A former 60 Minutes producer exposes 85 years of Western recklessness and fecklessness in Iraq.
As Saddam Hussein stands in the dock, it’s no accident, argues Lando, that the special tribunal passing judgment on his 25-year reign of terror may charge and subpoena only Iraqi citizens. Before an international court, or any kind of independent inquiry, the brutal dictator might have been permitted to call other witnesses in his defense and thereby expose a sordid Western history of betrayals, reprisals and manipulations that have mightily contributed to Iraq’s misery. Relying on a few scholarly sources, many recent journalistic accounts and a bit of original reporting, the author supplies the argument Saddam’s defense attorneys only wish they could employ. For Lando, the original sin may be traced back to the end of World War I, when the British, needing military bases and easy access to the region’s vast oil deposits, carved out the artificial state of Iraq from the tattered remains of the Ottoman Empire. This cobbling together of peoples and tribes to suit the requirements of Western powers ensured a “nation” that would be perilous to govern. And so it has proven, from the British-installed King Faisal and his son Ghazi to a line of military dictators culminating in the Baath Party’s Saddam. Lando devotes the bulk of his narrative to the West’s complicity in Saddam’s regime, whether through leaders like Thatcher, Chirac, Brezhnev and Gorbachev or a succession of American presidents (especially those named Bush) and a series of foreign-policy and military experts who did their bidding. Though he stoutly maintains that his piling up of detail, incident and anecdote in no way absolves Saddam, Lando’s highly tendentious argument—who else, any longer, unquestioningly accepts the testimony of former Ambassador Joseph Wilson or arms-inspector Scott Ritter?—and unremitting focus on the misdeeds of the West leaves the reader grasping for equilibrium.
Plenty of ammunition here for those who believe a “campaign of lies and distortion” accounts for the U.S. presence in Iraq.