Thursday, May 19, 2022

Review The Continuing Storm, Iraq, Poisonous Weapons, and Deterrence

Haselkorn, Avigdor, The Continuing Storm, Iraq, Poisonous Weapons, and Deterrence, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1999


The Continuing Storm, Iraq, Poisonous Weapons, and Deterrence by Avigdor Haselkorn should be a lesson on how not to write a book. The author takes bits of evidence and endlessly speculates about their meaning and possible impact. His thesis is that the entire Gulf War and its aftermath centered around Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD). He goes as far as to argue that President Bush ordered the end of the war because he was afraid of an Iraqi WMD attack upon Israel which could have responded with a nuclear bomb. Haselkorn’s argument goes from interesting to off the rails rather quickly.


The book builds its shaky case in stages. First, it says that Saddam believed his WMD would protect his invasion of Kuwait from outside intervention. Then when it appeared that the Americans would try to expel him he threatened the use of weapons of mass destruction to keep the fighting conventional fearing a U.S. nuclear attack. Then during the war Iraq began launching missiles at Israel hoping to draw it into the war and thus destroy the coalition the Americans created. Haselkorn believed that was the reason why Bush ordered an early end to the Gulf War fearing Israeli retaliation which might go nuclear. He writes that the U.S. and Iraq had an unwritten agreement afterward that Iraq would not be disarmed because Washington was afraid what Iraq might do with its arsenal. Finally, Saddam held onto his biological and chemical weapons as the ultimate guarantor that he would stay in power. The author takes a few reports and then just riffs on them speculating over and over about possible scenarios that might have happened. Simple facts like the Iraqi military having been destroyed in Kuwait and the country being liberated gets one sentence and are dismissed as the reason why the Gulf War ended. There’s nothing on how frustrated the Bush and especially the Clinton administration became over Iraq’s refusal to disarm during the 1990s when United Nations inspectors were in the country. The only thing the book gets right was that Saddam did rely upon the threat of WMD to stay in power after the war. We know that from captured Iraqi documents and interviews with Iraqi officials that came after 2003. Ironically, Iraq destroyed its weapons during the 1990s to hide them from inspectors but did it secretly so that it could maintain the threat they posed.


Needless to say this book is not worth reading.


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