Laura (Los Angeles CA)
Looking for Answers
Wendell Steavenson explores an age old question - why do people follow bad leaders even against their better judgment?
She follows the career of one of Saddam's Generals interviewing his family and colleagues, using their stories to illuminate Iraq's descent into years of warfare and dictatorship.
I was disappointed at the lack of any real analysis of how Iraq came to accept brutality as a method of governance. Her writing style seemed very unfocused and meandering at times, getting the General's story across but not really allowing us to learn much in the process.
That being said, I would still recommend this book for anyone looking for an easy to read history of Iraq leading up to the invasion. There are plenty of other books on the subject if you're looking for a deeper social and political analysis.
Karen (Dedham MA)
I have tried several times to get "into" the book. I keep saying I want to read this book, but I find myself procrastinating. It's not a bad book, but I just didn't like the style. A lot of information about the wars between Iran and Iraq and the Americans. I guess you could call it Historical Truth. I did not finish the book.
Sharon (Rome GA)
Iraq's Descent into Terror
This book is the story of life in Iraq under the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, as told by the family and friends of a general under his command.
The general, Kamel Satchet, was a hero of the Iran-Iraq war, but later became reluctant to follow the orders of an increasingly brutal and unbalanced leader. His military career is related through interviews with his widow, his oldest daughter who was never allowed to marry, his second son who studied to be an imam, and several generals and other military men who had known and served with General Satchet. Some of these individuals were living in Iraq when the author interviewed them. She had to disguise herself as an Iraqi woman and take other precautions to avoid being kidnapped as a foreign journalist.
I could not put this book down. It is a chilling account of the internal destruction of a country and its culture. It is a very timely topic and offers insights not seen in the usual media outlets. The stories are presented as told and the reader can draw his/her own conclusions. A glossary at the back of the book was very helpful with definitions of different political and religious factions and individuals.
Beverly, Palm Harbor, FL. (Palm Harbor FL)
This book could have been so much more, if only to put a human face on our "enemies". It does give the reader a sense of how Saddam was able to make Iraq into his personal fiefdom; it did not convey to me how Gen. Sachet's turnaround "moral journey " evolved. The chronological sequence of events, told through different interviews (family, military peers) becomes very confusing. Ms Steavenson's subject remains an enigma. I would not recommend this book.
Marie (Warner NH)
An Iraqi General's Dilemma
Wendell Steavenson reveals the book's main character, Kamel Sachet, through interviews she conducted with fellow military peers, associates, friends, and family members. Sadly, death has silenced Sachet; therefore, his voice is never heard.
Through these interviews, Sachet's personality, character, motivations, and actions are revealed. Not only is he revealed but the author also reveals aspects of Iraq, its struggles, and its people.
Steavenson's book is not necessarily filled with new facts of Iraq under Saddam, but one which reinforces accounts of the brutality and atrocities during Saddam's reign of terror. His brutal actions affected not only those on the receiving end but also those meting out the deadly punishments. It was most interesting to read the first hand accounts of what motivated Saddam's military to comply with his orders and their regret in their complicity. In the words of Dr. Laith, a senior Iraqi army physician, "I felt the lie, but I could not say anything or they would cut my neck." He further states, "I would do my best as an officer with my duties and then I would come home and speak against the regime. All Iraqis have two characters. It was the only way to survive." Though we never hear the words from Sachet's lips, he too was torn between conflicting loyalties--the soldier's duty to his country and Saddam and his duty to his family and to his moral sense.
For more, I recommend that you read the book.
Heather (Orlando FL)
Disorganized and Poorly Written
Though this book was ostensibly about General Kamal Sachet and his experiences as a favorite commander of Saddam Hussein, it would be more accurately described as the broader story of those men who collaborated with the dangerous whims and policies of Saddam. I thought that the book was written very sloppily and disjointedly. The story arrangement was also choppy and disorganized.