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Leto Atreides seemed an open and honorable man. Yet the Padishah Emperor conspired with House Harkonnen to deliberately betray Leto, and destroy House Atreides.

Why?

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    @DVK no, it is there because I subconsciously attempt to forget Brian ever got into the business. I removed the tag, as your answer was excellent. I apologize for the confusion my tag caused. – Beofett Apr 18 '12 at 16:40
  • @DVK Yeah, I'm a vocal opponent of the prequels, but I still consider them at least semi-canon, as some undisclosed amount of Frank's notes were used to create them. – Beofett Apr 18 '12 at 17:12
  • I recall mention of existence of multiple BOXES worth of notes, either on SFF.SE or elsewhere. How much was actually used is of course a question. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Apr 18 '12 at 17:22
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    I listened to one of the prequels on audiobook... it wasn't terrible, it just wasn't as mature and epic writing as the father's works. – Mark Rogers Apr 18 '12 at 17:35
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    My $0.02 on the prequels (having read the Legends of Dune books): If finding out "so that's how it happened!" is so vital to you, then you shouldn't be reading the Dune books in the first place. There is little merit to these books aside from boring origin myths. – flies Apr 18 '12 at 19:17
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The Emperor was very, very paranoid about the status of House Corrino. He was the emperor, yes, but Leto was his cousin, also of noble birth, and Leto was vastly more popular than anyone else at the time in the Landsraad. Leto was the unofficial spokesman of the Landsraad, in fact, their "highest position". That alone sent Shaddam into fits, someone who was able to claim the throne by virtue of noble blood was popular and well supported among most of the noble houses. However, Leto also had a huge private army, and, House Atreides developed training that made their soldiers superior to the Sardaukar.

"The Padishah Emperor turned against House Atreides because the Duke's Warmasters Gurney Halleck and Duncan Idaho had trained a fighting force -- a small fighting force -- to within a hair as good as the Sardaukar. Some of them were even better. And the Duke was in a position to enlarge his force, to make it every bit as strong as the Emperor's."

This is a quote from Thufir Hawat.

If the Atreides had managed to train their entire army in this manner, they would have had a force bigger than the army of House Corrino that was also better in combat than the Sardaukar. Shaddam IV knew all of that when he set in motion the plan to lure the Atreides to Dune and use their age old vendetta with the Harkonnens to destroy them.

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    Bene Gesserit were also manipulating the Emperor into merging House Atreides and House Harkonnen for their kwizatz haderach project. The Spacing Guild also had a hand in the whole conflict. They foresaw that House Atreides was a threat to the Spice trade and knew from experience that House Harkonnen didn't have a long-term, sustainable, Spice strategy. In retrospect, a whole bunch of social, economic, historical and personal reasons converged on Shadam IV – SteveED Apr 22 '12 at 16:44
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This information is in the prequels (Prelude to Dune).

Leto interfered in Emperor's plans to help Tleilaxu occupy by force the planet of Ix and use it to produce artificial spice with rather despicable methods.

In the year of Paul's birth, Leto's successful military overthrow of the joint Tleilaxu and Emperor's Sardaukar occupation forces on Ix, and his role in the subsequent political censure of Shaddam in the aftermath of Ix and the Emperor's other destructive actions across the Imperium, ensure Duke Leto a vengeful enemy in Emperor Shaddam. This culminates into the history-shaping events on Arrakis 15 years later. (Source: Leto Atreides I Wiki, which summarizes the Prelude to Dune books)

THAT conflict had even older roots:

Padishah Emperor Elrood Corrino IX holds a grudge against Earl Dominic Vernius [ of Ix ] for two reasons: Dominic had married Elrood's former concubine, Shando Balut, and Ix's new, larger heighliners negatively impact Imperial tax revenue on cargo

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    @DanielRoseman My apologies. I have removed the tag, as I consider DVK's answer to be excellent. Much as I hate the Brian Herbert "contributions", they are still suitably "canon" to form the basis of a good answer. Please consider removing your downvote, as the error was mine, and not DVK's. – Beofett Apr 18 '12 at 16:41

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