Marc Lynch,, “Best Books on the Middle East, 2010

While most Americans have largely forgotten the long decade of U.S. led sanctions on Iraq, Gordon forces attention back to their long-lasting effects on the Iraqi state and society. She offers a deeply researched account of American and United Nations policies towards the sanctions which captures the contradictions between an overt focus on forcing Saddam Hussein to surrender his WMD programs and a deeper interest in maintaining containment (“keeping Saddam in a box”) and pushing for regime change — contradictions which remain deeply relevant to current debates about Iran.

Andrew Cockburn,”Worth It,” London Review of Books, July 22, 2010:

“Even at the time, the sanctions against Iraq drew only sporadic public comment, and even less attention was paid to the bureaucratic manoeuvres in Washington, always with the dutiful assistance of London, which ensured the deaths of half a million children, among other consequences. In her excellent book Joy Gordon charts these in horrifying detail”

L. Carl Brown, Foreign Affairs, November/December 2010

This is more than an ethical or legal treatise. It is a solid historical reconstruction of the sanctions imposed on Iraq from 1990 to 2003 and of the persistent U.S. leadership in this effort. Especially impressive is Gordon’s combing of the sprawling U.S. and UN records over those 13 years.

James Denselow, Huffington Post, November 18, 2010

Gordon has unearthed a treasure trove of well researched statistics to support her argument that by substituting ‘regime change for what was legitimately mandated by the Security Council, the United States fundamentally compromised the legality of the sanctions and the legitimacy of the council’.  

Ziad Muna, Al Jazeera. March 2010

في خضم الأحداث الكبرى التي يشهدها العالم العربي على نحو عام، والحرب الدائرة في ليبيا، وعليها في الوقت نفسه، وفي خضم تفاعلات القضية الليبية والحجز على أموال الدولة الليبية تحت مختلف الذرائع والمسوغات، إضافة إلى البدء بسلسلة من العقوبات، تبدأ بمنع تصدير الأسلحة ولا نعرف أين ستنتهي، يكتسب هذا الكتاب الذي يبحث في العقوبات التي فرضت على العراق بعد احتلاله الكويت، ولم ترفع إلا أخيرا، وإن ليس على نحو كامل.

Raymond Schroth, S.J., National Catholic Reporter, November 2010

 In Invisible War, Joy Gordon asks whether, legally, the United States could be tried for genocide in its role in the United Nations sanctions that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children following the war in Kuwait. Hers is a terrible tale to have to tell, and read.

Dr. Mudhafar A. Amin, TAARII review, Spring 2011

The book’s richness of facts and clarity of style provide an informative – although sad – journey into the human suffering of an ancient civilization. It is one of the few books by a Western writer that deals objectively with the former Iraqi government, stating both the negative and positive aspects.

Military Review, September-October 2011

A must read for all military and State Department professionals…Gordon’s research methodology is virtually flawless. 

Kamil Mahdi, CounterFire, November 2010

We see and learn of more gruesome evidence of the human cost of this war with every day that passes, but western governments try to abdicate their responsibility for the cumulative damage of a war that has lasted a whole generation and which they continue to wage

Anthony Gregory,  America’s Peacetime Crimes against Iraq, Future of Freedom Foundation, January 2011

To this day, thanks to the sanctions as well as the wars, the Iraqis have “never [come] close to restoring the standard of living that most Iraqis had up to 1990,” according to Joy Gordon, whose new book, Invisible War: The United States and the Iraq Sanctions, is a powerful and rather comprehensive treatment of the topic…Invisible War is a very important book about a very important topic. 

Arab Studies Quarterly, Fall 2010

This book, which is meticulously documented, represents a courageous venture indeed.  It exposes the internal processes within the US that should only lead to a feeling of guilt for the genocidal acts against the Iraqi people.  It is an excellent read for whoever doubts that.

Yale Journal of International Law, Fall 2010

The exhaustively researched book chronicles the more than decade-long sanctions imposed by the U.N. Security Council–at the behest of the United States–on Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

Christopher J. Doucot, Fellowship of Reconciliation Newsletter

Invisible War fills a gap in the historical record. Gordon’s writing is clear, follows a logical progression, and exhaustively documented. Considering the ongoing tensions between the United States and Iran are unfolding in ways that parallel our earlier relationship with Iraq, we need to know this history so as not to repeat it.

