Saddam's Bombmaker: The Daring Escape of the Man Who Built Iraq's Secret Weapon

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9780743211352: Saddam's Bombmaker: The Daring Escape of the Man Who Built Iraq's Secret Weapon
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In a white-knuckle thriller, Khidhir Hamza, who spent twenty years developing Iraq's atomic weapon, recounts his life in Saddam Hussein's inner circle and his daring flight to the West.

“Don't tell me about the law. The law is anything I write on a scrap of paper.” —Saddam Hussein

Taking readers into the darkest corners of a regime ruled by a volatile, brutal leader, Dr. Hamza, the only defector who has lived to write a firsthand portrait of Iraq, also presents an unprecedented portrait of Saddam—his drunken rages, his women, his cold-blooded murder of underlings, and his unrivaled power. If pushed to the wall, Saddam will use the bomb that Dr. Hamza helped create.

From the relentless dangers Dr. Hamza endured in Iraq to his harrowing flight across three continents and his first encounter with skeptical CIA agents who turned him away, Saddam's Bombmaker is a true-to-life thriller as rich in danger, intrigue, and personal courage as a well-crafted spy novel.

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Review:

"I am lucky to be alive," writes Khidhir Hamza on the opening page of this memoir, which reads like a thriller. Hamza describes how he helped Saddam Hussein design a nuclear bomb over the course of 22 years. He has an amazing story to relate, and with the help of collaborator Jeff Stein, he tells it remarkably well. It begins with his cloak-and-dagger escape from Baghdad in 1994, then goes back in time to describe the education he received earlier in the United States. Hamza returned to his native Iraq, and Saddam seduced him into accepting the comfortable life of an atomic scientist trying to build a bomb for a megalomaniac. Hamza presents a terrifying, almost psychotic portrait of Hussein himself: the dictator--a man with "yellow, lifeless eyes"--has a paranoid fear of germs and a taste for Johnnie Walker Blue Label. He's prone to drunken rages and relies on sedatives to keep control of himself: "His personality grew more erratic with the ups and downs of the drugs, the liquor, and the pressures of command." Hamza recounts a story told by one of Saddam's doctors, in which the strongman was found "stomping about his palace bedroom in a blood-splotched shirt" near the body of a woman whose throat was slit.

Hamza was eventually kept under house arrest, and even threatened with torture. His escape was an astonishing feat, and the message he brought to the West is vital: "I have no doubt that Iraq is pursuing the nuclear option." The Gulf War slowed development, but failed to shut it down. The coalition that knocked Saddam out of Kuwait has fallen apart, and United Nations inspectors no longer try to keep him in check. Hamza urges policymakers to confront Saddam, and suggests that the CIA redouble its efforts to help topnotch scientists flee from their virtual captivity. If rogue nations experience a brain drain, he says, their capacity to produce weapons of mass destruction will suffer. Saddam's Bombmaker is hard to put down and essential reading for anybody interested in national security. --John J. Miller

About the Author:

Khidhir Hamza was educated at MIT and Florida State University before being forced to return to Iraq. He now lives in Virginia.

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