Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Book Review: 'Between Two Worlds: Escape from Tyranny: Growing Up in the Shadow of Saddam' by Zainab Salbi and Laurie Becklund


This book brings a stark and frightening realness to the meaning of tyrannical fear, as it is told through the rich and intelligent mind of an 11-year old, as she matured into full womanhood. Zainab, Salbi, the eldest child of Saddam's private pilot, rummages back through her childhood, sharing with us vivid mental pictures of what the psychology of fear under a brutal dictator is really like.

Social, psychological, political and economic existence as a member of Saddam's inner circle was always a zero-sum game among those vying for Saddam's attention. It was a brutal and vicious game that Saddam played using the members of his inner circle as his chess pieces. Winning the game placed you at the pinnacle of attention only for a moment. Everything that Saddam gave with one hand he retook with the other. All his gifts came with a heavy price tag. Those who began by enjoying his favor, were showered with glittering gifts, meaningless state honors, and otherwise lauded with Saddam's attention... And then the game took a more sinister twist as it began all over again: but this time with the previous winner, in the barrel.

Pitting sycophants who had no choice in the matter against each other in a desperate game of psychological Russian Roulette -- their vain search for validation and for some non-existent love and glory from Saddam Hussein -- was a demeaning and undignified fool's game that those in his inner circle had no choice but to play. For "opting out," garnered exactly the same penalty as "choosing to play:" eventually coming under suspicion as of questionable trust as in subversive. This led directly to being investigated by the Mukhabarat, who would then open a secret dossier on you; and then on to the inevitable torture and interrogations designed to wring Saddam's version of the truth out of you. Saddam's truth was always exactly what he wanted it to be, which usually meant the accused was guilty. And then finally the old familiar coup de grace: an ignominious disappearance; and if one were lucky, death by a shot behind the ear.

Zainab was lucky than most of us to have had two incredibly loving parents: One gave her the wings to fly, and the other pushed her out of her cage. But being the courageous woman she eventually grew to be, as founder of "Women for International Women," she elected not to take either of her parents' recommended flight paths. She flew solo and found her own way around and across the world.

A wonderfully uplifting and well-told story: [They shoot Iraqis behind the ear don't they? No, didn't you know, they all die in car accidents on the motor way? Yes, of course, what is wrong with me? I knew that.] Five stars





Editor's note: This review was written by Dr. Herbert L. Calhoun and has been reposted with permission. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right. 

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