Out of the Ashes: The Resurrection of Saddam Hussein

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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 ...
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Overview

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.
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Editorial Reviews

Bridget Samburg
...Ehanced by interviews with Hussein's advisers and Iraqi dissenters and is an essential read for those interested in a unique perspective on the inscrutable dictator.
Brill's Content
Bill Franzen
There is some great information in Out of the Ashes, the Cockburn brothers' account of post-Gulf War Iraq -- especially in what comes out of the mouths of Iraqi defectors, key Iraqi government officials, U.N. weapons inspectors and Saddam's blood relatives. We learn, for instance, from General Watiq al-Samarrai (head of Iraqi military intelligence before he defected) that Saddam dyes his mustache and suffers from back pain, although generally he's in good health. And the chapter devoted to the attempted 1996 assassination of Uday Hussein, Saddam's equally ruthless son -- "the lion's eldest cub" -- is full of quirky detail. (Uday, hit by eight bullets while driving through Baghdad en route to a cousin's party, had just come from "feeding his pet police dogs.")

But the Cockburns' bias against virtually all U.S. actions in the Iraq conflict becomes troubling after a while. Sure, the United States withdrew from the Gulf War too soon, as it turned out; and no, the allied forces should not have let intact Republican Guard divisions head back to Baghdad, only to reemerge days later to kill rebellious Kurds and Shiites by the thousands. But the authors seem to believe that with the end of the Gulf War, the coalition lost its one big chance. And they think that now, since nothing else has worked to remove the "resourceful" dictator, and with American policy vacillating so, it's high time for the U.N. Security Council to remove sanctions and let Saddam start pumping oil again -- cease-fire agreement be damned, and any control over Saddam's use of this tremendous revenue be damned, too.

But to the argument that the Iraqi middle class is suffering under sanctions, there's a convincing counter-argument that the sanctions are necessary to weaken the regime so that Saddam can be overthrown, preferably soon and ideally from within. Remember, too, that Saddam rejected the U.N. oil-for-food plan for nearly five years while at the same time vast amounts of marble were being purchased for his new palaces.

The reporting here can be good, but it's selective. Consider, for example, this remark on "Operation Desert Fox," the December 1998 U.S. air strikes on Iraq: "The attack [was not] effective in humbling Saddam or eliminating his alleged arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. Ninety-seven targets overall were attacked, of which only nine were reported by the Pentagon as fully destroyed." "Alleged" arsenal? Have the authors studied UNSCOM's overwhelming evidence to the contrary? And why the omission of the reported success against Saddam's long-range missile systems? And why don't the Cockburns explain that the Pentagon calls a target "destroyed" only if it's been completely leveled? Not even the Federal Building in Oklahoma City would have been classified as "destroyed" by the Pentagon.

Given who Saddam is and the different rules he plays under, it's not enough just to criticize the U.S. and its allies -- especially when the Cockburns never present any other serious strategy for dealing with the dictator and his "resurrection." Maybe that's because, brothers or not, they can't completely agree on one.
Salon

