Publishers Weekly, 2004-03-08 Blix reluctantly came out of retirement in 2000 to lead the U.N. weapons inspections team in Iraq because he was the only man everyone could agree on for the job. Three years later, those clamoring for military intervention grumbled at his inability (or, as they saw it, refusal) to present evidence of weapons of mass destruction, but he reminds readers that his assignment was to assess and report on the available evidence. Although his instincts told him Saddam was probably "still engaged in prohibited activities and retained prohibited items," as he dryly puts it, hard evidence never materialized. This play-by-play account of the months of diplomacy and inspection efforts leading up to the war is almost always strictly professional in tone, and though it does take us behind closed doors for meetings with world leaders, nothing here will radically transform the historical record or the ongoing debate. Blix doesn't have any scores to settle; while noting that Condoleezza Rice was never bashful about expressing her opinion, for example, he notes that she never tried to exert undue influence over him. He even laughs off some of the sharpest barbs from the conservative press (though not the New York Post's unflattering comparison to Mister Magoo). When he does, near the end, shift emphasis from facts to opinions, he suggests the American-led drive to war was led at least in part by "a deficit of critical thinking," and that the much-ballyhooed WMD threat probably doesn't exist but he doesn't lament Hussein's overthrow. His sober account probably won't sway hardline critics, but it offers insightful perspective on how the Iraq situation snowballed into a geopolitical crisis. (Mar. 9) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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