From Publishers Weekly
In emphasizing the symbiosis of oil profits and Western imperialism in the making of modern Iraq, Black (IBM and the Holocaust
) and a team of 30 researchers (whom he credits) have unearthed a wealth of historical detail, but not a satisfying framework for it. Temporal balance is also missing: the book's first 6,500 years pass in a 42-page montage of conquest and massacre, with the narrative slowing to a snail's pace during the late Ottoman and British Mandate periods to explore the interminable wranglings among Western oil companies, European governments and entrepreneur C.S. Gulbenkian over Iraqi oil concessions in the first half of the 20th century. Accounts of the Sunni-Shiite schism and the modern recrudescence of Iraqi anti-Semitism are thrown into the mix, but one gets little sense of how all these elements determine the social, economic and political turmoil of contemporary Iraq, especially since the crucial Saddam era flits by in just six disjointed pages. In the end, Black does little more with a lot of undeniably fascinating material than to invoke the "unstoppable repetition" of despotic government and violent exploitation, but his corporate-historical gleanings are more than enough to carry the book.
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...worth reading (Chartest
, No.2/3, March April 2005)
...builds up a compulsion to study the often wretched history steeped in greed, cruelty and corruption, that has dominated this part of the world for thousands of years. (City to Cities, No.32, April May 2005)
Black succeeds admirably in covering 7,000 years of history... (Lloyds List International, 26 November 2004)
Many Americans don't understand what they're currently up against. Al Qaeda has often been depicted as the superpower of terrorist and jihadist networks, commanding the allegiance of jihadist groups throughout the world and influencing global terrorist operations through a steady flow of money and recruits. In fact, al Qaeda has become a relatively small operational component of a violent, global movement bent on waging holy war.
This jihadist movement, at the risk of oversimplification, can best be described as four concentric circles. The inner circle consists of the core of the al Qaeda organization, which now largely serves a symbolic, spiritual and ideological role in the greater jihadist movement. The second circle consists of active members and devotees of numerous jihadist groups that are often called "al Qaeda-related." The denizens of the second circle tend to be even more radical and dangerous than their inner-circle colleagues. The third circle consists of those who believe in the jihadist cause or identify with parts of its ideology; they may provide moral support, and some might offer a jihadist group logistical or financial help. The outer circle is the wider Islamic world. While the core of the jihadist movement consists of devoted terrorists, they depend on the less ideologically hardened "outer" circles of sympathizers, which the inner core targets for recruitment and fundraising efforts.
The jihadist threat is uniquely dangerous because it has become simultaneously more decentralized and more radical since Sept. 11. Never before have we faced a threat whose leaders enjoy so much financial and operational independence. Nor have we ever faced a threat whose "membership" can fluctuate daily and whose recruitment rate increases as the United States stages large-scale military and intelligence operations to eliminate them.
Americans also often don't quite grasp how dangerous the Iraq misadventure is. One key to the overall U.S. response to the jihadist threat is understanding how U.S. actions affecting one of these four concentric circles affects the others. --Richard A. Clarke, Washington Post Book World
IMPRESSIVE... THOUGHTFUL AND METICULOUS. Edwin Black's Banking on Baghdad underlines Iraq's long history of exploitation by Western powers and powerful corporations struggling for advantage and domination. His impressive analysis, which included looking at more than 50,000 original documents and hundreds of scholarly books and articles, provides a comprehensive history of Iraq that explains why the West's record in the region so complicates nation-building there today. Black's book is thoughtful and meticulous, though many readers may find the breadth of analysis too ambitious... His analysis, nevertheless, highlights the deficit of legitimacy the United States faces in Iraq and the wider Middle East. --Richard A. Clarke, Washington Post Book World
POWERFUL. EVOCATIVE AND TAUT. [Banking on Baghdad is] Edwin Black's powerful new study of Iraq's place in the world... Black's prose is solid and evocative throughout. His taut description of the atrocities visited upon the region's Moslems, first by each other, and later, Genghis Khan's Mongols, is vivid and chilling. For those interested in business history, his study of the relationship between commercial and political interests, especially the company that eventually became British Petroleum, is well worth the price of admission. There's also ample material to draw from to consider the future path of Iraq... Black is committed, if not obsessed, with hyper-intensive research and documentation. His books are copiously footnoted and referenced. Given the seriousness and scope of the subjects, this is an absolute necessity. --Richard Pachter, Miami Herald