by Hans Blix
New York: Pantheon Books, 2004. 285 pp. $24.
Reviewed by Patrick Clawson
The Washington Institute for Near East Policy
Middle East Quarterly
Blix has produced a straightforward, easy-to-read account of the U.N.'s Iraq inspections and the crisis at the U.N. in the lead-up to the 2003 Iraq war. With its clear style and blunt but polite language, his book will be much appreciated by those critical of that war.
In a book so full of criticism of others, however, there is remarkably little self-criticism. For instance, the attitude of key Washington decision-makers towards Blix was much affected by his role in the International Atomic Energy Agency's Iraq inspections pre-1990. Blix describes the IAEA's activities in that period in a mere page and a half, without a single reference to his own role as the organization's head at that time and with some incomplete references to how far Iraq had gotten with its nuclear programs. Blix asks why U.S. and British leaders listened "so little and, in the cases of Mr. Cheney and Mr. Wolfowitz, seem to have had such disdain for the assessments and analyses of the IAEA." Perhaps part of the reason is that IAEA under Blix's leadership had been so wrong for so long about Iraqi activities before 1990.
Blix writes at length about his poor relations with Washington, implying that the fault lies with the crazed ideologues of the Bush administration. But Blix pays no attention at all to U.S. concerns that the inspection process was diverting attention from the nonproliferation goal; in plain English, that sustaining the process had become the main objective, rather than achieving the original aim. Washington saw inspections as a useful way to verify the detailed and compete declaration of weapons of mass destruction activities Baghdad was obligated to produce; in the absence of such a declaration, the inspectors could not find what Iraq had hidden, given the vastness of the country. One would search Disarming Iraq hard and long for any acknowledgment by Blix of this American concern. The author would have done better to repeat his 1992 assessment, "Without information about the location of possibly hidden nuclear material and installations, no meaningful inspections are possible."
Related Topics: Iraq | Patrick Clawson | Spring 2005 MEQ
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