Thursday, March 13, 2003

Buildup of books on Iraq

History, politics, fiction on shelves

By Hillel Italie
The Associated Press

When a customer enters the Politics & Prose bookstore, and wants to learn more about Iraq, store owner Carla Cohen has a number of suggestions.

• David Fromkin's A Peace to End All Peace, a general history of the Middle East.

Republic of Fear, Kanan Makiya's analysis of contemporary Iraq.

• Bernard Lewis' The Middle East: A Brief of History of the Last 2,000 Years.

"I just lay out all the materials for them and let the customer decide," says Cohen, a leading independent bookseller whose store is based in Washington, D.C.

Readers at Politics & Prose and elsewhere are also buying Kenneth Pollack's The Threatening Storm, which calls for Saddam Hussein's ouster. Others have sought out such anti-war books as War on Iraq, featuring an interview with former U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter.

The Threatening Storm, which has 105,000 copies in print, is considered highly credible because Pollack is a former intelligence official. As a CIA analyst during the administration of George Bush, he predicted Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

Pollack writes a detailed history of Saddam Hussein's rise to power, his human rights abuses and pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, and concludes that overthrowing Saddam is the best solution - the sooner the better.

But Pollack also includes a number of preconditions, what he calls "countervailing pressures." He believes the United States should take a more active role in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, that international support is needed for military action against Iraq and that al-Qaida should be dealt with first.

Scott Ritter, a U.N. inspector in the 1990s and former critic of Saddam who now accuses the Bush administration of behaving "like it's an imperial executive," is interviewed in War on Iraq. This short text, written by Boston-based journalist William Rivers Pitt, disputes two central arguments for war: that Saddam has links to al-Qaida and that Saddam is producing weapons of mass destruction.

Two books by supporters of military action have become best sellers: Robert Kagan's Of Paradise and Power, which argues that the United States must confront the threat of "rogue" countries such as Iraq and North Korea, and, curiously, a novel: The Last Jihad, by Joel C. Rosenberg.

Written in early 2001 and published last year, The Last Jihad imagines a nuclear-armed Saddam sending assassins to Washington, D.C., and spreading terror worldwide.

"Fiction seemed a good way of capturing people's attention," says Rosenberg, who has served as an aide to such political figures as former presidential candidates Jack Kemp and Steve Forbes.

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