Iraq is a nation that few westerners of previous generations would have given much thought. However, the events of the past two decades have brought Iraq, and its ruling Ba'th Party, to the forefront of world attention. First, the involvement of Iraq in the eightyearlong and extremely brutal war with its neighbor, Iran, caused the Persian Gulf region to become a hotbed of instability. Then, after that inconclusive, bloody, and exhausting war Iraq's leadership chose to turn the might of its military machine against its own Kurdish and Shia minorities via a program of genocide. After these acts of brutality the Iraqis chose to invade Kuwait and occupy and brutalize that neighbor. This action led to the involvement of a United Nations military force led by American soldiers and technology in a campaign for Kuwaiti liberation, culminating in Operations Desert Shield and Storm. Though that conflict saw the Iraqi invasion force crushed and driven out of Kuwait, Iraq, and in particular its dictator Saddam Hussein, remain an independent source of discord in the Middle East. The history of this puzzling land is well told in this work of history. As the author points out, westerners focus their attention upon the last two decades of Iraqi history. However, the saga of that land and its people goes back over eight thousand years. It is this multimillennial epic that is told in this readable and scholarly work. It is important to note that Iraq is a land that encompasses far more features than the wellknown visage of Saddam Hussein. This is a land that has a long history and many elements that will surprise the reader. For example, while modern Iraq is certainly a dictatorial state, it is also oneof the least sexist of the Arab nations. Women in Iraq have had far more opportunities to enter into professions, work outside the home, and dress in an independent and individual manner than in many other Arab lands. This is also a nation that has relegated religious fundamentalism to a secondary position, unlike other Middle Eastern nations that have become theocracies. Iraq remains a nation shunned by much of the world. This situation will not go on forever, nor is it beneficial to the Iraqi people. This message, and a wealth of other facts about the Iraqi nation and its people, are discussed in this insightful historical work. 2000, TwentyFirst Century Books, Ages 14 up, $23.90. Reviewer: Greg M. Romaneck
School Library Journal
Gr 7 Up-The author attempts to cover all of Iraq's history from the earliest shepherds to today's embargoes. He does a good job with most of the ancient history and with explaining the rise of Islam. Spencer clearly explains how society changed as the land was ruled by a variety of foreign interlopers. Unfortunately, mistakes are rampant; it is stated that many of Hammurabi's laws "deal with problems familiar to us today, such as-the purchase and sale of slaves and their owners' obligations toward them." In the modern era, any reference to the grandeur of the past serves only as a reason to mention how bad things are under Saddam Hussein. Later in the book, when discussing Hussein's life, the author gets the math mixed up. He says his subject was born in 1937, which is consistent with other accounts, but then the text reads as though he were 23 years old in 1968, when he became a member of the Revolution Command Council. The nondescript illustrations consist of sketches and mundane black-and-white photographs. The pictures of Hammurabi and Muhammad are switched. Two black-and-white maps show Iraq's relationship to other countries in the Middle East, but offer no detail of the country itself. The mistakes and omissions in this book make it unacceptable.-Carol Durusau, Newton County Public Library, Covington, GA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.