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The Greatest Threat: Iraq, Weapons of Mass Destruction, and the Crisis of Global Security 4th Printing Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1586480394
ISBN-10: 1586480391
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

This is the memoir of a frustrated man. Richard Butler is the former chairman of UNSCOM, the United Nations-appointed arms-inspection team assigned to Iraq in the wake of the Gulf War. Between 1992 and 1997, Butler toiled to prevent Saddam Hussein from manufacturing and stockpiling weapons of mass destruction. UNSCOM experienced some success, but it was essentially a failure thanks to the intransigence and intimidation Butler faced from without (by Saddam's henchmen, such as Iraqi foreign minister Tariq Aziz) and from within (members of Butler's own task force, representing the interests of their own countries, constantly undercut him). And this "constitutes a serious crisis in global security," writes Butler. "While the full nature and scope of [Saddam's] current programs cannot be known precisely because of the absence of inspections and monitoring, it would be foolish in the extreme not to assume that he is: developing long-range missile capabilities; at work again on building nuclear weapons; and adding to the chemical and biological warfare weapons he concealed during the UNSCOM inspection period."

Butler's account of his own efforts is, as he freely admits, "far more important than it is colorful." If readers hunger for a spy thriller about Iraq, they should turn to novelist Frederick Forsyth's The Fist of God instead of The Greatest Threat. But if they want a realistic look at Middle Eastern power politics, the maddening challenge of disarmament, and a few vivid reminders that Saddam is both "determined and diabolical," Butler's book is an excellent resource. Butler, who is Australian, closes with an idealistic call to stop nuclear proliferation, urging Americans to forsake "the pursuit of purely national goals": "By leading the global community in the effort of reducing and then eliminating the unique danger posed by weapons of mass destruction, the United States can assure itself the highest and most justly honored place among nations in the annals of history." Whether or not readers agree with that sentiment, Butler convincingly shows that reducing Saddam's ability to make war is in virtually everybody's interest. --John J. Miller --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

It has been a full year since an international team of disarmament specialists was booted out of Iraq, leaving the world with the chilling question: Who is watching Saddam Hussein? As a former chairman of UNSCOM, the body created by the United Nations to monitor Iraq for weapons violations after the Gulf War, Butler has a unique perspective on the matter. Having intimate knowledge of Iraq's programs to develop nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, Butler engaged in what he calls "an elaborate shell game" with Iraq in 1997 and 1998, as his team investigated Saddam's deadly arsenal. In this revealing and beautifully executed record of those years, Butler recounts the intransigence of Iraqi negotiators and the maddening charades they played to foil international law. As Butler makes clear, the stakes are staggering: a single warhead carrying 140 liters of VXDone of the most toxic substances ever madeDcould kill a million people. UNSCOM found that Iraq made at least 3,900 liters of VX, along with anthrax and other weapons of mass destruction. Butler also details how Russia, France and China flouted disarmament efforts to protect their own political interests, and he argues that UNSCOM's mandate was bargained away in Baghdad by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Especially interesting is the author's stern rebuttal of claims by his chief inspector, Scott Ritter, that UNSCOM was a puppet of the Pentagon, funneling intelligence to the U.S. Certain to have a profound impact on international diplomacy, Butler's remarkable story can be ignored only at the world's peril. Maps. (June)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs; 4th Printing edition (May 22, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586480391
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586480394
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,162,192 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Book Review: Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory by David Isenberg Thursday, May 18, 2000
There is no way to say this delicately so I may just as well come right out and say it. This is a painful book to read. Why? Is it badly written? No, it is both informative and engaging. Does it deal with an unimportant topic? On the contrary, it deals with a critically important issue: the effort to stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. Why then the pain?
This book is essentially the story of a failure, one that has consequences for the entire world. Specifically, it is the telling of the undermining and destruction of UNSCOM by Saddam Hussein. The West set up UNSCOM, short for the United Nations Special Commission, in the aftermath of the 1991 Persian Gulf War to disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction.
Rolf Ekeus, a Swedish diplomat, headed UNSCOM for its first six years. In 1997, after Ekeus left to become Swedish ambassador to Washington, Richard Butler took over as executive director. Butler was an experienced Australian diplomat who had previously worked on many other disarmament issues. This book is the story of the final two years of struggle with Iraq in accordance with the original U.N. Security Council Resolution 687 of 1991. This struggle more or less ended -- unsatisfactorily -- when the United States and Britain bombed Iraq in Operation Desert Fox in December 1998, an event that marked the end of UNSCOM inspections in Iraq.
Caught cheating
Bear in mind that the various global arms-control regimes are based on the presumption that if those being inspected are found breaking the rules, some sort of enforcement will take place -- usually through the U.N.
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Format: Hardcover
There is an advantage to reading a book a few years after it is first published. The advantage in this case is that the Saddam dictatorship is history and many of the assurances that lead us to war have been proven to be a little over hyped, to be generous. That comment leads us to this book. The author was the head of the UN weapons inspectors in the last two years they were in place, ending in 1998. This book is his review of his time on the job and the obligatory musings about what needed to be done with Saddam circa 2000. I had heard in a number of other articles and some books that the author was a bit arrogant and pushy. To be fair, those personality traits, if they even exist, did not come out in the book. The author presented his case in a rather fair sounding and well thought out process. There were no over the top dramatics nor did it seam to me that the author was trying to stretch the truth to prove his point.

