Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

CURRENT PAPERBACKS

SADDAM HUSSEIN AND THE CRISIS IN THE GULF By Judith Miller & Laurie Mylroie (Times Books/Random House: $5.95) : REPUBLIC OF FEAR By Samir Al-Khalil (Pantheon: $12.95)

October 21, 1990|CHARLES SOLOMON

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.

For "Crisis," Miller and Mylroie relied heavily on "Republic of Fear," a study of Hussein's Ba'athist regime by expatriate scholar Samir Al-Khalil. Although no less stridently anti-Hussein in its tone--in the introduction to the 1990 edition, the author concedes that "the text is overwritten and long-winded in many places"--"Republic of Fear" is carefully documented and thoroughly researched. In his effort to understand why the Iraqi revolution, unlike nationalist movements in other Arab countries, unleashed such hideous cruelty, Al-Khalil castigates the Arab leadership for failing to condemn and contain this brutality.

After reflecting on the Iraqi legacy of torture and repression, Al-Khalil morosely concludes, "The special problem of Ba'athi violence begins with the realization that hundreds of thousands of perfectly normal people are implicated in it. . . . Looking for a monster or a master criminal called Saddam Hussein, who himself enjoys acting out the part, is too easy, too childlike."

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|