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Republic of Fear: The Politics of Modern Iraq [Paperback]

Kanan Makiya
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

10 Jun 1998
First published in 1989, just before the Gulf War broke out, "Republic of Fear" was the only book that explained the motives of the Saddam Hussein regime in invading and annexing Kuwait. This edition, updated in 1998, has a substantial introduction focusing on the changes in Hussein's regime since the Gulf War. In 1968 a coup d'etat brought into power an extraordinary regime in Iraq, one that stood apart from other regimes in the Middle East. Between 1968 and 1980, this new regime, headed by the Arab Ba'th Socialist party, used ruthless repression and relentless organization to transform the way Iraqis think and react to political questions. In just twelve years, a party of a few thousand people grew to include nearly ten percent of the Iraqi population. This book describes the experience of Ba'thism from 1968 to 1980 and analyzes the kind of political authority it engendered, culminating in the personality cult around Saddam Hussein. Fear, the author argues, is at the heart of Ba'thi politics and has become the cement for a genuine authority, however bizarre. Examining Iraqi history in a search for clues to understanding contemporary political affairs, the author illustrates how the quality of Ba'thi pan-Arabism as an ideology, the centrality of the first experience of pan-Arabism in Iraq, and the interaction between the Ba'th and communist parties in Iraq from 1958 to 1968 were crucial in shaping the current regime. Saddam Hussein's decision to launch all-out war against Iran in September 1980 marks the end of the first phase of this re-shaping of modern Iraqi politics. The Iraq-Iran war is a momentous event in its own right, but for Iraq, the author argues, the war diverts dissent against the Ba'thi regime by focusing attention on the specter of an enemy beyond Iraq's borders, thus masking a hidden potential for even greater violence inside Iraq.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 360 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press; 2Rev Ed edition (10 Jun 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520214390
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520214392
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 15.9 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 231,464 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description


"[Makiya's] demolition of the monstrous aberration of the Ba'th is masterly. He shows the importance of the obsessive fabrication of 'enemies, ' and the tortuous logic that compels Saddam Hussein to maintain a state of perpetual alert against the enemies of Arabism both within and without."--Peter Sluglett, "Times Literary Supplement"

About the Author

Kanan Makiya's books include The Monument: Art, Vulgarity, and Responsibility in Iraq (California, 1991), Cruelty and Silence: War, Tyranny, Uprising, and the Arab World (1993), and The Rock: A Seventh Century Tale of Jerusalem (2002).

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5.0 out of 5 stars Republic of Fear by Kanan Makiya 12 Feb 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The Republic of Fear by Kanan Makiya is a fantastic insight into the politics of Iraq by a really great writer - the prose is very readable and the content shocking.
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1 of 28 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
This book goes into great details on the politics of Iraq for the past several decades.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.2 out of 5 stars  6 reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant analysis of Saddams Iraq 7 July 2009
By Macke - Published on
Saddam Hussein was a member of the Iraqi Baath party. In his brilliant analysis of Saddams Iraq the author Kanan Makiya illustrates how the Baathist regime managed to hold the Iraqi population in its grip for so long.

Children from 5 and up where indoctrinated with Baathist ideology in the old Iraq. The children where encouraged to spy and tell on their parents if they heard them backtalking the party. During Baath party rule the Iraqi litteracy rate was raised as the output of state propaganda soared. Women where brought into the workplace and the country was developed. Meanwhile, personal freedoms sank-all in the name of progress. Similar developments can be seen in the revolutionary governments of Cuba, China, Vietnam and Algeria. Development took the place of freedom.

Baathist Iraq built itself as a movement and in power on Stalinist norms. It contained both the crude violence and primitive isolationist outlook on one hand while at the same time pushing forward extensive mass education and a modern planned economy. Just like Stalin, the Baath party used the countries "backwardness" as an excuse to resort to extreme measures of violence. And just like Stalin, the Baath party managed to create a more powerfull nation, while at the same time unleashing a regime of terror.

It became necessary for Iraqi civilians to wear a "mask". One could never speak openly about the fear, violence and conformity in the society without risking being punished. So the Iraqi citizen would become like "a snail sealed in a shell". The personality becomes liquidated in the oppressor group and its values. Saddams image was everywhere. On a typical radio broadcast his name was mentioned thirty to fifty times an hour. Saddams images appeard on TV several hours a day. Children had to memorize verses in his honor.

The USSR and East Germany imported "the methods, investments and structures needed for the effective torturing institutions" in Iraq. The Iraqi Baathist state systematically invaded its citizens privacy, denied their individuality and generated fear. Torture was the "apex of that system". Things like public hangings, corpse displays, rape rooms, executions, confession rituals and torture where all used to breed fear in the Iraqi population.

