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Out of the Ashes: The Resurrection of Saddam Hussein Paperback – 16 Feb 2000
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"The picture of the last eight years that emerges is among the most coherent and accessible of any book on Iraq to date."-- "New York Times Book Review""The most detailed look available at what has happened in post-Gulf War Iraq.... Because of Patrick Cockburn's contacts in Baghdad, "Out of the Ashes" brings light to a political system that most American writing leaves shrouded in darkness." -- "Washington Post Book World"A clear, lively, well-researched narrative, which moves along at a brisk pace.... Rich in information and atmospehre."-- "The Nation""A fascinating history of the global and regional intrigues and miscues that have allowed Saddam Hussein to defiantly survive.... Among the best books yet written on the malignant enigma that is Saddam Hussein." -- "Kirkus Review"
An expose of the internal feuds in the CIA that doomed the secret operations to bring down Saddam Hussein. The authors are investigative journalists who covered the story from inside Iraq. They offer insights into the psyche of Saddam and his family, bodyguards and extended tribal family, as well as his weapons of mass destruction.See all Product description
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I would summarize my point as saying the author seems to be knowledgeable about Iraq and the US government but a very poor story teller.
The authors cover all of the relevant topics, including: The sanctions regime and the dreadful effects the regime has had on most Iraqis. The British creation of Iraq and its Monarch. The rise of Iraq's Baath party and Saddam Hussein. The mindlessness of Iraqi nationalism as represented by the Baath party. The nature and extent of Iraq's police state. Gulf war I and the many American betrayals of the Iraqi people. Hussein's pursuit and use of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. Palace politics in Baghdad and Washington. The vicious fools at Langley, with their telling preference for dictators and military men.
It all makes for a dreary read, although the authors cannot be faulted for this since they keep the story moving along with clear prose and adequate organization. It's the story they tell. At the very least a million Iraqis have died because of the Baath party and Saddam Hussein. Many more will die because of Gulf War II. There was nothing inevitable about the catastrophe just as Gulf War II will be the product of the ill-formed men and women willing it into being.
The Cockburns end their book on a hopeful note by asserting that only the Iraqi people could affect the downfall of Saddam Hussein and Iraq's Baath party. But they published their book in 1999 and could not know that fate would again deal the Iraqis another disastrous hand with the election of George W. Bush to the presidency. Harboring the sinister men of The Project for the New American Century and using the horror veiling 9.11 as political cover, the Bush administration now seeks to transform the remnants of America's Cold War system of alliances, treaties and institutional commitments into a self-conscious and self-perpetuating imperium founded on the control of oil and an overwhelming military power. The coming war is merely a part of that grandiose effort. Given the sorry record of those now leading the country, it is also prudent to expect the American effort in Iraq to undermine any revolt of the Iraqis themselves just as Desert Storm ended with the United States enabling the Republican Guard to crush the rebellion that arose in the wake its victory. Neither democracy nor Iraqi sovereignty will be a war aim of the United States, notwithstanding Bush claims to the contrary.
But, then again, these are matters to be decided by the Iraqis themselves. The next war will only delay the just settling of accounts.
It should be noted that this book does not cover everything from this decade in sufficient detail. However, I would consider it one of my favorite books on that particular period in Iraq. Having read just a little about Iraq at the time when I actually read this book (about 2 years ago) I found it to be very well-written and engaging. It's not an overtly scholarly book. The two authors are journalists, not political scientists, so the book comes across as a well told story. This book has been quoted by several overtly scholarly political scientists, so I believe that speaks to the quality and validity of the book. The authors tackle some controversial material without mincing words and are not afraid to describe in detail when and how the U.S. screwed up. I've found this book to be incredibly accurate on the whole and found no serious flaws in the analysis.
My only problem with the book is the authors style of citing sources. Rather than using footnotes (the easiest for reference) or endnotes (a bit more troublesome) the authors don't have any numbered citations. All citations are in the back of the book listed by page numbers in their order of appearance. This makes it difficult because there is nothing in the text of the book that indiciates a particular fact is coming from a cited source. This can be a bad thing, but again from my other readings, I do not doubt this book's factual accuracy.
Two other books that would make wonderful companions to this book for 90's-era Iraq reading would be Sarah Graham-Brown's Sanctioning Saddam (extensively analytical and academic, but wonderful to read), and Dilip Hiro's Neighbors, not Friends. These three books are about as good as you can get for the time period.