The Ba'thification of Iraq: Saddam Hussein's Totalitarianism

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9781477305577: The Ba'thification of Iraq: Saddam Hussein's Totalitarianism

Saddam Hussein ruled Iraq as a dictator for nearly a quarter century before the fall of his regime in 2003. Using the Ba’th party as his organ of meta-control, he built a broad base of support throughout Iraqi state and society. Why did millions participate in his government, parrot his propaganda, and otherwise support his regime when doing so often required betraying their families, communities, and beliefs? Why did the “Husseini Ba’thist” system prove so durable through uprisings, two wars, and United Nations sanctions?

Drawing from a wealth of documents discovered at the Ba’th party’s central headquarters in Baghdad following the US-led invasion in 2003, The Ba’thification of Iraq analyzes how Hussein and the party inculcated loyalty in the population. Through a grand strategy of “Ba’thification,” Faust argues that Hussein mixed classic totalitarian means with distinctly Iraqi methods to transform state, social, and cultural institutions into Ba’thist entities, and the public and private choices Iraqis made into tests of their political loyalty. Focusing not only on ways in which Iraqis obeyed, but also how they resisted, and using comparative examples from Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Russia, The Ba’thification of Iraq explores fundamental questions about the roles that ideology and culture, institutions and administrative practices, and rewards and punishments play in any political system.

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About the Author:

Aaron M. Faust holds a PhD in Middle East History and Statecraft from Boston University. He has lived and traveled widely in the Middle East, including in Syria from 2008 to 2009 as a Fulbright Scholar and National Security Education Program Boren Fellow. He currently works at the US Department of State.


"[Faust] create[s] a detailed world out of seemingly banal documents that, when put together and analyzed properly, reconstruct the Baathist system and mentality. As such, his is a magisterial study of Planet Baath: critical, sensitive, and sensible. By combining archival material with a deep awareness of Iraqi history, Faust succeeds in creating a complete and convincing whole." (The Middle East Quarterly)

"Faust’s work makes an important contribution to a number of areas, some very specific, some wider, that will leave an imprint on the study of totalitarian dictatorships in the Arab world and even in the world beyond. The complex system through which Saddam and the party endeavored to ‘Ba’thize’ Iraq is presented and analyzed very convincingly and the myriad details create an impressive whole." (Amatzia Baram, Professor of Middle Eastern History and Director of the Center for Iraq Studies, University of Haifa, and author of, among other books, Culture, History, and Ideology in the Formation of Ba’thist Iraq: 1968–1989 and Saddam Husayn and Islam 1968–2003: Ba`thi Iraq from Secularism to Faith)

"The research is excellent, the writing is engaging. Faust is particularly good at discussing the mindset, the worldview that the Ba’thist tried to create, and fleshing this out systematically." (Dina Rizk Khoury, Professor of History and International Relations, George Washington University, and author of Iraq in Wartime: Soldiering, Martyrdom, and Remembrance)

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