November 16, 2013
From early 1991, I began
to research and write considerably about Middle Eastern affairs, primarily Iraq, because of the 1991 Gulf War. By then, I
saw much sloppy and erroneous reporting, but I once again put it down to laziness and also realized the propaganda behind
such writing. I didn't like it and thought more time for accuracy should have been taken.
I went into a Bookstar store one evening and perused the shelves. I picked up the book Rape of Kuwait. This was a
couple of years after the 1991 Gulf War. I was astounded. "How could anyone have published this rubbish?" I asked
myself. The more I read, the more appalled I became. The book was poorly-written and laden with outright lies. Plus, many
of the names given to supposed recipients of atrocities were pseudonyms. Acknowledgements of praise were given to proven frauds
and instances that never happened were written as true. Plus, the book was printed on pulp paper, the kind used for dime-store
novels. Further research showed that the book was a New York Times bestseller. I was aghast.
seeing the travesty of The Rape of Kuwait, I kept my eyes open for further frauds, although it was not at the top
of my priority list at the time. I assumed it must have been a one-off and left it at that. I did not know that its author,
Jean Sasson, went on to have an incredibly successful career as an author.
Then, the buildup to
the March 2003 US invasion of Iraq came. With it were all sorts of ludicrous books, feature magazine articles and outrageous
allegations from US and UK politicians and media. Few seemed to even try to find the truth or become skeptical about what
was being printed.
Khidir Hamza is still collecting royalties from his fairy tale disguised as
an exposé of Iraq's nuclear program, Saddam's Bombmaker. In 2001, at a presentation in New York, Hamza
stated that Iraq was "undoubtedly on the precipice of nuclear power" and would have "between three to five
nuclear weapons by 2005." His book sold many copies and, like The Rape of Kuwait, is still widely available
We all know today that Iraq abandoned its nuclear program in 1991. Hamza gained an
easy payday. His book has been totally discredited. In fact, Hamza, who claimed he was Saddam Hussein's top nuclear scientist,
was basically a clerk in the nuclear program and he had no say in any decision-making.
was Jumana Hanna. She described an incredible story of human endurance. In 2003, the Washington Post chronicled her
feats. According to Hanna, she wanted to marry a man of Indian origin, but Saddam forbade all foreigners from being married
in Iraq. She said she was a successful businesswoman who attended Oxford University in Britain from 1982 to 1984, where she
earned her Master's Degree in accounting. Hanna said she owned a retail establishment in which Saddam Hussein's wife
shopped, so she approached the regime to gain permission to marry her fiancé.
had her appointment, Uday Hussein, Saddam's son, kidnapped her and threw her in prison. She alleged that she saw about
150 women prisoners killed and their bodies were buried outside the Loose Dogs Prison. Shortly after Paul Bremer took charge
of Iraq, Hanna met him and told him her story. He was moved to tears.
In the U.S., Hanna met with
top officials of the Bush administration. Paul Wolfowitz told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee: "Her courage in
coming forward to offer U.S. officials what is very credible information would help the coalition root out Ba'athist killers."
When Hanna asked journalist Sara Solovitch to write her biography, Solovitch was honored. But, it quickly became
evident that some parts of Hanna's story did not add up. She could barely speak English and she kept changing names and
dates. Finally, a skeptical Solovitch decided to investigate. First, she called Oxford University and was told that no one
with the name Hanna ever attended the institute. Plus, it never offered a program in accounting. The US occupiers in Iraq
dug the area around Loose Dogs prison for months before a body was found. It was that of a cow.
what about the member of the British Parliament, Ann Clwyd? She came up with the shocking story that Saddam Hussein had a
human shredding machine. He watched people being shoved in feet-first and the grinder start to grind their bodies from the
legs up. When the job was done, the person was only a pile of minced meat that Saddam took home to feed to his dogs. This
allegation made huge news in Britain and Australia. Of course, it was soon debunked, but not before it created much damage.
Nobody challenged Clwyd's claim until a reporter asked where Clwyd got her information. She told him that a Kurdish fellow
told her about it in a coffee shop in the north of Iraq. Soon, her story unraveled, yet she did not have to pay a price for
the lies she told that contributed to the deaths of many Iraqis.
After scrutinizing all the lies
before and after the March 2003 invasion, I decided to go back and research in-depth the mother of all lies that set the pattern
for ensuing hoax books about Iraq: The Rape of Kuwait by Jean Sasson. When I began, there were snippets here and
there about the bogus book, but no one seemed to tie them all together.
The Rape of Kuwait
consisted of interviews conducted by an unknown writer at the time, Jean Sasson. The people she interviewed were supposedly
victims of the August 1990 invasion and occupation of Kuwait by Iraq. Their stories depicted horror, torture and murder of
Kuwaitis at the hands of Iraq soldiers. All those interviewed were given pseudonyms, supposedly for their own safety.
Sasson seemed to be an unlikely candidate for writing such a book. She had lived in Saudi Arabia for 12 years and
worked at a hospital. As incredible as it seems, she did not speak or read Arabic.
