AIR POWER HISTORY
By Dr. Mark D. Mandeles
STUDY OF REVENGE: SADDAM HUSSEIN'S UNFINISHED WAR AGAINST AMERICA
By Laurie Mylroie, Washington DC, The AEI Press, 2000. Photographs. Index. Pp 321 $24.95
“Study of Revenge: Saddam Hussein's Unfinished War Against America” is a 'must read' for the U.S.
national security community and especially for the new George W. Bush foreign policy and defense
team. Over the last eight years, Clinton Administration national security officials argued that loose
networks of “non-state actors”—for example, extremists such as Islamic Jihad and Osama bin Laden—
were responsible for violent attacks on Americans. Laurie Mylroie, an expert in Middle Eastern politics,
societies and culture, and publisher of the on-line newsletter “Iraq News,” explodes this argument. She
argues that recent horrific acts of terrorism committed against American citizens and interests are more
likely to have been ordered by Saddam Hussein and organized by Iraqi intelligence officials. Mylroie
acknowledges that some Muslim extremists, particularly Osama bin Laden, may cooperate with Iraq on
particular missions. However, the capabilities and resources of a state, which range from diplomatic
privileges to the organizational ability to coordinate diverse activities, are much greater than those that
may be built and commanded by non-state actors.
Mylroie performs the type of analysis of the World Trade Center bombing and the attempted bombing
of the New York City United Nations building that one would have hoped the U.S. government had
done. She meticulously examines telephone, passport, and airline records to demonstrate that the U.
S. Department of Justice (DoJ) prosecution of the cases was flawed conceptually. The DoJ
prematurely decided—that is, before evidence was gathered and analyzed—that the World Trade
Center bombing was a criminal act of individuals. Little DoJ effort was made to examine the evidence in
the context of whether there was a state sponsor, nor did the DoJ seek to apply the resources of
national security agencies to determine who organized the attack. Hence, the way the prosecution
conceived and “bureaucratically compartmented” the case prevented achieving an understanding of
who masterminded the terrorist acts. It is ironic that James Steinberg, deputy national security adviser
from December 1996 to August 2000, recently lamented the lack of interagency coordination for
dealing the problems such as terrorism (“The Washington Post,” January 2, 2001. Page A15). He
concluded that, “Organization cannot replace strategic thinking. But bad organization can make it
difficult to respond imaginatively and effectively to the needs of today.” Applied to the Clinton
Administration's Iraq policy, Mylroie would agree: policy has been plagued by an abundance of bad
strategic thinking and bad organization.
This reviewer believes that Mylroie has correctly pinpointed Saddam Hussein as the source of terrorist
attacks on Americans, including the World Trade Center bombing and the attempted assassination of
former President George H.W. Bush. The Clinton Administration, wittingly or unwittingly, has chosen
the path of self-delusion: to not investigate the matter seriously. In this way, unpleasant policy options
have not been articulated and discussed. Yet, the failure of U.S. officials to address the question of
state sponsorship of terrorism will have significant consequences. It encourages future terrorist
attacks by eliminating the costs of retribution from the calculations of leaders such as Saddam Hussein.
The decision by President George H. W. Bush and his aides, in February 1991, to allow Saddam
Hussein to remain in office and not to fully destroy Saddam's military forces, has bedeviled the foreign
policy of President Bill Clinton. Americans may have thought the war was over, but Saddam Hussein
does not agree: economic sanctions remain and American and British aircraft attack selected sites.
Indeed, Saddam continues his program to acquire and stockpile nuclear, chemical and biological
weapons (and the means to deliver them), just as he threatens the U.S., its interests, and its allies. A
cursory examination of Saddam's speeches, as translated by the Foreign Broadcast Information
Service, shows that the Iraqi dictator routinely threatens the U.S. Saddam is telling his listeners, clearly
and directly, his intentions.
In the book's penultimate paragraph Mylroie concludes: “Given how decisive America's defeat of Iraq
seemed in 1991, Saddam has accomplished a significant part of his program. He has secured the
critical goal of ending UN weapons inspections, and he is now free to rebuild an arsenal of
unconventional armaments. He has also succeeded in thoroughly confusing America as to the nature
of the terrorist threat it has faced since the World Trade Center bombing. He is free, it would appear,
to carry out more terrorist attacks—possibly even unconventional terrorism, as long as he can make it
appear to be the work of a loose network of Muslim extremists.” Thus, Laurie Mylroie predicts Saddam
Hussein will continue to attack American citizens and interests. At a minimum, we should expect
attempted bombings and other attacks in the year 2001—and beyond. What is to be done?
The dust jacket of Study of Revenge lists well-earned laudatory comments from former Director of
Central Intelligence R. James Woolsey, former Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard N. Perle, former
Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Paul Wolfowitz, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations
Jeanne J. Kirkpatrick, former CIA chief of counterterrorism Vincent Cannistraro, and the former director
of the New York FBI Office, James M. Fox. Study of Revenge reads well and it sets a new high
standard for investigative literature. It is the product of thorough and painstaking research, and its
conclusions are sobering.
Dr. Mark D. Mandeles, The J. de Bloch Group, Fairfax, Virginia.