In This Review

Cruelty and Silence: War, Tyranny, Uprising, and the Arab World
Cruelty and Silence: War, Tyranny, Uprising, and the Arab World
By Kanan Makiya
W. W. Norton and Co., 1993, 256 pp

The author of Republic of Fear, now writing under his real name, has raised issues that are all too often ignored by Arab writers. Why is it, he asks, that the violence and oppression so common in Arab politics is seemingly tolerated by Arab intellectuals or blamed on outsiders? Why does the human tragedy that has befallen the Kurds get so little attention compared to the suffering of the Palestinians? The author draws heavily on the case of modern Iraq, and is at his most convincing when he describes Saddam Hussein's near-genocidal Anfal campaign against the Kurds in 1988. The first part of the book is largely a catalogue of horrors, the second part condemns the "politics of silence" on the part of the knowledgeable Arab intelligentsia that chooses not to speak. On occasion, the author seems to be settling old scores with his critics, but his general point is a serious one all the same. On balance, the book is less analytical and more passionate than his previous work, and succeeds better in raising issues than in explaining them. Bound to stir controversy among Middle East specialists, this book deserves to be read--and answered.