I've had the book from John Simpson, The Wars Against Saddam: Taking the Hard Road to Baghdad, on my shelves for some time now and hadn't read it mainly because I have the hardback edition and hate taking a hardback on the London tube. I finally opened it at the week-end and realised how much I had been missing. Once I had started, I could not close this book. John Simpson, the BBC's World Affairs Editor, is one of the most respected journalists on the planet and one of the most knowledgeable persons on international politics in general and Iraq in particular. He takes you through 40 years of history, from the rise of a young Saddam Hussein to power in the 70s to his downfall at the hands of the USA in 2003, via the Iran-Iraq war, the invasion of Kuwait and the subsequent war, the 12 years of international sanctions and the last war.
Simpson relates his tale in the first person, describing and explaining why and how things happened from his point of view. However, he tries to stay completely objective by only giving the facts without judging or excusing anybody for their actions. As a result, there is very little speculation, everything is hard facts that he has lived or verified himself as part of his job and the reader is left to draw whatever conclusions he wants. This is what good journalism is all about and it is what makes this book a compelling read.
This is a tale that has no godlike hero nor evil villain. It is a tale of ordinary and extraordinary people, miscalculations, misunderstanding, lost opportunities, political games, greed, murders and lies but with a sense of hope for the future. The overall feeling after closing this book is that there is not one single person to blame for the wars and suffering; all in all, Iraq will be better without Saddam Hussein; but the elections of Sunday could and should have happened in 1991, saving the Iraqi population 12 years of sanctions and privations.