Barry Lando’s Web of Deceit opens with a detailed chronology of events concerning Iraq beginning in 1914. With an entry for nearly every year, there is but a handful of instances three gaps in time, Lando sets the factual and methodical tone and tenor of the book.
The book’s ten chapters describes the creation and evolution of Iraq. In the first chapter, beginning in 1914 and spanning four and a half decades, Lando begins with a brief but useful look at pre-Twentieth Century history of the region. The real meat is the British and French actions and deals to divy up the region, which Lando uses to draw stark parallels to the current American involvement in Iraq.
The rest of the book focuses Western and Soviet involvement in shaping Iraq through support, both explicit and implicit, whether accident or not. The book concludes in August 2006 in the appropriately titled chapter “Full Circle: The Occupation” that itself concludes by reminding the reader of history 80 years before when the British occupied Iraq.
I found the book to be an exceptional and quick paced read. I also found myself constantly reading hit frequent endnotes. This book is an “investigative history” as the jacket describes, similar to Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s Imperial Life in the Emerald City (a book Lando would have benefited from but was probably not released in time for his deadlines), but much broader and with greater reach-back in terms of both time and beyond the immediate superficial players. Lando peels back more layers while not getting analytical. He simply lays out the facts in an effective and accessible chronological manner creating what is essentially a compendum of the essential material analyzing (and criticizing) of Iraq, notably the Iraq War media and texts, through 2006.
There were a few questions I had about the book, which I raised with the author, including the emphasis on the US-UK involvement as indicated by the book’s subtitle: The History of Western Complicity in Iraq, From Churchill to Kennedy to George W. Bush. The emphasis on Kennedy was to show there was more to Camelot, there was a Cold Warrior. However, I believe modern French complicity that take up considerable print in Web of Deceit far outweighs the any value of the imagery of adding Kennedy save how do you represent “faceless” (to Americans) support over the decades by the French on the cover? The tricolor wouldn’t do nor would it fit.
I gave Web of Deceit five stars on Amazon because while it doesn’t break any new ground in the 21st Century not already documented in other books like Fiasco, Imperial Life, or Plan of Attack, Web of Deceit does, provide a strong 20th Century history, including recent history, overview absent from the above three. Overall, I found this book to be a very good overview of what really is “Western complicity in Iraq” through nine decades of history motivated by short term strategies. However, the book does not feel as neutral as Fiasco or Imperial Life. It felt emotional as if it was trying to convince through facts and not just laying out the facts. Web of Deceit should be on any reading list (or syllabus) where understanding Iraq or understanding external involvement in creating despicable regimes is required. Lando’s book is an strong collection of facts providing a broad overview without sacrificing detail.