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
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.