Committee Against Repression and for Democratic Rights in Iraq, Saddam’s Iraq: Revolution Or Reaction? (London: Zed Books, 1986).
This book fills an important gap in the works that have been published on Iraq in the West. Here a number of scholars from Britain and Iraq survey the economic, class and ideological bases of the present Iraqi regime and its impact on Iraqi society.
Some of these authors are well known to MERIP readers. Isam al-Khafaji reintroduces (chapter 4) his thesis that the Baathist regime in Iraq has, since 1968, actively encouraged capitalist development. This, in turn, has led to the growth of a “parasitic” bourgeoisie (primarily contractors, brokers and speculators). Khafaji argues that this bourgeoisie, with its strong links to the multinational companies, has come to represent the major social base of the Iraqi regime. Here Khafaji raises a new question concerning the “economic function of the war.” He argues that the Iranian revolution came at a time when the Iraqi regime was growing bolder in its attempts to widen its economic and political hegemony over the Gulf. One of Iraq’s “major problems was that almost all her oil export outlets involved crossing other countries.” Baghdad was determined to “settle” the control of the Gulf for good. Though this short chapter only outlines the economic causes of the war, it represents an important contribution, since most writers have concentrated on the political and historical side of the conflict.
Marion Farouk-Sluglett and Peter Sluglett’s article surveys the history and ideology of Iraqi Baathism, the origins of Arab nationalism, the ideas of men like Sati‘ al-Husri, Michel ‘Aflaq and the creation of the Baath Party in 1944 (1951 in Iraq). Baathist ideology, in their view, has “become the cult of [Saddam Hussein’s] personality.” Peter Sluglett’s additional chapter on the Kurds of Iraq surveys the major political events in modern Kurdish history, but does not sufficiently deal with major social or economic issues in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Deborah Cobbett’s article (chapter 7) sheds some light on the history of Iraqi women from Ottoman times to the present. She discusses the formation of the League for the Defense of Women’s Rights and its key role in fighting for greater equality as well as participating in the overall political struggles of the country. Concerning the regime’s slogan of “women’s liberation,” Cobbett cites the Iraqi observation that “in Iraq women have been granted equal rights with men only in detention and torture.”
Though the Iraqi regime’s gross violations of human rights have been well documented by human rights organizations worldwide, the interview with an “Iraqi mother” (chapter 6) brings the reader down from abstract formulations like “extreme repression” and “lack of fundamental human rights” to the real world of how Iraqis feel and live. Through the testimony of this simple woman we get a look at the hideous mentality of the Saddam Hussein regime and its war of terror against the Iraqi people.
Saddam’s Iraq goes a great way toward uncovering the fascistic nature of this regime that Washington now regards as “friendly.” This book’s perspective is openly one of opposition. The opposition in Iraq today includes such a wide variety of people that even those with a very elementary concern for human rights could be counted within it. It is precisely due to the extreme repression that exists in that country that this voice of the opposition is so important to hear.