Within days of taking power, Saddam Hussein summoned about 400 top officials and announced he had uncovered a plot against the ruling party.
The conspirators, he said, were in that very room.
As the 42-year-old Saddam coolly puffed on a cigar, names of the supposed plotters were read out.
As each name was called, secret police led them away.
Twenty-two people were executed.
To make sure Iraqis got the word, Saddam videotaped the entire proceeding and distributed copies across the country.
The plot claim was a lie.
But in a few terrifying minutes on July 22, 1979, Saddam eliminated his potential rivals, consolidating the power he wielded until the Americans and their allies drove him from office a generation later.
Saddam, who was hanged yesterday at age 69, ruled Iraq with singular ruthlessness.
No one was safe. …