The world has changed since 1990. The cold war has ended, the Soviet Union has disappeared, new governments have taken power in Washington and around the globe. But one familiar, dreaded face still looms over the international landscape--that of Saddam Hussein.
At the end of the Gulf War, the White House was confident that the Iraqi dictator's days were numbered. His army had been routed, his country had been bombed back into a preindustrial age, his subjects were in bloody revolt, his boarders were sealed. It seemed impossible that he could survive such disasters. World leaders waited confidently for the downfall of the pariah of Baghdad.
Almost a decade later, they are still waiting.
This is the first in-depth account of what went wrong. Drawing on the authors' firsthand experiences on the ground inside Iraq (often under fire) and their interviews with key players--ranging from members of Saddam's own family to senior officials of the CIA--Out of the Ashes tells what happened when the smoke cleared from the battlefields of the Gulf War. Leaders of the uprising that almost toppled the dictator describe the desperate mission they undertook to plead for American help and how they were turned away. We learn of Saddam's secret plan to fool and corrupt the UN weapons inspectors and how the scheme initially went awry. Senior U.S. intelligence officials explain what they really thought of the Iraqi opposition movement they helped to create. An agent on the CIA payroll recounts his exploits planting bombs in Baghdad.
While U.S. officials grappled with the ongoing crisis of Saddam's survival, the Iraqi leader himself presided over a regime dominated by his own terrifying family. Here is the full story of that family--"animals," as one former intimate describes them--and its vicious feuds, including the downfall of the man who once stood at Saddam's right hand.
This tale of high drama, labyrinthine intrigue, and fatal blunders has been played out amid one of the greatest,man-made tragedies of our times. At the outset, U.S. leaders resolved that "Iraqis will pay the price" so long as Saddam Hussein remains in power. Out of the Ashes makes chillingly clear just how terrible that price has been.
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When the United States and its allies launched Operation Desert Storm against Iraq in 1991 in retaliation for that nation's invasion of Kuwait, the plans to bomb "command and control" centers had a clear, albeit largely unspoken, objective: "We don't do assassinations," National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft has acknowledged, "but yes, we targeted all the places where Saddam might have been." The only problem: he wasn't there and, nearly a decade after the Gulf War, he continues to remain in power.
Patrick and Andrew Cockburn present a two-pronged story in Out of the Ashes. They fill readers in on the background of Saddam Hussein's rise to power; an instrumental figure in the Baath Party's 1968 seizure of power, he became president of Iraq in 1979, initiating his reign with a bloody purge of dissenters. The two journalists also chart the disastrous effects of the economic sanctions to which Iraq has been subject since 1991. The sanctions were intended to provoke Iraqi military leadership into overthrowing Saddam, but public remarks by then-president George Bush inadvertently inspired revolt among the general Iraqi population. The military was thus too busy putting down nationwide rebellion to organize a coup; a CIA-sponsored effort five years later was an abject failure. And the sanctions, the Cockburns note, appear to have succeeded only in creating holocaust conditions and anti-Western sentiment among the Iraqis.
Patrick Cockburn brings the experience of 20 years spent covering the Middle East, and his brother Andrew is well known for his reportage on the American government's policymaking. The result is a wealth of information about Iraqi politics--and the consistent miscomprehension of those politics by U.S. strategic planners--delivered in a tightly written narrative. --Ron HoganAbout the Author:
Andrew Cockburn is the author of several books on defense and international affairs. He has also written about the Middle East for The New Yorker and coproduced the 1991 PBS documentary on Iraq title "The War We Left Behind." He lives in Washington, D.C.
Patrick Cockburn has been a senior Middle East correspondent for the Financial Times and the London Independent since 1979. Among the most experienced commentators on Iraq, he was one of the few journalist to remain in Baghdad during the Gulf War. He is currently based in Jerusalem for the Independent.
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