Bazzaz provides his second insider's account (his first War and the One After, came out in 1993) of the failure of political decision making in Ba`thist Iraq, a failure that led to the Kuwait war and "the most humiliating conditions of submission in history."
During the late 1980s, Bazzaz represented the new technocratic, liberalizing -- dare one say, "pro-Western" -- side of the Ba`th Party in Iraq. His was the youngest generation to be pushed to the forefront of public affairs by Saddam Husayn during the grueling years of the Iraq-Iran War. Men like him became polished diplomats and improved the newspapers. From time to time, they actually succeeded in cutting down on the number of Saddam Husayn's pictures and the amount of time his presence was on the air, and in scaling back on the nauseating fatuousness in the adulatory children's songs that had to be shown on Iraqi television. These young men were intelligent, well-read, and worldly, and they achieved considerable popularity among middle-class circles in Baghdad. A future Gorbachev of the Iraqi Ba`th might even have arisen from among them. But it was not to be. The Old Guard, marked by its anti-urban "backward peasant values," extended the language of violence that had become the norm inside Iraq to its relations with the outside world. Thus was born the second Gulf war and the catastrophe Iraq finds itself living through today.
Bazzaz's book still smacks of Ba`thi values; in addition, it is far too long and meandering, full of little diplomatic stories with no lasting value. Still, his is an important and genuinely patriotic voice driven by an anger at every attempt -- especially those of the Ba`thist leadership -- to put the blame for the catastrophe on the people of Iraq.