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Books: Leisure reading

'The New Iraq'

By Joseph Braude

Basic Books, $26.

This is a thoughtful, well-researched book, subtitled "Rebuilding the Country for its People, the Middle East and the World." The author, an Iraqi historian who lives in the United States, suggests the question of "what comes next?" is a vital one to ask, because the Iraqi people have been repressed under Saddam Hussein for more than three decades.

Braude tells briefly the history of ancient Iraq, a helpful prologue for most readers who know little about the country. He traces major wars, 13 years of sanctions and the domestic legacy of a police state. He is optimistic about the possibilities for a liberated Iraq. He considers the necessary transition of the political system to one in which the people have a say, the reorganization of the Iraqi military, the development of religious tolerance, the growth of business opportunities and the rebuilding of its infrastructure.

When Iraq is freed of Saddam Hussein, says Braude, "they (the Iraqis) will turn outward. Then the modern standard-bearers of the world's oldest civilization will use their extraordinary talents as entrepreneurs and facilitators to shine light on knowledge and information gaps all over the Middle East and beyond." — Dennis Lythgoe

'Avoiding Armageddon'

By Martin Schram

Basic Books, $26.

This book is a companion volume to the PBS television series of the same name, scheduled to air April 14-17.

Schram, a journalist and editor based in Washington, D.C., offers "a world citizen's guide" to the current threats to individual and national security. In the process, he discusses easily accessible uranium, smallpox outbreaks and a new breed of suicide bombers.

Schram presents a well-written account of the problems relating to modern war, including practical advice about how we as Americans and as individuals might handle the new threats to our future.

He concludes that the United States is vulnerable to terrorism on several different levels and suggests bold ways of dealing with them.

One of Schram's ideas comes from South Africa's Nelson Mandela, who said, "No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its' opposite."

Schram concludes..."leaders of all nations need to stand up and take the lead in a broad movement to provide the economic, infrastructure and health care support to developing nations that will begin to alleviate the despair and anger of those who may be recruited by, or provide sanctuaries for, terrorists." — Dennis Lythgoe

'The Hunt for Bin Laden'

By Robin Moore

Random House, $24.95.

This book focuses on "Task Force Dagger," a Special Forces unit that fought a mostly covert war on terrorism in Afghanistan.

It begins on Sept. 11, 2001, and takes readers through the liberation of Kabul 62 days later. Moore recounts the war from the viewpoint of the Green Berets on the ground, including Col. John Mulholland and his command.

The author recounts how the Green Berets won the opening phase of the war against terrorism in just six months. Moore tells how the Special Forces unit killed more than 31,000 Islamic fundamentalists, contrasting this feat with the 10-year battle the Russians unsuccessfully waged in the area.

Moore also says that even though most people assume it took thousands of U.S. troops to free Kabul, there were fewer than 100 American soldiers on the ground when Kabul fell. "Not since Kublai Khan's Mangudai and the 300 Spartans had so few men fought so many." — Dennis Lythgoe