In SADDAM HUSSEIN: THE POLITICS OF REVENGE, the author draws on his own knowledge of and extensive contacts within the Arab world to produce both a thorough biography and a penetrating psychological profile of the most powerful and unpredictable man in the world today. He explains why Saddam behaves as he does by suggesting that his life has been marked by a series of personal quests: for recognition after being orphaned and brought up by a destitute uncle; for control of his country; for leadership of the Arab world; for mastery of the technology of destruction, and who now fights for Iraq's survival. This is the chilling story of how the man who, with the encouragement of western governments, made his country the most advanced in the Arab world in the 1970s, and through personal ambition led it to disaster at the end of the 1980s, now fights for its survival.
There's a lot to be gleaned from this detailed, balanced biography of Saddam Hussein and there's a lot that's controversial as well. A journalist who has worked as a consultant to the Iraqi government, Aburish (Children of Bethany; Arafat: From Defender to Dictator) walks a tightrope, condemning the Iraqi dictator while simultaneously criticizing the West first Britain and then the United States for what he sees as its hypocritical policy in the Persian Gulf. He traces Saddam's life from a fatherless, impoverished childhood in the town of Tikrit through his rise up the ranks of the Iraqi army after Iraq gained its independence in 1958 and his eventual stranglehold on power. Aburish attributes Saddam's rise to his ability to appeal to ordinary Iraqis' desire to regain what they see as their great Mesopotamian past, although since the 1980 1988 Iran-Iraq war, Aburish believes Saddam has lost the legitimate support of his people. But the real grist of this biography which relies on Aburish's extensive contacts in the Arab world comes as the author addresses Iraq's role in international affairs during the past decades. He builds a credible case that Iraq relied on American technology to build its weapons program even before the Iran-Iraq war and that the American government knew about it. America's flip-flops during that war and its conflicting signals to Iraq in the months preceding Saddam's invasion of Kuwait are well known. Those interested in foreign policy will learn a great deal from Aburish's knowledge of clandestine contacts and his appropriately dramatic but not sensational narrative even if some are put off by his closing plea for an end to U.N. sanctions. 16 b&w photos.