Editor’s Picks, Choice, October 2010

 In this remarkable, well-researched study, Gordon (philosophy, Fairfield Univ.) explains how the US was able to establish, shape, and enforce 13 years of harsh and extreme sanctions on Iraq. In the absence of rival powers, the US projected absolute influence on and nearly complete control of international governance. Gordon persuasively and accurately raises moral and legal questions about US policy that resulted in the complete destruction of the Iraqi economy and infrastructure and the loss of hundreds of thousands of innocent lives.

Eric Herring, Policies of Mass Destruction, Times Higher Education, September 23, 2010

Joy Gordon’s important book not only sets out the story superbly well, but demonstrates its wider implications for our understanding of economic sanctions, international law and global governance. She shows that a commitment to scholarly rigour and a commitment to common humanity can be mutually reinforcing, and her book deserves to be read and discussed widely.  

David E. Anderson, “The Ethics of Sanctions,” Religion and Ethics Newsweekly, September 13, 2010

“Invisible War: The United States and the Iraq Sanctions (Harvard University Press) [is] a comprehensive and devastating look at the sanctions imposed on Iraq in 1990 and kept in place until the 2003 invasion by the United States and its allies in what was called “the coalition of the willing.’’ The author is Joy Gordon, professor of philosophy at Fairfield University and a prominent voice for many years in debates over the ethics and morality of using economic sanctions in international public policy.”

Chris Toensing, “Wilful Blindness,” Middle East Report, Summer 2010  MERIP review (pdf)

The fact, as Gordon demonstrates unimpeachably, is that successive US administrations knew the scope of the humanitarian catastrophe in Iraq and refused to consider that their ends might not justify the means. Gordon’s training as a philosopher shines through in her strongest chapter, a meditation upon US guilt of genocide or crimes against humanity that concludes with the lament that Washington cannot be held accountable because international law does not criminalize “willful blindness.” Gordon captures an important part of the tragedy that is the story of Iraq in the sanctions era. The US got away with a murderously cynical policy because, as the sole superpower, it could.

Human Rights and Human Welfare, 2011

Joy Gordon tells the story of how the United Nations became complicit in the “legalization of atrocity.” …Extensively documented, Gordon’s distressing story reveals how three successive US administrations were “hijacking” an anonymous Security Council committee established under Resolution 661.


 George A. Lopez, author of The Sanctions Decade

   “In one of the bitter ironies of our time, the UN Security Council—under the influence of the United States—destroyed a country in order to save it from its leader. In vividly portraying and thoroughly documenting the history of the Western decapitation of Iraq through economic sanctions Joy Gordon fills a huge gap in the literature. Her penetrating research reveals the purposefulness of punishment, complicity, rationalization, and outright deception as standard practice in the role played by the United States, which lacked critical self-reflection and any clear sense of rules or the relationship between means and ends. This book will become a foreign affairs classic.”

Neta C. Crawford, Boston University 

 “In a powerful, original book, Gordon offers the most sophisticated and comprehensive analysis of the origins, administration, and impact of the Iraq sanctions regime. This is a damning account of how international administration was used by the U.S. and the UK for policy ends. Despite the rhetoric of humanitarianism, the sanctions were, in Gordon’s term, a humanitarian catastrophe.”

Colin Rowat, University of Birmingham 

 “For a decade, Gordon has scoured UN and U.S. documents, interviewing officials of all ranks in her attempt to understand the engine rooms of the Iraq sanctions. The result is one of the most extensively researched books on the sanctions, a detailed account of how U.S. officials and diplomats brought about one of the 1990s’ worst humanitarian crises. ”

Henry Shue, University of Oxford, author of Basic Rights 

 “This profoundly troubling story about U.S. foreign policy under three administrations reveals the shameful manner in which the United States relentlessly subverted the UN sanctions regime for Iraq, twisting it toward a purpose not approved by the Security Council. It is time Americans knew of the cruelty inflicted on Iraqis in our name behind closed doors at the UN in one of the morally most disastrous foreign policy decisions in American history. Gordon has documented it, calmly, courageously, meticulously, and convincingly.”

Sir Harold Walker, former British Ambassador to Iraq 

“Gordon dissects U.S. policies and practices in forensic detail. It is a chilling, and telling, tale of how a complex and sophisticated bureaucracy, given an overriding security remit, could be content not merely to allow a humanitarian tragedy to take place but indeed to help to create it, not by active malevolence but through indifference.”

Richard Falk, Princeton University, emeritus 

 “A superb critique of the U.S.-led sanctions against Iraq, which were imposed for twelve years, with disastrous humanitarian consequences for the civilian population. This wonderfully researched and written book has profound implications for ongoing assessments of American foreign policy, and deserves to be widely read, its argument absorbed at the highest levels of government.”