From Violence marked his rise, rule and fall
By Borzou Daragahi and David Lamb
Special to The Times
For his country, now convulsed in civil war, Hussein's most lasting and damaging legacy was the way his selective patronage and brutal violence divided Iraqis along lines that continue to split them.
Hussein moved rivers to reward Sunni Arab villagers loyal to his government and drained swamps to punish Shiite Muslims who rose up against him. He moved rebellious Kurds from the northern city of Kirkuk while selling cheap land in the city to Arabs to reward loyalists and upend the ethnic balance of the country's oil-rich north.
He imprisoned tens of thousands, ordered the killings of political enemies, real and imagined, including two of his sons-in-law, and used poison gas to wipe out whole villages in the Kurdish areas of northern Iraq. He granted construction contracts to favored Arab tribes, while depriving whole categories of people — such as Shiite Kurds — of their citizenship rights.
Such violence and manipulations may have established a semblance of stability. But they also built up a sense of entitlement by Sunnis and resentment on the part of Shiites and Kurds that fueled violence by death squads, militias and insurgents once the U.S. invasion of 2003 toppled his regime.