by Mark Phythian ‧ RELEASE DATE: Dec. 19, 1996
A chilling report on how Western vendors, with the covert connivance of their governments, helped oil-rich Iraq to acquire a state-of-the-art arsenal. Focusing on the role played by United Kingdom suppliers in the lucrative arms trade with Baghdad, Phythian (a faculty member at England's Wolverhampton University) first reviews why London and Washington (determined that Iraq should not lose the war it had started with Iran in 1981) allowed the despotic, expansion-minded Hussein regime to procure from domestic sources under their control not only advanced weaponry but also the means to build nuclear bombs. According to his authoritative account, most such business was done by legitimate enterprises tacitly encouraged to evade or ignore official embargoes. Further, because of application ambiguities (e.g., certain agricultural chemicals may be employed in either fertilizers or poison gases), dealers could plausibly deny any illegal intent in their wide-ranging export efforts. With jobs, profits, and the balance of power in a volatile region at stake, moreover, first-world capitals turned a blind eye to contraband traffic and risky transfers of dual-use technologies. The technology and weapons the West had so blithely supplied to Iraq were, of course, used against UN coalition forces during the battle for Kuwait. In the wake of Desert Storm, the UK and US launched investigations that eventually disclosed that the governments of both countries had played a duplicitous game, acting in ways at considerable variance with stated positions. The drawn-out inquiries also revealed that intelligence services routinely recruited the executives of defense contractors (including several the British Crown attempted to prosecute) to furnish information on their sales trips to Iraq. A timely, convincingly documented reminder that, even in democratic societies, actions taken in the name of national security may not be in the national interest.
Pub Date: Dec. 19, 1996
Page Count: 316
Publisher: Northeastern Univ.
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 1996
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