Book Review: Web of Deceit

By Jim Miles

Web of Deceit – The History of Western Complicity in Iraq From Churchill to Kennedy to George W. Bush.  Barry M. Lando. Doubleday Canada (Random House). 2007.

By now, most literate thinking people will understand that Iraq is fully the creation of a western power and has always been subject either to direct military action or, at best, “complicit” action of many western countries.  Originally created by Great Britain, rising from the mandate rules of the League of Nations, the country is an imperial composite of three former Ottoman regions – Basra, Mosul, and Baghdad.  From this legalized form of colonialism the region has continuously been under some form of action from outside.

Barry Lando’s new book “Web of Deceit” provides an excellent run through of this troubled area’s history.  The original set-up and the lead up to the start of Saddam Hussein’s rule is covered quickly and effectively in the first chapter.  The account of actions by the British and reactions by the local population sound so familiar to what is heard today: an ‘independent’ government, but effectively controlled by the empire’s forces; the use of air war to devastate cities in reprisal for insurgent attacks; the Orientalist and institutionalized imperial racism that rationalizes brutality against the local population; and the use of chemical weapons.  The British must feel right at home today as they continue these actions alongside their rebellious progeny.

By the time the Baath party arrives on the scene, the Americans have become the dominant influence in the region, looking for a means to control the Middle East for its strategic supplies of oil. As the Israeli lobby becomes more effective, this objective becomes entwined with the interests of Israel in eliminating any outside threat towards its survival, an empire ‘lite’ within the American empire of supreme dominance. 

Lando’s literary research and interviews supply an ongoing story of interference within Iraq, a destiny it was destined to hold.  The ‘web of deceit’ – although that is putting it in its mildest form, as strands of lies, ignorance, stupidity, arrogance and immorality would thicken the web immensely – is woven over many governments, many politicians and military leaders, many business people, from many diverse sectors of the world.

A wide variety of players helped establish Saddam in power.  The CIA as usual had its role in Iraq, helping organize and finance the initial revolutionary government that ended up with Saddam Hussein in power.  After that lists of “communists” were supplied to the new government in order to eliminate them and the supposed Soviet threat. Many outside oil interests became involved within the country and many others supplied a wide variety of modern armaments – French Mirage jets, West German missiles, an Italian navy, Brazilian armored cars and trucks, a Belgian ‘fertilizer’ plant that supported chemical weapons production.  Finally, Saddam wanted nuclear weapons and found assistance from the French and an Italian subsidiary of Fiat.  He had achieved his goal of apparent Middle East strongman, having viciously used these outside materials to tame the rebellious Kurds.

The ten-year war with Iran involved the full complicity of these countries as well as others.  Saudi Arabia served as interlocutor for the Americans as did Jordan’s King Hussein.  Israel and the U.S. were complicit in designing the plan of attack.  For the Americans, and the Israelis, their overall plan of attack was a war of attrition, both hoping that Iran and Iraq would destroy themselves in ongoing attacks and counter attacks.  With that end, supplies and intelligence crossed the boundaries many times much to the benefit of global arms dealers – Israel, Austria, South Africa, Chile, Great Britain, Argentina all added their names to the web of deceit and complicity in Iraq’s war crimes.

The use of torture, the use of chemical weapons, and the attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure are all war crimes committed by Saddam and the Iraqi military, making the above-mentioned nations guilty in their support of those actions.  Ironically it is now mainly the British and Americans that are directly guilty of the same war crimes as they bring ‘free market capitalism and democracy’ to the ‘liberated’ country. 

The story continues along all too familiar lines, with more attacks on the Kurds, the subsequent invasion of Kuwait and the manipulative calls for Shiites and Kurds to rebel once more, followed by the long years of UN sanctions that again constitute crimes against humanity.  It has not ended, as the American occupying forces are well in to their fourth year of occupation, an occupation that now follows the familiar pattern of the invader blaming the local citizens for all their problems. 

Within that past eighty years western interests “promoted coups, exploited resources, financed revolts, sold billions of dollars of arms to Iraq and its enemies and throttled the country with economic sanctions.”  Invading the country on the pretext of finding weapons of mass destruction, they created for now an “unmitigated disaster”.  The real threat is neither terrorists nor weapons of mass destruction, but according to Lando would be to allow “the people of Iraq a real choice in their future.  What counted was which local leaders would gain control of the region and its resources and how amenable they would be to great power interests….The past eighty years of history certainly proved the point.” 

Enough evidence is provided in Web of Deceit to fully support Lando’s thesis of deceit and complicity.  It is a very accessible read, with many good reference points to show the long history of western interference in the Middle East.  The war crimes of the western powers, supported by many former imperialist powers under the guise of various rhetorical apologetics from politicians, the military, business, and religion, will hopefully be constrained by the rising tide of global anger against not only the American empire, but the lingering aspects of empire in many other areas of the world.

-Jim Miles is a Canadian educator and a regular contributor of opinion pieces and book reviews to Palestine Chronicles.  His interest in this topic stems originally from an environmental perspective, which encompasses the militarization and economic subjugation of the global community and its commodification by corporate governance and by the American government. 

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