Three whom God should not have created: Persians, Jews, and flies.
-—Hussein family proverb
Fifth president of Iraq, from 16 July 1979 until 9 April 2003. Leading member of the Ba'ath Party, a revolutionary group that espouses a mix of Arab socialism and Arab nationalism. Long before Saddam, Iraq had been split along social, ethnic, religious, and economic fault lines: Sunni versus Shi'ite, Arab versus Kurd, tribal chief versus urban merchant, and nomad versus peasant. When Saddam came to power, he worked on fixing it and modernizing Iraq. Unfortunately, he was believer in the Josef Stalin School of Fixing and Modernizing Backward Countries: being as brutal as possible.
Over the next three decades, Saddam would proceed to modernize the Iraqi economy and grant more rights to women, but also order brutal persecution against ethnic minorities, particularly against the Kurds, who were murdered by the hundreds of thousands with chemical weapons during events such as the Al-Anfal campaign. Also famous for launching the Iran–Iraq War, which resulted in over a million deaths due to Hussein's ambitions to take over Iran, and the 1991 Gulf War, where Iraq basically fought half the world. He was executed in 2006 by the new Iraqi government following a US and British invasion of Iraq, although his country is actually worse off than when they had their dictator.
Tropes that apply to him
Arch-Enemy: Iran hates him for starting a war on their soil, Kurds hate him for the genocidal Anfal campaign, George H.W. Bush fought a brief war with him over the oil in Kuwait, and George W. Bush staked his legacy on driving Saddam out of Iraq (although it's pretty much universally agreed that the war was a horrific blunder).
Authority Equals Asskicking: Averted. When he was captured, the soldiers who captured him noted that he did have a pistol, but didn't try to use it.
Batman Gambit: Launching Scud missiles at Israel during the 1991 Gulf War, hoping to incite an armed response from the Israelis to drive a wedge between the Coalition forces, many of whom were Arab states not entirely friendly towards Israel to begin with.
Cold-Blooded Torture: The things that went on at Abu Ghraib during his rule are probably better left unsaid.
Conscription: Under his rule, the Iraqi Army was mostly made of conscripts. While this made his army the sixth largest in the world, it was actually to his detriment: these conscripts had extremely poor morale, and they would often either go insane or surrender. Famously, one platoon of soldiers surrendered to journalists during the 2003 invasion.
Deadly Gas: His army employed mustard gas to deadly effect during the Iran-Iraq War and the Al-Anfal campaign. In the latter, anywhere from 180,000 to 200,000 civilians were killed. During the lead-up to the 1991 Gulf War, the US-backed Coalition indicated that any such use of chemical weapons against their own forces would be responded to with a nuclear reprisal. Obviously, neither side crossed that threshold during the war.
The Dreaded: He was so amazingly feared that during his trial, when he wandered in all disheveled and malnourished, the jury still reeled in horror.
Elite Mooks: His Republican Guard units, while they were better trained and equipped (not to mention better paid) and more loyal than his army of conscripts, were still no match for the forces of NATO and the Arab League during the 1991 Gulf War.
Enemy Mine: The Gulf War saw several states with not-so-great relations coming together because they hated Saddam more than they hated each other. This included Israel and the United States cooperating with the Soviet Union and Syria.
And before that, the Iran-Iraq War had Saddam receiving support and aid from the US and NATO. Even though the Western nations acknowledged the fact that he was a brutal dictator, he was then still seen as a lesser evil than the much more hated Irannote The war began in 1980, fresh off the heels of the Iranian Revolution and still in the midst of the American embassy hostage crisis.
That sentence also happens to be one that must be uttered for someone to convert into Islam, or for someone to enforce their faith. Unsurprisingly, this also tends to be the last words of many other Muslims around the world.
From Nobody to Nightmare: He went from the son of shepherds and a law school dropout to a brutal and genocidal dictator, responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths.
Gas Mask Mooks: Due to his tendency to use chemical weapons against his enemies and his own population, many of his soldiers wore gas masks.
Government Conspiracy: In addition to the normal tinpot dictatorship stuff, he was also a very close ally of France- so close that he funded and blackmailed several French political candidates that were pro-Iraq. It goes a long way toward explaining why they supported him so much in the 70s and 80s.
Hopeless War: He thought that invading and conquering Iran would be a child's play. Cue to 8 years of war and 150-375,000 dead Iraqis without any territorial gains. Then he utterly fooled Iraq into thinking that it could defeat half of the world on its own in the Gulf War and the 2003 invasion.
Irony: The now famous image of him and Donald Rumsfeld shaking hands during the Iran-Iraq War.
For a guy who hated Western imperialism, his invasions of Iran and Kuwait were very imperialistic. Not only that, but he took huge amounts of aid from France and other NATO countries while doing it.
Isn't it more ironic that NATO supported him to begin with?
The War on Terror: Not involved in it much himself, but was the leader of Iraq at the time of its invasion, and his overthrow was tied to it.
We Have Reserves: This was his plan during the Gulf War; he thought that he could throw his troops in by the tens of thousands to slowly bleed the coalition until they saw the war as just not worth it. It didn't work, mostly because his troops were not very devoted and the enemy had much better technology.
Saddam: We are ready to sacrifice our souls, our children and our families so as not to give up Iraq. We say this so no one will think that America is capable of breaking the will of the Iraqis with its weapons.
What Could Have Been: It's often debated whether the messy US war in Iraq throughout the 2000s could have been avoided if George H.W. Bush had chosen to overthrow Hussein at the end of the Gulf War in 1991. However, that would not only have been outside the mandate of the coalition (which was only supposed to liberate Kuwait and destroy the Iraqi army) but also several of those involved in the war, including Brent Scowcroft and Colin Powell, have said in retrospect that what happened after the 2003 invasion is exactly what they feared might happen if they invaded in 1991.
Saddam Hussein in fiction:
He is the Big Bad of Jeffrey Archer's 1993 novel Honour Among Thieves, where he enacts a plan to steal and publicly destroy the American Declaration of Independence. He has some intimidating presence and doesn't speak often, but he doesn't appear that much.
Appears in the Frederick Forsyth novel The Fist of God, which deals with Iraq's weapons program during the First Gulf War.
A reccuring villain in South Park who usually tries to take over Canada.
Appears (via edited stock footage) in the first-season JAG episode "Scimitar".