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Saddam Hussein's Ba'th Party: Inside an Authoritarian Regime Paperback – December 12, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


"Sassoon has immersed himself in the documents and tapes of a regime that was meticulous in the recording of its savagery, and his scholarship imparts the original smell of fear as it elucidates. In the fast-diminishing roster of regional despots, Saddam and his personality cult came closest to being an Arab Stalin. Yet Sassoon brings out superbly that this was a system that was not totalitarian, but a balance of extreme violence and extravagant reward, a demonic machine to keep people down rather than determine what they believed. A chilling account of the inner workings of arguably the worst of the Arab security states."
David Gardner, International Affairs Editor, Financial Times, and author of The Last Chance: The Middle East in the Balance (2009).

"An absolute must-read for anyone interested in the structure of modern Arab authoritarian political systems. This is the first inside look at Saddam Hussein's bureaucratic style of rule by rewards and punishments based on original party documents. Fair and judicious, it does much to revise the simple-minded view of the system as a totalitarian monstrosity based on Sunni domination of the Iraqi Shi'is."
Roger Owen, Harvard University

"An outstanding book. Sassoon takes Western readers inside the Iraqi Ba'th Party as no author has done before. Drawing on hundreds of thousands of Arabic documents and hours of recordings of Saddam's governing council at work, this book provides an unparalleled case study of authoritarian politics in the Arab world. Engagingly written and remarkably balanced, Saddam Hussein's Ba'th Party is a chilling reminder of the type of regime being overthrown in the Arab Spring."
Eugene Rogan, The Middle East Centre, University of Oxford

"Well-organized and lucidly written, Sasson's book is a valuable contribution to the modern history of a country still in the making. It is beneficial for the specialists working on the authoritarian Middle Eastern regimes as well as for the general reads willing to learn how an ambitious young activist, rejected by the national military academy, rose to power to become the sole leader of Iraq to an extent that his name meant the country, and how he succeeded in clinging to the power until 2003."
Marat Yasar, University of Toronto, Canadian Journal of History

"When serious academics start their inevitable investigations of what the Saddam Hussain regime in Iraq was like, most will inevitably turn to Joseph Sassoon's impressive piece of scholarship, one that assembles under one cover the intricacies of what passed for a violent dictatorship ... The book is filled with the horrors of the regime and must be widely read to sensitive masses to genuine political atrocities. It will, hopefully, be quickly translated into Arabic so that many more readers can learn of this true tragedy."
Joseph A. Kechichian, Gulf News

"In this well-written and extensively researched volume, Joseph Sassoon ... provides critical insights into the functioning of the Ba'thist party and regime. Deftly analyzing the party's internal structure, intelligence organizations, and relationship with the military, as well as Saddam's personality cult, patterns of control and resistance, and bureaucracy and civil life under the Ba'th, [he] weaves a fascinating narrative of social control and repression."
Eric Davis, Perspectives on Politics

Book Description

The Ba'th Party came to power in 1968 and remained for thirty-five years, until the 2003 U.S. invasion. Under Saddam Hussein's leadership, a powerful authoritarian regime was created based on a system of violence, a surveillance network, as well as reward schemes and incentives for supporters of the party. The true horrors of this regime have been exposed for the first time through a massive archive of government documents captured after the fall of Saddam Hussein. It is these documents that form the basis of this extraordinarily revealing book and that have been translated and analyzed by Joseph Sassoon, an Iraqi-born scholar and seasoned commentator on the Middle East. They uncover the secrets of the innermost workings of Hussein's Revolutionary Command Council, how the party was structured, how it operated via its network of informers, and how the system of rewards functioned. As this gripping portrayal of Saddam Hussein's Iraq demonstrates, the regime was every bit as authoritarian and brutal as Stalin's Soviet Union or Mao's China.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 338 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press (December 12, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521149150
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521149150
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #925,380 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Kirk H Sowell on April 8, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Joseph Sassoon, an academic at Georgetown University, has done us all a great service with this book, "Saddam Hussein's Ba'th Party: Inside an Authoritarian Regime." It is essentially a 275-page summary of voluminous research based on internal documents taken from the Baathist system, one of the most hideous governments of the past century, which had its share. In addition to the physical documents produced by the bureaucracy of state, Sassoon also includes insights from tape recordings of meetings of the Revolutionary Command Council, the leading state committee Saddam himself chaired. Writing this book must have been a torturous process (pun intended).

The book's eight chapters can best be broken down into three themes. One is history, although the book is only secondarily a history book. Chapter one provides historical background, an essential context to the rest, especially as the party put so much emphasis of reviewing what individuals were doing in the 1960s, especially during the 1963 coup which almost began Baath rule, and then during the 1963-68 period, when the party took power for good. If you've already studied Iraqi history, this will be review.

The second theme is the party apparatus itself, and this is the core of the book. Chapters two through five deal with the party's structure and organization, how its branches functioned, how the party was integrated with the state's security apparatus (especially the "Special Security Organization," or SSO), and the party's relationship to the military. These chapters contain numerous anecdotes about how the party operated bureaucratically, how it recruited, rewarded and punished members, and the kinds of roles party departments fulfilled in maintaining Baathist rule.
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