In their "instant book," Judith Miller and Laurie Mylroie seem more interested in enumerating Saddam Hussein's crimes than in explaining the issues underlying the crisis in Kuwait. Hussein is an easy man to hate: Evidence compiled by Amnesty International and other watchdog groups indicates he has personally tortured and murdered people he perceived as threats or opponents. But Miller and Mylroie fail to give the reader any real sense of Hussein's personality. Is he a Hitler-esque madman? A megalomaniac blinded by ambition? A demagogue desperately trying to shore up a failed policy?
They also make only brief mention of such key problems as the arbitrary boundaries the European powers imposed on the Middle East; the cultural and ethnic differences that divide Kurds, Arabs, Turks and Iranians, and the theological divisions between Shi'ite and Sunni Muslims, preferring to indulge in pretentious rhetorical overkill. After a description of Hussein's predilection for public displays of his portrait, they write: "In the land where the Sumerians invented writing, discourse has been degraded to a single, ubiquitous image." An index, legible maps, a more thorough chronology and a list (preferably with photographs) of key figures in Iraqi history and politics would have made "Crisis" more useful. Slogging through this tiresome hyperbole, the reader cynically wonders what Iraqi biographers would say about the career of George Bush.