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Indispensable to anyone who wants to understand the Iraq crisis, the Cockburns' riveting report on Saddam Hussein's murderous regime and U.S.-backed attempts to overthrow it in the wake of the Gulf War is packed with revelations. The book is especially timely, given the recent U.S. announcement that it is going to step up covert operations aimed at ousting Saddam. Illuminating previous attempts to topple Saddam, the authors give readers thorough accounts of various failures, including the half-hearted American support of Kurdish and Shiite opposition groups immediately after the war and a botched 1996 CIA operation that the Cockburns liken to the Bay of Pigs fiasco. The Cockburns maintain that the U.S.-led sanctions policy is a big mistake, making the Iraqi people pay the price--malnutrition, soaring child mortality, deepening poverty--for an evil dictator whom the masses despise. The U.S., they conclude, can do little to oust Saddam, while the best course is to wait for Iraqis to take matters into their own hands--as the authors believe they inevitably will. The Cockburns are seasoned reporters (Andrew, author of One Point Safe with Leslie Cockburn, coproduced a 1991 PBS documentary on Iraq; Patrick, author of Getting Russia Wrong, is Middle East correspondent for the London Independent). In the process of explaining how Saddam clings to power, the authors also shed light on the history of the tyrant and his ruling clique, internal Iraqi politics and the evolution and transformation of American policy.
Library Journal
The 1991 Gulf War dealt a severe blow to the regional ambitions of Saddam Hussein. Although many observers had predicted the demise of Saddam's regime, the Iraqi leader has managed to survive and indeed strengthen his hold on power. This book, written by two journalists with long experience covering the Middle East for British and American publications, provides insight into why Saddam Hussein has succeeded in maintaining his grip on power in spite of crippling sanctions and repeated American military strikes inside Iraq. The authors provide a balanced, easy-to-read but sophisticated account of the internal dynamics of Iraqi society today and chronicle major developments in that country from the end of the Gulf War to the beginning of 1999. The authors also provide a sophisticated critique of U.S.-led sanctions that have devastated ordinary Iraqi citizens and have transformed this once thriving country into a ruined state. Highly recommended for informed lay readers as well as Middle East specialists.--Nader Entessar, Spring Hill Coll., Mobile, AL
Bridget Samburg
...[E]hanced by interviews with Hussein's advisers and Iraqi dissenters and is an essential read for those interested in a unique perspective on the inscrutable dictator.
Brill's Content
Peter Hannaford
...[A] story of missed opportunities [and] miscalculations....[Hussein] knows that the rage and hatred of the masses who, for a few delirious days, defaced his portraits and lynched his henchmen...have not gone away. Sooner or later there will be a day of reckoning.
The American Spectator
Ethan Bronner
...[A] sober and balanced yet intrigue-filled book....The strength of the book comes from new details from untapped sources....The picture of the last eight years that emerges is among the most coherent and accessible of any book on Iraq...Given the history and makeup of Iraq, could it have been handled differently and more effectively? That is never addressed in this otherwise quite interesting book.
The New York Times Book Review
Kirkus Reviews
A fascinating history of the global and regional intrigues and miscues that have allowed Saddam Hussein to defiantly survive. The authors, both widely published journalists in the fields of international relations and Middle East politics, contend that in the wake of the Gulf War, if Saddam was to survive, "his enemies would have to make a lot of mistakes." And this they did. Central to the story, of course, is the US, which could never quite decide what it wanted. Wishing to be rid of Saddam but fearing a destabilized Iraq, the US called publicly for a popular uprising but gave only lukewarm support to such efforts. Rebellion in the south was thought to be backed by Iran. Rebellion in the north, among Iraqi Kurds, was seen as a threat to US ally Turkey, with its own growing Kurdish rebellions. For their part, resistance groups could never get their acts together. Two CIA-sponsored exile groups ended up fighting each other. The Kurds ended up in a civil war among competing factions, allowing Saddam to reassert his power in the north. Economic sanctions did work to cripple Iraq's economy but at the cost of extreme deprivation among the Iraqi people, a public relations disaster both in Iraq and around the world. More effective have been arms inspections in Iraq to uncover weapons of mass destruction. Yet once it was clear that economic sanctions would end only with the end of Saddam himself, he had little incentive to comply with the demands of weapons inspectors. And all the while, through absolute cruelty and terror—and the skillful manipulation of clan and religious factions among Iraq's elite—Saddam has remained firmly in power. With access to top US foreign policy makers aswell as to Iraqi officials, the Cockburns authoritatively, and with clarity, recount a series of events that would be comic if they were not so tragic. Among the best books yet written on the malignant enigma that is Saddam Hussein. .
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781859847992
  • Publisher: Analytical Psychology Club of San Francisco, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 9/1/2000
  • Pages: 240

Meet 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.

