Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

IRAQ-Iraq in Wartime: Soldiering, Martyrdom, and Remembrance

Academic journal article The Middle East Journal

IRAQ-Iraq in Wartime: Soldiering, Martyrdom, and Remembrance

Article excerpt

IRAQ Iraq in Wartime: Soldiering, Martyr- dom, and Remembrance, by Dina Rizk Khoury. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2013. 298 pages. $85 cloth; $29.99 paper.

Dina Khoury's much anticipated study, Iraq in Wartime: Soldiering, Martyrdom and Remembrance, fills an important lacuna in the history of modern Iraq. Iraq expe- rienced the 20th century's longest war in its eight-year conflict with Iran (1980-88). The war's devastation was exacerbated by the Gulf War of 1991, the subsequent March 1991 Intifada, and the UN sanctions regime (1991-2003). Following the 2003 US inva- sion, violent internecine warfare ravaged Arab Iraq until 2008. It is no exaggeration to say that Iraq has experienced the most de- structive warfare and violence of any coun- try in the Middle East during the last quarter of the 20th and beginning of the 21st century.

To have an in-depth study of the impact of war on Iraq is to be welcomed, especially one that is conceptually nuanced, thorough- ly researched and draws upon newly avail- able archives. As with Joseph Sassoon's excellent study, Saddam Hussein's Ba'th Party, the author relies heavily on the Iraq Memory Foundation Archives at Stanford University's Hoover Institution. Professor Khoury is aware of the ethical issues in us- ing the archive, based on how it was trans- ferred to the United States, and sympathetic to Iraq's desire to have the archive returned. Nevertheless, she offers a cogent argument for the need to utilize its documents to gain insights into the functioning of Iraq's ancien regime, a position with which I fully agree.

In addition to new archival material, Pro- fessor Khoury relies on a large number of in- terviews with Iraqis who experienced the wars and violence of the 1980s and 1990s. These interviews are telling; they provide a human dimension to the official and dry tone of the memoranda written by the myriad agents of the Ba'thist regime's repressive bureaucracy.

Iraq in Wartime's first two chapters of- fer a history of the Iran-Iraq and Gulf wars and the 1991 Intifada that provides the nec- essary historical contextualization for the study, especially for the non-Iraq specialist. The subsequent chapters convey the results of the incredible effort that the regime orga- nized to oversee and control Iraq's citizenry during two wars and the UN sanctions re- gime (1991-2003). In these sections of the book, the extent to which authoritarian rule consistently seeks to document its oppres- sion is forcefully driven home.

The reader is not only impressed by the tremendous effort that was devoted to social control, but the waste of national resources that could have been used instead to promote Iraq's social and economic development. Having first conducted research in Iraq in May and June of 1980, I was repelled by Ba'thist authoritarianism, but nevertheless impressed by the tremendous development that was underway, including electrification of villages and efforts to eradicate women's illiteracy, even in remote villages. All this effort was subsequently subordinated to an unnecessary war that would ultimately, in 2003, leave Iraq in shambles.

One of Professor Khoury's most impor- tant contributions is to foreground three cam- paigns that were waged simultaneously dur- ing the Iran-Iraq War. …

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