Two well-reputed analysts of Arab background and now living in Washington, both authors of serious books, have squandered their talents on a shameful apologetic for Saddam Husayn's invasion of Kuwait. Rejecting the notion that the invasion was an act of aggression, they instead declare that it is "difficult to assess Iraq's responsibility for the frontier dispute." In making this argument, Khadduri and his son-in-law Ghareeb spin a particularly barefaced form of moral equivalence argument in which they blame Iraq and Kuwait in equal measure for the events of 1990-91. In addition, they raise those usual scapegoats of radical Arab discourse, the American and British governments. The authors denigrate Washington's and London's strong reactions to Saddam's vicious behavior as an exclusive reflection of a threat to their interests-as though horror at the immorality of his acts played no role in galvanizing public opinion.
Perhaps War in the Gulf's most disgraceful aspect is the repeated effort to hide Saddam's monstrous actions under a patina of respectability. In one hard-to-believe passage, they assert that he "has oscillated between the two schools of realism and idealism, combining an element of both in his leadership qualities." In another, the abhorrent declarations of Saddam's thugs are interpreted through a learned disquisition on the medieval Mu'tazila philosophical school and the issue of free will in Islamic thought. The mystery why Khadduri and Ghareeb should stoop to such depths (will Saddam shower them with gifts as he used to do for favored journalists?) is exceeded only by the puzzle why Oxford University Press should condescend to publish such rubbish.