Iraq: From Sumer to Saddam

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St. Martin's Press, 1996 - History - 444 pages
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This book presents a broad history of Iraq, from the earliest times to the present, with particular attention to the emergence of modern Iraq in the twentieth century, the power struggles that led to the rise of Saddam Hussein, and such recent events as the Iran-Iraq war, the 1990-91 Gulf crisis, and the continuing depiction of Iraq as a 'pariah' nation. Some indication is given of the sufferings of the Iraqi people, not only as victims of a brutal regime but also at the hands of US-led Western governments more concerned with perceived strategic interests than with human welfare. Such crucial factors as the historical Western influence in the Middle East, the prolonged Western support for Saddam and the US manipulation of the United Nations are profiled. Detailed information is included, much of it unsympathetic to Western propaganda, to encourage a deeper understanding and a deeper ethical perception of the 'Iraq Question'.

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Iraq: from Sumer to Saddam

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This is a broad political history of Iraq from the earliest times through 1993. Unlike many of the recently published books on this subject, this is not another Iraq-bashing book. Rather, Simons ... Read full review

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This book presents a more balanced perspective of Saddam Hussein, in 1996, than the media was willing to share with the U.S. public during the run-up to the U.S.-Iraq War. For example, in a footnote on p. xvi, the authors recognize that "one important account" indicated that the gassing of Kurds at Halabja was done by the Iranians, not the Iraqis, and that others had raised doubts about Hussein's culpability. The authors go on to accept the "conventional Western account" that Hussein was at fault. My point, however, is not that there was evidence that supported Hussein, but that, five years after this book was published, in the 2000s, U.S. broadcasters and politicians made no mention of such possibly exculpating evidence, but rather presumed Hussein guilty. Furthermore, at pp. 327-328, the authors mention that the cyanide gassing at Halabja took place in March 1988, but show that U.S. business and political leaders were unphased by the event. Within two years after March 1988, U.S.-Iraqi trade is said to have been worth "billions" of dollars, with "dozens" of Fortune 500 companies involved. I would question the U.S. leaders' ability to pass a more reliable judgment about Hussein's suspected role at Halabja in 2002-2003, when they were drumming up support for the second war against Iraq, than the judgment they supposedly exercised when they accepted Hussein as a major business partner in 1988-1990. It could be argued that, by 2002, U.S. leaders had the additional knowledge that Hussein had tried to invade Kuwait, but the U.S. punished him for his Kuwait invasion. It destroyed much of his army in the first Gulf War, removed him from Kuwait, and imposed sanctions of its choosing. To go back and say that Halabja made Hussein an especially bad despot seems disingenuous at best. 

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About the author (1996)

Geoff Simons has written extensively on world politics. His books have been translated into many languages and he has made frequent appearances on major international news networks. He is also the author of Targeting Iraq (2002) and Future Iraq (2003) - both published by Saqi.

Tony Benn, born in London in 1925, is a former Cabinet Minister and Chairman of the Labour Party. He served as an MP for over fifty years and is the author of fifteen books, including his published diaries covering the period 1940-2001.

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