5 deadly dictators - was war worth it to take them down?

  1. Vlad III
    1. With a nickname like ‘Vlad the Impaler’, this isn’t someone you want to get on the wrong side of. Vlad ruled what is now Romania in the 1400s and got his nickname for impaling his enemies on stakes in the ground. But what drives someone to kill in such a brutal fashion? Some of it can definitely be blamed on his pretty traumatic childhood - he grew up in a war-torn region and spent his teenage years as a political hostage. Then, when he was finally released, his father and older brother were murdered by the state. Vlad fought his father’s enemies for more than eight years before finally defeating them, claiming his father’s seat in power and beginning his violent reign.
  2. Idi Amin Dada
    1. Idi Amin (aka ‘the Butcher of Uganda’) was President of Uganda in the 1970s and given that an estimated 100,000-500,000 people were killed while he was in power, the nickname seems well-deserved. Some even say he kept the severed heads of his political opponents in his fridge! Lovely. Amin got his reputation for brutality way before he rose to power - during his time in the armed forces he became famous for his violent interrogation methods. As a leader, he showed himself to be cruel and shrewd, but could also be charming and gregarious - a dangerous mix. He was eventually overthrown in 1978 following the Ugandan-Tanzanian War and escaped to Libya, where he stayed until his death in 2003.
  3. Pol Pot
    1. Can you imagine living in a place where laughing could get you killed? If you lived in Cambodia between 1975 and 1979 that’s what you could expect under the rule of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. Inspired by Chairman Mao’s China, Pol Pot’s vision for his country was for everyone to work as labourers in one huge federation of collective farms. This led to his army forcing city-dwellers to work in the countryside. Access to food and medicine was limited, working conditions were terrible and anyone with any kind of education or political experience was executed, along with their families. In fact, the list of offences that could get you shot included speaking a foreign language, wearing glasses, or showing too much emotion - laughing or crying. Pol Pot was eventually deposed by an invading Vietnamese army, but not before his regime had wiped out almost 25% of Cambodia’s population.
  4. Mussolini
    1. Mussolini is famous for his wartime pact with Hitler, but there’s plenty more to his story than backing the losing side. He started out as a Socialist but later fancied himself as a modern day Caesar who would recreate the Roman Empire. Between 1919 and 1939 Mussolini formed the para-military Fascist movement, and in 1922 he marched on Rome, seizing power. He dismantled Italy’s democratic institutions and terrorised his opponents. He also conquered enough nations to make Italy the dominant force in the Mediterranean-Red Sea region. A bloodily productive twenty years. But from 1940 onwards it all goes downhill for Il Duce (‘the leader’). Italy suffered defeats at the hands of North and East Africa and the Balkans and by 1943 Mussolini had been overthrown and was on the run. He was eventually captured and shot. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.
  5. King Leopold II
    1. Leopold II ruled Belgium from 1865 until 1909 but gets his place on this list for exploiting and killing off half the population in his private colony of Congo. Hell-bent on filling up the Belgian coffers, Leopold spied wealth in Congo in the form of ivory and natural rubber. He set about creating the ‘Congo Free State’ and, under the guise of being a philanthropist, built roads, set up trading posts and signed questionable trade agreements with tribal chiefs - all to get his hands on Congo’s riches. Getting greedy, he used horribly violent tactics to get what he wanted - his rubber gatherers were worked literally to death, anyone refusing or avoiding work would be executed and he even held his workers’ wives hostage to make sure they met their supply quotas. Leo wasn’t the only one employing these tactics but he was one of the worst offenders, so he got most of the blame and eventually had to relinquish control.