Now came the
reality. The people she interviewed were sent her way by the Kuwaiti government, most of whom were in exile. No one checked
to verify their authenticity. This was only one of a number of propaganda activities perpetrated by the Kuwaiti government.
Nine days after the Iraqis crossed the Kuwaiti border, the Hill and Knowlton public relations firm, a shady organization occasionally
used by US government agencies, such as the CIA, to conduct campaigns of deceit, created a front group called "Citizens
for a Free Kuwait." Like many other sham organizations, the name sounds benign and humanitarian. However, the activities
this group engaged in were far from those ideals. In the following three months, the Kuwaiti government channeled in excess
of $11 million dollars through the Citizens for a Free Kuwait group. The only other income the group had was a meager $17,861,
donated by 78 individuals. Plus, many other smaller groups were set up with various names.
10, 1990 was a day that, as stated by a former U.S. president, would "live in infamy." On that day, the world heard
of Iraqi troops in Kuwait removing incubators from a Kuwait City hospital and shipping them to Baghdad. To add more shock
value, the allegations stated that the Iraqi soldiers left the babies on the cold floor of the hospital to die. In one stroke,
the U.S. had enough propaganda to paint Iraqis as barbaric less-than-human entities. The world was aghast at the actions of
the Iraqi soldiers and government. The only problem was that none of the aforementioned atrocities occurred.
On that day, Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-CA) appeared on nationally-televised Today Show and alleged that Iraqi
troops threw babies out of incubators in Kuwaiti hospital incubators and shipped the incubators to Baghdad, leaving the babies
on the cold floor to die. Later in the day, a special meeting of the House Human Rights Caucus was held in Washington, D.C.
Although this group sounds official, it was not. It had no part of US government activities. Representatives Tom Lantos (D-CA)
and John Porter (R-IL) set up the group and both had free office space in Hill and Knowlton's Washington operation.
A tearful 15-year-old Kuwaiti girl, named Nayirah, took the stand and told of seeing the Iraqi soldiers perform the
inhumane actions. At the time, she said she saw 15 incubators taken away. In time, the number grew to more than 300 in statements
of various politicians and US military leaders. No one took the time to travel to Kuwait and find that there were fewer than
30 incubators in hospitals in the entire country.
Everyone believed Nayirah. She was thought to
have been a volunteer nurse, but some time later, her true identity was discovered: she was the daughter of the Ambassador
of Kuwait to the US, Saud Bin Nasir Al-Sabah. Before Nayirah's testimony, Hill and Knowlton vice president, Lauri Fitx-Pegado,
coached Nayirah for hours. Not one reporter was told this. In one day, Hill and Knowlton and the Kuwaiti government set up
the scenario that would be the basis for Sasson's book, The Rape of Kuwait.
quickly took the interviews and looked for a publisher. She got a bite from a small firm, Knightsbridge Publishing, and after
the company's agent rewrote and cleaned up some of Sasson's poor writing, Knightsbridge proceeded to publish it and
try to get it out before the beginning of possible hostilities that could start on January 17, 1991 in Iraq. The book was
released to the public in late 1990 and became an instant best-seller. But, what we saw wasn't real.
The sales figures included about 300,000 books purchased by the Kuwaiti government and each US soldier assembled
in Saudi Arabia was given one to read in an effort to get them incensed about Iraqis.
interviewed by many media outlets and publications. All of a sudden, this former hospital worker in Saudi Arabia who couldn't
speak Arabic became a spokesperson for the Arab world and women's rights.
On January 17, 1991,
bombs began falling on Iraq. A cease-fire was called on February 28, 1991. Then came all the accolades and celebrations in
the US. Dignitaries from the US were invited to Kuwait on a "freedom flight" in March 1991 to celebrate Kuwait's
"liberation." All expenses were paid by the Kuwaiti government. Jean Sasson was one of those invited.
Shortly after the book was published and the bombs started falling on Iraq, a few rumblings about the legitimacy
of The Rape of Kuwait began to emerge. On January 30, 1991, the Orange County Register got involved with
reporting about the plethora of books emerging about Iraq. The article, "Persian Gulf Books Storm onto Best-Sellers List,"
was written by Valerie Takaharma. She stated:
Sasson, who flew to Riyadh a week after
the August 2 invasion, said she conducted interviews with about 180 Kuwaiti refugees in Cairo, London and Riyadh. She said
that while she relied on Kuwaiti officials to help her contact the refugees, she received no financial assistance from the
Kuwaitis to research or write her book.
