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Tariq Ali, 'Bush in Babylon: The recolonisation of Iraq' and Milan Rai, 'Regime Unchanged: Why the War on Iraq Changed Nothing'

Bush in Babylon: The recolonisation of Iraq, Verso 2003, ISBN 1 85984 583 5, £13. Regime Unchanged: Why the War on Iraq Changed Nothing, Pluto Press 2003, ISBN 0 7453 21992, £10.99

Tariq Ali has delved deep into the scholarship on 20th century Iraq to produce his provocative and timely book Bush in Babylon, which takes as its focus the history of Iraqi resistance to the British empire and what this suggests for the future.

Whilst polemical in tone the book is never less than engaging - though the reader should be warned that Ali often asserts interesting claims without providing his sources. Hopefully Bush in Babylon will inspire Ali's readers to delve further into Iraq's recent history for themselves.

Though self-contained, Milan Rai's new book takes up the story from where his previous best-seller War Plan Iraq (Verso, 2002) left off. Like that work it is, in part, the product of the author's long-term experience campaigning with the anti-sanctions group voices in the wilderness uk.

Regime Unchanged splits roughly in two: the first half dealing with the long run-up to the war, recounting in meticulous detail how the US and British governments ran roughshod over the UN and destroyed the weapons inspectors, whilst lying to their domestic populations on an epic scale that has since come back to haunt them; the second with the early stages of the occupation and likely future developments.

Rai contends (and provides plenty of evidence to support his claim) that the US approached the war “set on triggering a military coup in Baghdad,” anticipating that having won a military victory it would be able to utilise the existing Iraqi police force and army to control the country - the apparent explanation for the book's title.

Woven into the second half of the book, is a fascinating account of how the US and Britain re-installed fascists, their collaborators and other reactionaries in Germany, Japan and elsewhere after WWII. Rai documents how - following these precedents - many former Ba'athists were reinstalled in positions of power in the early days of the occupation and poses some serious questions regarding the reality of the occupation authority's subsequent May 16 “de-Ba'athification” law.

Rai's fears on this latter score appear to have been prescient: almost five months after “de Ba'athification” the Guardian reported that the US had shown “little compunction in rehabilitating the real instruments of [Saddam's] brutal control”, having “come around to the view that [they] cannot rule effectively without the [regime's] security and intelligence services”.

Densely packed and scrupulously referenced Regime Unchanged is essential reading for all those who opposed the war. This is very much a book geared to action: for people who need accurate, well-sourced information to lobby politicians, argue with their work-mates or speak to the media. Read it and take action!

Topics: Iraq