From Dictatorship to Democracy: An Insider's Account of the Iraqi Opposition to Saddam

From Dictatorship to Democracy: An Insider's Account of the Iraqi Opposition to Saddam

From Dictatorship to Democracy: An Insider's Account of the Iraqi Opposition to Saddam

From Dictatorship to Democracy: An Insider's Account of the Iraqi Opposition to Saddam


Selected by Choice magazine as an Outstanding Academic Title for 2011

Today, Hamid al-Bayati serves as Iraqi ambassador to the United Nations. But for many years he lived in exile in London, where he worked with other opponents of Saddam Hussein's regime to make a democratic and pluralistic Iraq a reality. As former Western spokesman for the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), and as a member of the executive council of the Iraqi National Congress, two of the main groups opposing Saddam's regime, he led campaigns to alert the world to human rights violations in Iraq and win support from the international community for the removal of Saddam.

An important Iraqi diplomat and member of Iraq's majority Shia community, he offers firsthand accounts of the meetings and discussions he and other Iraqi opponents to Saddam held with American and British diplomats from 1991 to 2004. Drawn from al-Bayati's personal archives of meeting minutes and correspondence, From Dictatorship to Democracy takes readers through the history of the opposition.

We learn the views and actions of principal figures, such as SCIRI head Sayyid Mohammed Baqir Al-Hakeem and the other leaders of the Iraqi National Congress, Ahmed Chalabi and his Kurdish counterparts, Masound Barzani and Jalal Talabani. Al-Bayati vividly captures their struggle to unify in the face of not only Saddam's harsh and bloody repression but also an unresponsive and unmotivated international community. Al-Bayati's efforts in the months before and after the U.S. invasion also put him in direct contact with key U.S. figures such as Zalmay Khalilzad and L. Paul Bremer and at the center of the debates over returning Iraq to self-government quickly and creating the foundation for a secure and stable state.

Al-Bayati was both eyewitness to and actor in the dramatic struggle to remove Saddam from power. In this unique historical document, he provides detailed recollections of his work on behalf of a democratic Iraq that reflect the hopes and frustrations of the Iraqi people.


For most Americans, the Iraq War was all about us. President George W. Bush saw the war as a noble American venture to give the Iraqi people the gift of freedom. The neoconservatives who dominated the Pentagon and the National Security Council in the early years of the Bush administration had lofty ambitions of transforming not only Iraq but the entire the Middle East into liberal democracies in line with their own ideological precepts. L. Paul Bremer, the man Bush named as the U.S. administrator of occupied Iraq, boasted that he had promulgated 100 laws, many designed by neoconservative activists—as if laws without effect beyond the Green Zone constituted an achievement.

Similarly, American opponents of the war have primarily been interested in scoring points against President Bush and his underlings (admittedly a target-rich environment) in the context of the domestic American political debate. In all this, the Iraqis have often been just bit players in the many Western books written about the war. The most popular works about the Iraq War have focused on decision-making in Washington and have featured American generals and politicians. Others have portrayed the heroism and suffering of American servicemen and women. To the extent that Iraqis have figured significantly in the American and British books, they have been the interpreters and expeditors for American journalists whose personal stories and often tragic ends make for compelling reading.

In this intellectual environment, Americans understandably have had little understanding—and little sympathy—for the people who now run Iraq. For most Americans, Iraq’s new leaders magically appeared on the scene after the United States ousted Saddam Hussein, and they are for the most part a quarrelsome and ineffective lot. Sadly, it is not just the American public that is ignorant of the origins of Iraq’s current leaders. They were, with few exceptions, almost unknown to the U.S. policy-makers who tried to engineer Iraq’s postwar governance.

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