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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Read an Excerpt


Saddam at the Abyss
Fifty miles from the capital, returning Iraqi soldiers could already see the black cloud over the blazing al-Dohra oil refinery on the edge of Baghdad. It was early March 1991, and these exhausted men were the remnants of the huge army sent to occupy Kuwait after its conquest by Saddam Hussein the previous year. Now, routed by the United States and its allies, they were in the last stages of a three-hundred-mile flight from the battlefields. They were crowded into taxis, trucks, battered buses--anything on wheels. One group clung desperately to a car transporter.
Soon they were inside the city, only to find it utterly changed. Just six weeks before, the low-lying Iraqi capital on the banks of the Tigris had been a rich modern city, built with the billions of dollars flowing from the third-largest oil reserves in the world. Expressways and overpasses sped traffic past gleaming modern hotels, government buildings, and communications centers. Lavishly equipped hospitals gave the citizens medical care as good as could be found in Europe or the United States. Even the poor were used to eating chicken once a day. Then, beginning at 3:00 a.m. on January 17, precisely targeted bombs and missiles had thrust Baghdad and its 3.5 million inhabitants abruptly back into the third world.
There was no power because all the power stations had been knocked out in the first days of bombing. The people of the city huddled in darkness. The stench of decaying meat hung over the more prosperous districts as steaks in carefully stocked freezers slowly rotted. In the hospitals, doctors trained in the finest medical schools in Europe operated by flashlight.
Like any advancedsociety, Iraq had been totally dependent on electricity. Water came from the wide Tigris River that flows through the city, pumped and purified by what had been one of the most modern and efficient systems in the world. Now a jury-rigged system brought a muddy brown liquid spluttering out of the taps for just one hour a day. Oil billions had given the city an up-to-date sewage system, but the pumps at the treatment plants had been silent since the power generators had been hit, and every day 15 million gallons of untreated sewage poured into the Tigris.
Few cars moved along the streets and tree-lined avenues because the gas stations had long since exhausted their supplies and al-Dohra, along with all other Iraqi refineries, had been smashed in the bombing. In the sparse traffic, black smoke poured from the exhausts of some vehicles, a symptom of watered-down gas available on the black market at a hundred times the prewar price.
Familiar landmarks lay in ruins, like the handsome Jumhuriya Bridge across the Tigris in the city center, now trisected by allied bombs. Surviving bridges had old sacking draped over the sides and little saplings tied to the railings, a vain effort to deceive the computers and laser-targeting systems of the enemy weapons. Symbols of authority, like the Ministry of Justice, at first glance seemingly untouched, were empty shells, their insides gutted by high explosives. The phones had stopped working when two laser-guided bombs had hit the communications center across from the Mansour Melia Hotel and melted the satellite dishes on the roof, isolating Iraqis from the outside world and each other.
The air was full of smoke from the burning refinery and from piles of tires set alight during the war to confuse allied warplanes. The restaurants on Sadoun Street were shuttered and empty, replaced by curbside cooking fires fueled by branches torn from trees by the bombs. Over everything there hung the yellow haze of a winter fog.
Somewhere beneath the gloom was the man who had caused the disaster, President Saddam Hussein, his thoughts and actions, even his whereabouts in those dramatic days, a mystery to his people and to the outside world.
Physically, he had changed since the war had begun. In the months of crisis between his invasion of Kuwait on August 2, 1990, and the start of the United States-led counterattack in January 1991, the Iraqi leader had played to a global audience. Sleek in the beautiful silk suits created by his Armenian tailor, Saddam had sat in his palaces declaiming to visiting statesmen and journalists on the justice of that invasion, defying the international coalition that was building up its forces to oust him.
Now the president of Iraq moved about his capital like a man on the run. Like the rest of the high command, he had been careful to stay out of the underground command bunkers built for the war against the Iranians in the 1980s. He had known that the Americans would carefully target these places and that their bombs could--and did--penetrate the thickest concrete. The bombing had stopped, but still he was sleeping in a different house every few nights, staying mainly in the middle-class al-Tafiya district of the city, quiet because many of its inhabitants had fled Baghdad.
Once upon a time, Saddam had sought to confuse potential assassins about his movements by deploying whole fleets of identical Mercedeses, choosing the convoy he would use only at the last minute and dispatching the others in different directions as a distraction. These days Saddam drove only in cheap, inconspicuous cars, accompanied by a single bodyguard--a colonel who himself wore no insignia of rank. The few trusted aides and intimates he visited saw a shrunken figure. He had lost as much as forty pounds in the first month of the war. Now the olive-green uniform of his ruling Baath Party hung ever more loosely on him. "I don't know what God will bring tomorrow," he remarked despairingly to one of his intelligence chiefs. Out of the Ashes. Copyright © by Andrew Cockburn. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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