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A Poisonous Affair: America, Iraq, and the Gassing of Halabja (Hardback)
  • A Poisonous Affair: America, Iraq, and the Gassing of Halabja (Hardback)
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A Poisonous Affair: America, Iraq, and the Gassing of Halabja (Hardback)

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£29.99
Hardback 346 Pages / Published: 18/06/2007
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In March 1988, during the Iran-Iraq war, thousands were killed in a chemical attack in a remote town in Iraqi Kurdistan. In the aftermath of the horror, confusion reigned over who had carried it out, each side accusing the other in the ongoing bloodbath of the Iran-Iraq war. As the fog lifted, the responsibility of Saddam Hussein's regime was revealed, and with it the tacit support of Iraq's western allies. This book by a veteran observer of human rights in the Middle East tells the story of the gassing of Halabja. It shows how Iraq was able to develop ever-more sophisticated chemical weapons and target Iranian soldiers and Kurdish villagers as America looked the other way. Today, as Iraq disintegrates and the Middle East sinks further into turmoil, these policies are coming back to haunt America and the West.

Publisher: Cambridge University Press
ISBN: 9780521876865
Number of pages: 346
Weight: 610 g
Dimensions: 234 x 160 x 25 mm


MEDIA REVIEWS
'... comprehensive and powerful delineation not only of what happened that day but of all those who helped bring it about.' Andrew Cockburn, The Nation
'The tragedy of Halabja, and the larger story of Iraqi use of the gas weapon against both Iranians and Kurds in the eighties, leaves the reader with ... a sense of desolation. Joost Hiltermann tells the story without recourse to condemnatory prose, all the more effectively for that. Through study of documents, including those newly available after the invasion of Iraq in 2003, and interviews with former Iraqi, Iranian, Kurdish and American officers, politicians, soldiers, and others, he has put together the most complete reconstruction of Halabja, and the events around it we are likely to get. He also explores consequences still with us today.' Martin Woollacott (commentator on international affairs for the Guardian), Frontline Club
'Here is a model of investigative reporting. Hiltermann has tracked down seemingly every available source, weighed conflicting accounts in the record, and provided a dispassionate accounting. His conclusions are that during the Iran-Iraq War Iraq used chemical weapons early and often, whereas Iran essentially did not, if only because it lacked the capacity to do so effectively. ... During these war years, the United States, intent on making sure that Iran did not prevail, moved toward ever more active support of Iraq and refrained from any meaningful condemnation of the Iraqi use of chemical weapons. Hiltermann concludes that the fallout of these developments has been an enhanced readiness among states to stock and prepare to use weapons of mass destruction, an Iran set on never again being without such weapons, and a determination by the Kurds to never again be subject to rule from Baghdad.' L. Carl Brown, Foreign Affairs
'Joost R. Hiltermann, a former Human Rights Watch investigator ... traces America's current predicament to its collusion with Saddam Hussein during the eight-year Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s and America's silence over his repeated use of chemical weapons.' Washington Post
'Here is a model of investigative reporting.' Foreign Affairs
"Joost Hiltermann has written an authoritative account of the real use of weapons of mass destruction in the contemporary Middle East - Saddam Hussein's massive use of chemical weapons against Iran in the 1980s. His research documents with great persuasiveness not only Iraqi crimes but also the culpability of those in the international community who carefully looked the other way or tacitly collaborated. " Gary Sick, former member of the National Security Council staff, Director of the Gulf/2000 Project, Columbia University
"In A Poisonous Affair Joost Hiltermann has crafted a gripping narrative out of some of the most chilling events of the last two decades. But A Poisonous Affair is not simply a rigorous and important piece of history. By revisiting Saddam Hussein's worst massacre and the US response to it, Hilterman masterfully excavates the roots of our current predicament. He shows how the traumatization of the Kurds spawned their mistrust of all things Iraqi, fueling the separatism of the present. He reveals the degree to which America's support for Saddam while he was gassing his own people bred fierce and lasting skepticism about whether Washington could be trusted in the region. And he demonstrates how America's indifference to Saddam's chemical attacks on Iran helped convince Iran to go it alone, and to acquire its own weapons of mass destruction. Hilterman has given us a necessary book about a ghastly crime, the legacy of which we will be managing for decades to come." Samantha Power, Harvard University, and author of A Problem from Hell": America and the Age of Genocide
"Joost Hiltermann is one of the Iraq observers that journalists and policymakers count on most for historical memory and acute analysis. In A Poisonous Affair he has produced a gracefully written and timely reminder that the combination of weapons of mass destruction, geo-political mendacity, and vast human suffering has a rich history in Iraq. The story of Halabja reveals at once why the regime of Saddam Hussein deserved to fall and why America was a dubious agent of its demise." George Packer, author of The Assassins' Gate: America in Iraq
"[A] comprehensive and powerful delineation not only of what happened that day but of all those who helped bring it about...Although Hiltermann's overall account of the background to Halabja is indispensable, it is his theme of witting US complicity, backed by years of meticulous research, that strikes the most chilling note." - Andrew Cockburn, The Nation
"Hiltermann's A Poisonous Affair is a chilling account of the gassing of Halabja, a village in Iraq's Kurdish region, in March 1988 and the subsequent counterinsurgency campaign known as Anfal ("The Spoils"), in which some 80,000 Kurdish civilians were driven from their homes by poison gas, hauled to transit centers, sorted by age and sex, and carted off to execution sites in Iraq's western desert." - The Washington Post
"Here is a model of investigative reporting. Hiltermann has tracked down seemingly every available source, weighed conflicting accounts in the record, and provided a dispassionate accounting. His conclusions are that during the Iran-Iraq War, which lasted from 1980 to 1988, Iraq used chemical weapons early and often, whereas Iran essentially did not, if only because it lacked the capacity to do so effectively. Iraq's use of chemical weapons reached a horrible crescendo in early 1988, a few months before the end of the war, with the notorious Anfal campaign against its own Kurdish citizens in and around the town of Halabja, which resulted in the slaughter of likely well over 100,000 people. During these war years, the United States, intent on making sure that Iran did not prevail, moved toward ever more active support of Iraq and refrained from any meaningful condemnation of the Iraqi use of chemical weapons. Hiltermann concludes that the fallout of these developments has been an enhanced readiness among states to stock and prepare to use weapons of mass destruction, an Iran set on never again being without such weapons, and a determination by the Kurds to never again be subject to rule from Baghdad. - Foreign Affairs
"Here is a model of investigative reporting." - L. Carol Brown, Foreign Affairs
"The book is meticulously researched." Mike Amitay, Middle East Journal
"Hiltermann recounts the events surrounding the Halabja massacre in detail, highlighting the confusion the followed the attacks..." -Michael Rubin, Middle East Quarterly
"...the book makes a positive contribution in understanding the complex results emanating from the mingling of regional and international groups with the affairs of other states and the communities which live with them." - Magid Shihade, Canadian Journal of History

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