Friday, May 26, 2023

Review The Secret History Of The Iraq War

Bodansky, Yossef, The Secret History Of The Iraq War, New York: 10 Regan Books, 2005


This book sat in the discount bin of a local bookstore for what seemed like forever. Reading the first few pages it’s immediately understandable why it was there. It claimed that Saddam Hussein had an operational relationship with Al Qaeda starting in the 1990s when Iraq gave military aid to Somali jihadists led by Aymenn al-Zawahiri which escalated by the early 2000s when Baghdad gave Osama bin Laden WMD. The former was based upon the false story that Al Qaeda helped Somalis during the Black Hawk Down incident. The rest is just pure fantasy. That gives you a glimpse into the world of The Secret History Of The Iraq War by Yossef Bodansky. It reads like a QAnon history of the Iraq War full of outlandish conspiracy theories.


The Secret History Of The Iraq War is pure fiction. It is full of one unbelievable story after another. For instance, Bodansky claims that Saddam wanted to pre-empt the American invasion by attacking Israel joined by Syria, Iran, Hezbollah, the Palestinians and even Egypt. Iraq reportedly moved WMD and production equipment into Syria to prepare for the war. The fact that it never happened is never explained as the author is too busy going into the next piece of fiction. Another time the author said that most of Iraq’s WMD equipment was moved to Libya and Sudan in the 1990s. When the U.S. invaded in 2003 the Iraqi forces were armed with WMD but didn’t use it for some unexplained reason. Then Saddam decided to go on the defensive and he sent his WMD to Syria or had his forces bury it in the sand again with no reason why. The remaining infrastructure was also sent to Iran in 2002. Saddam considered Iran the biggest foreign threat to his regime yet Bodansky constantly claims they had a working relationship. The story that Iraq sent its WMD to Syria was also dismissed by the Iraq Survey Group in 2004 but the book doesn’t bring that up. The idea that Iraq sent anything to Sudan and Libya is just laughable.


When the book finally gets around to things that actually happened it links them to more crazy ideas. For example, the start of the insurgency was said to be under the command of Tehran working with Osama bin Laden who was residing in Iran, who then assigned his lieutenant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi to lead it in Iraq. Zarqawi’s bombing of the Jordanian embassy in 2003 is explained as a warning to the Americans not to restore the Hashemite monarchy which Washington was supposedly pushing as an exit strategy. Four weeks later Zarqawi set off a car bomb in Najaf that killed 125 people including Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim. Bodansky wrote this was actually done by Iran because Hakim was no longer loyal to Tehran. None of these things were real. There are so many stories like them it makes your head spin.


Bodansky was so confident in his fairytale that he didn’t provide any footnotes nor a bibliography to back up anything he said. When he does mention sources in the actual text they make little sense. His coverage of the Iraq invasion is solely based upon Russian intelligence, and the Iranian and Iraqi governments. He takes announcements by the Iraqi Information Ministry which claimed the U.S. wasn’t in Baghdad when American forces were sitting at the city’s airport as a reliable source. The first part of the book also relies heavily upon Israeli sources who claimed that nearly every terrorist attack from Israel to Chechnya to Saudi Arabia was connected to Iraq.


What’s even crazier is that the author was not some kind of nut job conspiracy theorist. Bodansky was a consultant to the Defense and State Departments in the 1980s, then became the director of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare from 1988-2004. He was then a director at the International Strategic Studies Association and a visiting scholar at Johns Hopkins University’s Paul Nitze School of Advanced International Studies. This man was helping to write Congressional and think tank reports and teaching students. It does not speak well of any of those institutions that they let this man work for them given what he wrote in The Secret History of the Iraq War. He was detached from reality and yet held senior positions in and out of government.


There is absolutely no reason for any sane person to read this book. The only reason would be for a laugh not to actually learn anything. It’s amazing that something like this could be published but it shows what book companies were willing to release early after the U.S. invasion as so little was known in America about Iraq outside of what the Bush administration claimed. There are some bad books out there but The Secret History of the Iraq War is on another level because it is pure insanity.


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