In This Review

The Reckoning: Iraq and the Legacy of Saddam Hussein
The Reckoning: Iraq and the Legacy of Saddam Hussein
By Sandra Mackey
W. W. Norton, 2002, 415 pp

This book starts by offering an engaging survey of Iraq from its early history up to the 1960s and then dives into a more detailed treatment of Saddam Hussein's rule. The title reveals Mackey's purpose: a review of the tortuous history of U.S.-Iraqi relations to explain why America is still trying to settle accounts today. Her own take on these stormy decades rightly stresses Saddam Hussein's ruthlessness. But she also criticizes the U.S. record, which included colluding with Pahlavi Iran to support Iraqi Kurds in the 1970s and then abandoning them, cozying up to Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War, and opting for "dual containment" of Iran and Iraq after the 1991 Persian Gulf War. Now, she writes, Washington is planning to "take out" Saddam Hussein while ignoring the deep-seated regional antipathy to America's long-standing pro-Israeli policy. She also cites the many domestic Iraqi problems hampering any possible move toward a better regime. An interpretation not to the taste of Washington hawks, but well informed and well presented.