The Weight of a Mustard Seed: The Intimate Life of an Iraqi Family During Thirty Years of Tyranny

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9781554683758: The Weight of a Mustard Seed: The Intimate Life of an Iraqi Family During Thirty Years of Tyranny
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General Kamel Sachet was a favourite of Saddam Hussein's, a hero of the Iran-Iraq war, head of the army in Kuwait City during Desert Storm and the governor of the province of Maysan. But when it came time for his sons to do their military service, he refused to let them join the "criminal" organization that he had given his life to. Sachet realized, too late, that he had become a participant in the terror regime that had strangled his country and destroyed its people.
Through the story of Kamel Sachet and those around him-his wife; his sons and daughters; his friend, a psychiatrist; the head of the Republican Guard; a director of Abu Ghraib prison-Wendell Steavenson shows the choices Iraqis have had to make between exile and collaboration, God and jihad. In the spirit of The Bookseller ofKabulandStasiland,The Weight of a Mustard Seedcaptures the universal humanity and the tragedy of unintended consequences.

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General Kamel Sachet was a favorite of Saddam Hussein's, a hero of the Iran-Iraq war, head of the army in Kuwait City during Desert Storm, governor of the province of Maysan, and father of nine children. When author Wendell Steavenson became intrigued by his story, she began with a few questions about Sachet and his fellow Baathist loyalists: "Why had they served such a regime? How had they accommodated their own morality? How had they lived? How had they lived with themselves?" Her journey to find these answers took five years, and an accumulation of facts, opinions, fears, confessions and suspicions from Sachet's family, friends, and enemies. The result is not just a gripping account of one man's rise and fall, but a vivid and compassionate portrayal of the Iraqi people.

As Sachet rose from policeman to Special Forces officer and then General, he made more and more sacrifices to remain in Saddam's good favor. Steadfast in his loyalty to God and his President, Sachet attended military executions and endured his own imprisonment as Saddam's behavior took increasingly paranoiac and power-crazy turns. But when it came time for Sachet's sons to do their military service, he refused to let them join the "criminal" organization to which he had given his life. Kamel Sachet realized, too late, that he'd become a participant in the terror regime that had strangled his county and destroyed its people. Through his story and the stories of those around him, Wendell Steavenson shows the choices Iraqis have had to make between exile and collaboration, God and jihad. Here are the Iraqis behind the headlines and the tragedy begotten of unintended consequences. And here is the first full-length narrative from an immensely talented journalist who has already been compared by critics to Bruce Chatwin and Ryszard Kapucinksi.

About the Author:

Wendell Steavenson is a freelance journalist and the author of the acclaimed bookStories I Stole, shortlisted for theGuardianFirst Book Award. A former correspondent forTIME, she has published stories inThe New Yorker, Granta, ProspectandThe Daily Telegraph. Her screenplay, based on her experiences in Iraq, was made intoThe Situation, the first American narrative film to deal with the occupation of Iraq. Steavenson has lived in Iraq, Iran and Georgia. She currently resides in Paris, France.

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