La question irakienne
by Pierre-Jean Luizard
Paris: Fayard, 2002. 366 pp. 20, paper.
Reviewed by Patrick Clawson
Middle East Quarterly
Americans are prone to think of the French as reflexively anti-American, inventing conspiracy theories and twisting facts to fit a preconceived image. French intellectuals have established a reputation for seeing America as a force for evil, aiding oppressors, stirring up wars, and exploiting Third World peoples.
Luizard's book fits this reputation perfectly. No contortion is too tortured for him in the pursuit of blaming America for every ill to befall Iraq. For instance, consider Saddam's massive military machine: Luizard writes repeatedly about the American role in arming Iraq, and it would take a particularly careful reading to notice that the United States never actually sold Iraq arms (it sold some items with dual military and civilian uses). Meanwhile, he has exactly two references to the billions in dollars of arms France sold Iraq. Even then he blames America, writing, "The Americans even permitted the French to deliver Super-Etendard [fighter planes] to Baghdad." Paris asks Washington's permission before selling French arms to other countries? That's a good one.
What is so discouraging is that this drivel comes from a great scholar of modern Iraq. Luizard's 1991 book on the Shi‘ites in early twentieth century Iraq, La Formation de l'Irak contemporaine: Le rôle politique des ulémas chiites à la fin de la domination ottomane et au moment de la création de l'État irakien, is a true masterpiece. And Luizard clearly knows modern Iraq; the present book has a fascinating fifty-page chapter about the Iraqi opposition to Saddam, including movements rarely analyzed, such as the Sunni religious opposition and the communists. But his main theme—detailed in two chapters totaling seventy pages, but running throughout the text—is American responsibility for Saddam's crimes.
La question irakienne is the main book available in French about contemporary Iraq. It seems fair to say that French government policy is well in tune with the views of France's leading expert on Iraq.
 Paris: Editions du CNRS, 1991.
Related Topics: Iraq | Patrick Clawson | Summer 2003 MEQ
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