Tuesday, April 19, 2011
The Rape of Kuwait - Jean Sasson
The Rape of Kuwait presents these eyewitness stories, which bring to light for the first time the extent of the crimes committed against the nation's civilian population. A shocking indictment of the Iraqi military, this book will increase the world's understanding of Saddam Hussein -- and raise the frightening question of what he might do next. (Summary from book - Image from www.jeansasson.com )
My Review: I have always been fascinated by the Middle East and have read several books by Jean Sasson, including Princess: Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia, Princess Sultana's Daughters, Princess Sultana's Circle, and Mayada, Daughter of Iraq: One Woman's Survival Under Saddam Hussein. I highly recommend any of these books, as each was deeply compelling and related the difficult, but remarkable, experiences of women living in the Middle East.
The Rape of Kuwait was written quickly, between August 2, 1990, when the Iraqi military invaded Kuwait, and January 17, 1991, when the U.S. and its allies stepped in to help liberate the country. Sasson freely admits that her purpose for writing this book was to let the world know exactly what was going on in Kuwait and to encourage international intervention. Published just before the U.S. became involved, it reached #2 on the NYT Bestseller list and, according to Wikipedia, the Kuwaiti Embassy even paid to have 200,000 copies shipped to U.S. troops in the Persian Gulf.
Except for a brief history of Kuwait, which I found incredibly helpful, this book is comprised almost entirely of first-hand accounts of the atrocities committed by the Iraqi military against the citizens of Kuwait. I don't think I can possibly convey my horror at the depth of cruelty perpetrated by the invading army and condoned by its leaders. Though it occurred over twenty years ago, I am sickened by their actions and haunted by the people whose lives were cut short, whose stories might never be told.
Throughout the book, Sasson questions what Saddam will do next. It was haunting to read these statements, knowing that so much more cruelty was to come, not only for Kuwaiti's trapped inside Iraq, but for Kurds, and for Iraq's own people. I ran the gamut of negative emotions while reading this book: sadness, anger, frustration, etc., but there was one positive emotion that stood out. Relief. Saddam Hussein is dead, and I am relieved (and even, though I'm not terribly proud of it, a little bit glad).
The Rape of Kuwait is a shocking and painful description of violence committed by the Iraqi military, but it is also a tale of a beloved nation that fought to regain its freedom from a grasping, predatorial dictator. I was continuously impressed by the love and loyalty of the Kuwaiti people, the nation's generous humanitarian donations, wise financial investments, and their determination to rebuild.
I don't usually read books like this, but when I do I am rarely sorry. I feel a sense of purpose, like reading them can somehow give these people a voice, so that even twenty years later their sacrifice is not forgotten. If you think you can handle it, and maybe even if you think you can't, I recommend picking up a book like this one.
My Rating: 4 Stars
For the sensitive reader: Each account is graphic in its own way, though not in a glorified or overly detailed sense.
Sum it up: These accounts are horrible, bloody, tragic, and terrifying, but they are also true, and they deserve to be read.