I started this book thinking it would be one case after another of how Iraq had hid WMD`s, yet they were hardly ever mentioned. By this I mean that the author only detailed out a few cases of papers being found and old weapons parts being dug up. In all his pages on the inspection process, the author gives the reader no finds of the actual weapons the world was looking for. All the author really detailed was the unlimited number of ways the Iraqi's found to be unhelpful, arrogant, and just plain nasty to his team. If there ever was a case for how not to play well with others the Iraqi's are the hands down favorites. In hind sight, what is rather humorous is that if they would have just swallowed a little crow and let the UN run all over their county unmolested for a few years, they would have left and the Saddam cronies would still be in power.
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Format: Paperback
What an eye opener. The Greatest Threat gave me goose-bumps. I couldn't put the book down. Scary! Everyone needs to read this book. It grabs you right from the start as if you were right there with the UNSCOM inspectors. I agree with the author on American and International politics needing to be over-hauled. Maybe the mess we find ourselves in today could have been avoided if our country and other countries had worked together to promote disarmament. Then, inforced it when the country refused to comply instead of sweeping the issue under the rug.
The book is well written and reads like a the latest thriller. The trouble is it is very real. It's sad that one ruthless leader can cause so much pain to his own people and the world. I don't like war either, but it looks like that is the only choice we have as the author pointed out. This book is a must read if you want to know what is going on with Iraq and how we got where we are today.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is exceptional on so many levels I scarcely know where to begin. Richard Butler former Executive Chairman of UNSCOM is very definitely a man of deep integrity driven by an equally deep concern for the issue of arms control not solely in Iraq but throughout the world. This book is his story and how during the course of two years he battled to achieve the complete dismantling of Iraq's stockpile of weapons chemical biological and nuclear.
He describes in detail the stand-offs between himself and the Iraqi authorities and how ultimately the united nations through weakness and division have allowed Saddam Hussein to hold onto much of his deadly arsenal. He charts the use of these weapons by Iraq in its war with Iran as well as the use of gases on ethnic minorities inside the country itself.
The reader gets an incredible look at the UN Security Council attempting to apply a, geo-political rules as usual approach, to the problem of Iraq's non-compliance with UN resolutions. The role of the Russian diplomats along with the French and Chinese come in for close scrutiny. If Butlers understanding of Israel's defence posture during the gulf war is accurate then the reader can take it that if Saddam were to use a chemical weapon or worse against a city like Tel Aviv then almost certainly and without consultation Israel would respond with tactical nuclear weapons against Iraq. During the gulf war Israeli Jets sat fuelled and ready to fly against targets in Iraq following the deployment of some 39 Scud missiles fired at Israel during the conflict. This analysis and so much more is contained in this sober but authentic look at how dangerous the world has become. Worst of all is the ongoing capitulation by the United Nations in terms of forcing Iraqi compliance with its own resolutions.
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