The Pyramid of Skulls: How Saddam Hussein Came to Power
(February 20, 2003) When Genghis Khan's grandson, Hualagu Khan captured Baghdad in 1258, he used fear to strengthen his rule over Iraq by killing every poet, scholar, military, civic and religious leader in the city. Hualagu piled their heads into a pyramid of skulls, topped by the head of their former ruler, the last Abassid Caliph. And some seven centuries later, Saddam Hussein did much the same thing when he took over in Iraq. In his very first week in power he arrested, tortured and executed 450 of the most prominent Iraqis, those whom he feared might someday challenge his rule. Saddam called these crimes, in his own words, a means to "cleanse the nation" of factionalism.
...One Iraqi diplomat among hundreds who had served Saddam faithfully for many years learned that he was next on the list for elimination upon his return to Iraq. He decided not to return home, and applied for asylum in England. During an interview with BBC in November 1998, the former diplomat summarized Saddam's rise to power in one short sentence. "Saddam is a dictator who is ready to sacrifice his country, just so long as he can remain on his throne in Baghdad."