Power and mastery seem to offer Saddam protection from the vulnerability of being helpless; the tragedy of Halebche, Iraqi- Iranian war, and the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait are good examples of this.

Pride is an essential characteristic of an aggressive type person and this explains why Saddam always emphasizes the pride of Iraqi people during his meetings or negotiations with international representatives. In addition, power makes love seems unnecessary weakness for Saddam and similar dictators. This is quite obvious when he killed his cousin Adnaan Khairallah, ignoring the fact that he was the one who informed him about the importance of education and hosted him  in his family house in Baghdad.

Furthermore, Saddam wants to be recognized as an undefeatable hero. During the war with Iran he ordered his media to call him “Salladin”, the historical Arab Muslem leader, who defeated the "crusades" and "nonbelievers", in the Middle Ages, (15th century).He changed his birth date to be identified with that of Prophet Mohammed and announced repeatedly in his speeches addressing his people that he is also an orphan just like Prophet Mohammed. He announced during the Gulf war in 1991, through a speech covered by world wide media that he comes from the same family of the prophet, aiming to impress Moslems not only in his country, but all over the world. Because of this, Saddam received support from most Moslem countries, like Pakistan and Jordan , where he is considered the hero who will save Islam.

Saddam was not looked after when he was an infant neither from his mother who was too busy looking for a husband, nor from his father who neglected him and has never asked about him or wanted to see him. Saddam was brought up with a crisis of basic mistrust. As an adult, mistrust became one of his main characteristics. He doesn’t trust any of his assistants, which explains executions of members of his government, every now and then, for showing minimum disapproval of any of his ideas. Saddam thinks that by killing his aids who do not agree with him will help him avoid conspiracies; such as, coup d'etat or assassination attempts.In addition, changing his sleeping place every night and having a Republican Guard tastes his food for him before he eats it, is another good example of his mistrust crisis.

 Moreover, Saddam fellowship to his hometown, Tikrit seems to substitute his fidelity to a religion.This explains the idea behind the establishment of a Republican Guards' body, which includes Iraqis who are from his hometown, Tikrit, only. Other Iraqis who come from different parts of Iraq are denied access to this private military body. Some might argue that Saddam's affiliation to Baath Party should substitute his faith to a religion.This argument may be valid before he invaded kuwait in 1990, because by this aggression he violated a major principle of Baath Party which calls for the unity of Arab nations by their free will, and not by force.By attacking and occupying an Arab country, Saddam proved that his faith in Baath ideology is fake and whatever slogans or announcements he has been stating, in the past and curently, on the issue of Arab unification were issued for mere propaganda purposes to gaind support and secure his authority.

As we can see, Saddam is addicted to power and his strong, agressive, and harsh personality is an essential elelment found in all dictators.As a dictator Saddam is determined to reach his targets even if it means the loss of thousands of people including women and children. Saddam can be eliminated by the world powers with little effort, but many issues might arise from such action. Some of these issues are the questions of what would happen to Iraq once Saddam is gone? Who would take over next? It could be someone even worse than Saddam? What would happen to the neighboring Arab countries? How would Iran react? I don't have straight or accurate answers to these questions now and there have always been unanswered questions in history, all the time.


  1. Mattar, Fouad. Saddam Hussain Biography: Methods of Ruling And Administrating the Conflict , 1937-1980.( Published in French and Arabic)
  2. Al Bayaati, Hamid. the Bloody History of Saddam Al Tikriti in the British Secret Documents, (1937-1966). .( Published in Arabic )
  3. Cloninger, Susan C. Theories of Personality: Understanding Persons 2nd ed.(1996 by Prentice-Hall, Inc. Simon and Schuster / A Viacom Company Upper Saddle River, New Jersey 0745

Back to Top

Copyright© 1998, Al Othman, Buthaina