The main idea of Baath government was to uproot individuals from their traditional groups and tribes, thereby destructing the social reality. This would then be replaced by a "new state-centralized network of relationships. The undifferentiated Leviathan like mass that emerged was in principle either hostile to or sealed off from other "partial" non-Baathist sense of belonging." The Baathist view of the world was split up into extremes. On one side the infinetly good(socialism and pan-Arabism) and on the other side the infinetley bad (Zionism, imperialism and foreign agents).

Baathism rose to power out of the Pan-Arabist movement. According to the author, this was a movement intent on getting rid of western colonialism and zionism. It had its roots in Syria in reaction to French rule and it had many of its first members in the officers corps there. They were also opposed to communism. They thought that the Syrian communist party had too strong connections to France and that it was tainted by Russian thinking which could hurt Arabic traditionalism. In their first programmatic statement they proclaimed: "We represent the Arab spirit against materialist communism". The Baath saw their mission being to exorcise the demons of imperialist communism from a degenerate colonized society. They appealed primarily to those who felt threatend by the rootlessness that came about due to modernization, population growth and urbanization.

To the old Baath founder, Aflaq, "Communism is western, and alien to everything Arab", and was the culmination of the humanistic tradition from Europe.When the Iraqi monarchy was overthrown in 1958 the communists had achieved a significant degree of power within the country. The Iraq leader at that point became Abd al-Karim Qasim, a nationalist Iraqi military officer, who claimed power by overthrowing the monarchy in a coup détat. He supported the Communists in Iraq and was inturn overthrown by a Baathist coup in 1963. The Baath party purged the communist at this point. Hunting them down in the streets, killing as many as they could find. Qasim was himself executed. His corpse was tied to a chair and filmed, where in the final sequence a soldier spits in the corpses face. This material was shown nightly on Iraqi televsion (this has similarities to the videos circulating on the internet of Saddam Husseins execution). In 1969 the first purges began against the Jewish population of Iraq. Saying that they where spies and imperialists. Gruesome spectacles where put on were the population was brought out to witness public executions. This would later be reenacted in 1979. But then it wasnt a question of a small group of political outcasts. In 1979 the top leaders of the Baath party itself were purged when Saddam Hussein took over power in Iraq.
17 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Great Read 24 May 2004
By Ryan Corcoran - Published on
During this time of transition in Iraq where many believe that going in there was a mistake, this book will remind you as to why we did what we did. The book goes in depth about the brutality of the former Saddam hussein regeime.
It goes into such detail about the torture, genocide and other regeime atrocities that I could just about feel the bottoms of my own bare feet being caned until the soles of my feet were completely covered with lash marks and blood.
Please read this book to remind yourselves why it was important to remove Saddam Hussein.
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Study 8 Jun 2011
By PaulVA - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Makiya's book is THE definitive study of Saddam's Iraq, Pre-Iraqi Freedom. His in-depth review of the linkages between Pan-Arabism and the rise of the Ba'ath party provide an excellent context for the rise of the Saddam Regime. His descriptions of the horrors of Saddam's world are gripping. The only limitation of this book is that it was written years before the fall of Baghdad-it would be fascinating to see what his view of Iraqi society in 2011 is.
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Republic of Fear: The Politics of Modern Iraq, Updated Edition 19 Feb 2011
By Walrus 305 - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is a "Must-Read", as was his first one. This picks up where that book left off, and paints a good picture of the changes in the Iraqi regime since the Gulf War. It also sheds light on a society which has been living with torture and injustice as a way of life since even before Yazhid (Saddam). This is a society of people that have suffered largely because the international community has looked the other way for decades, the purpose of this book is to enlighten the outsider. This book will open your eyes. It's light reading, but good. If you've ever wondered why Saddam had to be removed, this publication will clear that up for you in a real hurry.

Long live the REAL Iraqis!
14 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars good book if put in perspective 7 May 2004
By Catherine Yanko - Published on
Republic of Fear is written in a sensationalistic style, essentially as propaganda, but it does not detract from the reality of the unimaginable terror in the day-to-day lives of Iraqi population. Before Operation Iraqi Freedom, Iraqi exiles like Makiya, Ahmed Chalabi, and other ex-pats who made up the Iraqi National Congress had an agenda to convince foreign governments to help topple Saddam Hussein. That being said, Republic of Fear (and Cruelty and Silence as well,) provide excellent insight into the horrors and atrocities of the Baathist regime. The most valuable thing the reader comes away with is an understanding of the psyche of the Iraqi public. Had the powers-that-be read a little Makiya before the whole Abu Ghraib prison fiasco, the US would be in better standing with the Arab community.
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