How to punish a rogue regime raises a genuine moral dilemma, for one wants to punish the dictator, not the populace; yet the leadership can always protect its interests even as the national economy free falls. Contemporary Iraq, where Saddam Husayn is quite prepared to use the suffering of his people as a propaganda tool to advance his aims, poses this dilemma with special sharpness.
But Simons, the former chief editor of a major publishing house, sullies this moral issue by apologizing for nearly all of Saddam's human rights abuses. He falls for the Iraqi big lie-that the United States, not Saddam, is to blame for Iraqi suffering. Simons justifies Saddam's invasion of Kuwait and ignores his slaughter of Iraqi Kurds, then rails at length about U.S. genocide against Iraqis. Simons blithely ignores whatever he finds inconvenient and rides over moral subtleties. He is outraged at any restrictions on Iraq's imports but misses the point (made by Rolf Ekéus) that, by not cooperating with the United Nations inspection regime, Saddam has forgone $100 billion in oil export revenues in the 1991-97 period. Simons devotes pages to detailed arguments showing U.S. war crimes against Iraq, then makes no mention of Saddam's use of chemical weapons. His seeming scholarship-the original source documents, technical details, many footnotes-could mislead the reader into thinking him a serious analyst. It is depressing to read such trash.