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 as well 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.