The first authorized inside account of one of the most daring-and successful-military operations in recent historyFrom the earliest days of his dictatorship, Saddam Hussein had vowed to destroy Israel. So when France sold Iraq a top-of-the-line nuclear reactor in 1975, the Israelis were justifiably concerned-especially when they discovered that Iraqi scientists had already formulated a secret program to extract weapons-grade plutonium from the reactor, a first critical step in creating an atomic bomb.
This gripping account of Operation Babylon, the Israelis' 1981 raid on the Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osirak, is the first to draw on planners' and pilots' own memories. The raid was planned to follow a long campaign of espionage, sabotage and outright assassination by the Mossad, which had failed to prevent the French-built reactor from being about ready to produce weapons-grade plutonium in the summer of 1981. Then the Israeli air force, taking its new F-16s on their first combat mission and one far beyond their designed performance, struck, obliterating the reactor with no losses, few misses and only one civilian casualty. Tactics, technology and weapons are all presented in a clear manner that does not slow the pace. L.A.-based journalist Claire's group portrait of the eight superlatively skilled and trained pilots includes Zeev Raz, the squadron leader and now a general; the ace, Iftach Spector, who missed his target because he suffered a blackout induced by the flu; and Ilan Ramon, who became Israel's first astronaut and was lost on the Columbia. The final result reads like a techno-thriller that is difficult to put down once the mission gets airborne. (On sale Apr. 13) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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March 01, 2005
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Excerpt from Raid on the Sun by Rodger Claire
TERROR OF THE TIGRIS
Prepare whatever resources and troops you must to terrorize the enemies of God.
Before the birth of its First Citizen, the flat, dusty village of Al Auja, just south of Tikrit and a hundred miles north of nowhere in the Mesopotamian desert, was best known to historians as the site where the vicious fourteenth-century Tartar chieftain Tamerlane chose to erect his infamous pyramid of skulls, a towering obelisk of death fashioned from the decapitated heads of thousands of slaughtered Persian soldiers. In an ironically unconscious homage, Saddam Hussein, who didn't know Tamerlane from Timbuktu, would one day commission his own public sculpture in Baghdad featuring two gigantic arms bursting through the sand brandishing a pair of crossed scimitars that crowned a similar pyramid of skulls fashioned from the helmets of thousands of slaughtered twentieth-century Persian soldiers, known now in modern times as Iranians.
It was into this savagely unforgiving desert that young Saddam, whose name in Arabic means to "strike" or "punch," was thrust on April 28, 1937, fatherless and penniless, to be reared in a mud-and-straw house on the kiln-hot banks of the Tigris, without electricity, running water, or paved roads. Hussein would never forget his Tikriti roots. As though drawing inspiration from the land itself, he was mesmerized as a village boy by the country's ancient glory when it sat at the head of the Fertile Crescent, long before Abraham marched south from Ur in northern Mesopotamia to lay claim to the tribal homeland of the Semites. Much more than Iraq's later Islamic heritage, divided between the Sunni sects of the north and Shia of the south, Saddam identified with the country's pre-Arab Babylonian roots. He revered the great Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar, whose golden age of prosperity had transformed ancient Baghdad into an intellectual center of trade and the arts, renowned throughout the Old World for such wonders as its legendary Hanging Gardens of Babylon. Even more impressive to young Saddam, Nebuchadnezzar was the last Middle Eastern ruler to conquer the Jews. Following a revolt in Palestine in 587 b.c., Nebuchadnezzar's army had destroyed Jerusalem, razing the First Temple and bringing an end to the kingdom of Judea. Thousands of Jews were marched in bondage back to Mesopotamia in what would become known in Talmudic history as the Babylonian captivity.
Hussein loved to recount the historic event to colleagues. And he would boast that someday he would follow in the footsteps of the legendary king to rule both the Middle East and Israel. Indeed, years later, after he had assumed regal-like powers, Hussein would embark on a Baghdad beautification program of public artworks, broad boulevards, and thousands of transplanted palm trees meant to evoke the great age of Nebuchadnezzar. Hussein named his sons Udai and Qusai, not names associated with Mohammed but with pre-Islamic Mesopotamia.