The Achilles Trap

The Achilles Trap

Saddam Hussein, the United States and the Middle East, 1979-2003


From the Pulitzer Prize winner and bestselling author of Ghost Wars, the inside story of America's long and ruinous relationship with Saddam Hussein

The Achilles Trap masterfully untangles the people, ploys of power and geopolitics that led to America's disastrous war with Iraq and, for the first time, details America's fundamental miscalculations during its ruinous, decades-long relationship with Saddam Hussein.

Beginning with Saddam's rise to power in 1979 and the birth of Iraq's secret nuclear weapons programme, Steve Coll traces Saddam's motives through understanding his inner circle. He brings to life the diplomats, scientists, family members and generals who had no choice but to defer to their leader - a leader directly responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, as well as the torture or imprisonment of many more. This was a man whose reasoning was impossible to reduce to a simple explanation, and the CIA and successive presidential administrations failed to grasp critical nuances in his paranoia, resentments and inconsistencies - even when the stakes were incredibly high.

Using unpublished and underreported sources, interviews with surviving participants, and Saddam's own transcripts and audio files, The Achilles Trap is a remarkable picture of a dictator who was convinced the world was out to get him and acted accordingly. A work of great historical significance, it is the definitive account of how corruptions of power, lies of diplomacy and vanity - on both sides - led to avoidable errors of statecraft: ones that would enact immeasurable human suffering and forever change our political landscape.


  • PRAISE FOR DIRECTORATE S: A cracking read ... The errors Coll catalogues are familiar. What Coll does, though, is present all this in far more detail than anyone before him. Some of the episodes he describes are darkly hilarious ... a must-read for anyone who cares about this never-ending war.
    Christina Lamb, Sunday Times

About the author

Steve Coll

Steve Coll is Dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University. His major books include Private Empire, The Bin Ladens and the Pulitzer Prize-winning Ghost Wars. He is a staff writer for The New Yorker.
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