As vice president under the ailing General Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr, and at a time when many groups were considered capable of overthrowing the government, Saddam created security forces through which he tightly controlled conflicts between the government and the armed forces. In the early 1970s, Saddam nationalized oil and foreign banks leaving the system eventually insolvent mostly due to the Iran–Iraq War, the Gulf War, and UN sanctions. Through the 1970s, Saddam cemented his authority over the apparatus of government as oil money helped Iraq's economy to grow at a rapid pace. Positions of power in the country were mostly filled with Sunni Arabs, a minority that made up only a fifth of the population.
Saddam formally rose to power in 1979, although he had already been the de facto head of Iraq for several years. He suppressed several movements, particularly Shi'a and Kurdish movements, which sought to overthrow the government or gain independence, and maintained power during the Iran–Iraq War and the Gulf War. Whereas some in the Arab world lauded Saddam for opposing the United States and attacking Israel—he was widely condemned for the brutality of his dictatorship. The total number of Iraqis killed by the security services of Saddam's government in various purges and genocides is conservatively estimated to be 250,000. Saddam's invasions of Iran and Kuwait also resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths. He acquired the title "Butcher of Baghdad".
In 2003, a coalition led by the U.S. invaded Iraq to depose Saddam, in which U.S. President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair falsely accused him of possessing weapons of mass destruction and having ties to al-Qaeda. Saddam's Ba'ath party was disbanded and elections were held. Following his capture on 13 December 2003, the trial of Saddam took place under the Iraqi Interim Government. On 5 November 2006, Saddam was convicted by an Iraqi court of crimes against humanity related to the 1982 killing of 148 Iraqi Shi'a, and sentenced to death by hanging. His execution was carried out on 30 December 2006.
Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti was born in the town of Al-Awja, 13 km (8 mi) from the Iraqi town of Tikrit, to a family of shepherds from the al-Begat clan group, a sub-group of the Al-Bu Nasir (البو ناصر) tribe. His mother, Subha Tulfah al-Mussallat, named her newborn son Saddam, which in Arabic means "One who confronts". He is always referred to by this personal name, which may be followed by the patronymic and other elements. He never knew his father, Hussein 'Abd al-Majid, who disappeared six months before Saddam was born. Shortly afterward, Saddam's 13-year-old brother died of cancer. The infant Saddam was sent to the family of his maternal uncle Khairallah Talfah until he was three.
His mother remarried, and Saddam gained three half-brothers through this marriage. His stepfather, Ibrahim al-Hassan, treated Saddam harshly after his return. At about age 10, Saddam fled the family and returned to live in Baghdad with his uncle Kharaillah Talfah. Talfah, the father of Saddam's future wife, was a devout Sunni Muslim and a veteran of the 1941 Anglo-Iraqi War between Iraqi nationalists and the United Kingdom, which remained a major colonial power in the region.