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Why an Iraqi Insider Chose to Go Public

SAAD AL-BAZAZ's unpublished book, "The Gulf War and the One After," is the first attempt by an Iraqi writer to present an account of the Gulf war that combines the government's version with critical analysis.

The parts of the manuscript available to the Monitor are different in language and approach from the bombast typical of official Iraqi accounts, although it remains an essentially sympathetic account. But the appearance of the book raises two questions: Why did Iraqi officials apparently choose to speak in such detail, and why is Mr. Bazaz being allowed to criticize Iraqi officials?

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Bazaz says the officials he interviewed, or who provided documents used in the book, were aware he was writing a book. "The manuscript was not censored or read by an Iraqi official, and the analysis that the book contains is my own personal interpretation of what happened," he said.

Bazaz insists he is not writing as an official spokesman, but, given his position as the editor of the official newspaper Al-Jumhuriyah and previous jobs as editor-in-chief of the Iraqi news agency and director-general of Iraqi Radio and Television, he must be seen as a product of the ruling Baathist Party establishment. His previous works, including short stories and documentation of the Iraq-Iran war, do not deviate from the official line.

Although it is premature to judge the reaction of the Iraqi government to the book - the author is currently negotiating with Arab and foreign publishers - there is little doubt that it will find support among some thinkers inside Iraq.

During this reporter's trips to Baghdad, before, during, and after the war, it was not unusual to encounter pro-establishment intellectuals and writers critical of the confrontational approach of the regime. Privately and sometimes publicly, these writers have advocated a more "realistic" vision of the world in order to help their country rejoin the international community.

Bazaz's book seems to be an attempt along these lines - again inside the establishment circle of intellectuals - to promote a new approach and break with the crude propaganda which in this view has distorted the Iraqi image. But the book does not depart from the official position that Iraq should be recognized as a regional power.

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