The report continued:
Sasson said the horror stories in her book were further substantiated by a report from the human-rights group Amnesty
International. "I found much of what Amnesty had found. When people say, 'How do I know this happened' I say,
'Well, don't believe me. Amnesty has documented many more cases.'"
last statement from Sasson is another swerve. Amnesty International did not document any cases. The group merely took the
bait from the published propagandas and condemned the alleged actions in general without sending one person to Kuwait, or
make one phone call, to verify the claims of the stolen incubators. A red-faced Amnesty International admitted it had been
Within a month of the publishing of The Rape of Kuwait, several sources touched
on whether the Kuwaiti government had anything to do with financing either the publisher or the author. Immediate denials
from both sides came forth. Soon after, Jean Sasson and Knightsbridge Publishing parted ways. Lawsuits from both sides ensued.
John MacArthur, publisher of Harper's Magazine, began to publish articles here and there about the entire
debacle and who was behind the creation and financing of Rape of Kuwait. In 1996, he again brought up The Rape
of Kuwait. However, for the first time, the subject of the Kuwaiti government paying Knightsbridge and Sasson was highlighted
in more detail. MacArthur's article, "How Kuwait Duped The Times Best Seller List," went deeper into
the finances of publishing the book and how the New York Times became a willing accomplice in promoting what MacArthur
called, "Ms. Sasson's Shabby little tract." According to MacArthur, writing for the March 11, 1996 edition of
the New York Observer:
To make matters worse, Ms. Sasson and her
publisher had the effrontery to pretend that The Rape of Kuwait was a real book. What no one knew amid the din or
war hype then making idiots of us all was that Ms. Sasson's and Knightsbridge's enterprise was secretly funded by
the Kuwaiti government.
Fortunately, liars and propagandists, like criminals,
often fall out over money. Three weeks into the war, Ms. Sasson sued Knightsbridge for not paying her everything she was owed.
According to papers filed in Los Angeles in California Superior Court, Knightsbridge had a secret agreement with the Kuwaiti
ambassador to the United States, Saud Nasir, Al-Sabah, which provided for the bulk purchase by the Kuwaitis of 300,000 copies
at a cost of $540,000. (The Kuwaitis distributed 250,000 copies free of charge to American troops stationed in and around
Saudi Arabia.) A separate agreement between Knightsbridge and Ms. Sasson guaranteed a cut to the author of $333,750 from the
bulk sales, in addition to Ms. Sasson's author contract with Knightsbridge, that paid her $50,000 in advance.
Without the Kuwaiti subsidy, The Rape of Kuwait
would have been nothing except a small-time hoax, no more serious than George Bush's commitment to human rights.
There is now no doubt as to who paid expenses for Sasson and Knightsbridge to produce The Rape of Kuwait.
Many people know that the bulk sales of the book to the Kuwaiti government were included in total book sales, making it a
high-ranking book on various best-selling lists, but the Kuwaiti government also agreed to pay for the printing of one million
books that Knightsbridge could use for general sale. Here's the two-page letter sent from the Kuwaiti Ambassador to the
US, the same man who allowed his 15-year-old daughter to lie to the world on October 10, 1990. I would think that any government
official who allowed his minor child to participate in such a vile act should be accused of child abuse, but no one seemed
to take that concept into account.
Of note on the following two-page agreement are parts four
and seven. One tells of subsidizing Knightsbridge for printing costs not related to the sales to the Kuwaiti government and
the other is adamant that no one other than the Knightsbridge publisher and Jean Sasson should ever see the contents. It ends
with, " ,,, and this document and its content are not to be known to others."
Doug Kellner of UCLA published an outstanding account of deceit of the media and the Kuwaiti government in producing the atmosphere
that allowed the Gulf War to occur in his book The Persian Gulf TV War, published in 1992:
For instance, World War I propaganda campaigns often featured stories or images of German rape and murder of babies.
In particular, British and U.S. propaganda teams produced copious atrocity stories of the dastardly deeds of German "Huns"
against innocent Belgians during World War I. These atrocity stories helped mobilize an indifferent and isolationist American
public to support U.S. entry into the war against Germany.
Then, Kellner brought
up how the same theme was used against Iraq that had worked more than seven decades prior to galvanize public opinion about
supporting war against a perceived enemy:
Following the model of the World War I "rape
of Belgium" campaign, Hill and Knowlton discerned that the rape metaphor was powerful and carried through a "rape
of Kuwait" campaign replete with a book (Sasson 1991), newspaper articles, packaged videos, pictures, press releases,
news conferences, and demonstrations. There were frequent media events such as National Free Kuwait Day, National Prayer Day
(for Kuwait's liberation), and National Student Information Day. Local events were also organized. Bush, Schwarzkopf,
and the media pundits used the rape metaphor continually and also repeatedly disseminated the baby atrocity story.
I recently corresponded with Professor Kellner about his knowledge of The Rape of Kuwait. He answered my
queries by calling the book, "One of the biggest lies in history." These are strong words coming from one of the
foremost media experts in the world.
Almost 23 years have passed since The Rape of Kuwait
was published. The book is still available to buy today from various Internet booksellers. The back cover still unashamedly
contains these words: "Infants were torn from incubators and left to die on hospital floors."
the hoopla of the Gulf War began to subside, The Rape of Kuwait was mostly a footnote in history. But, Jean Sasson
had other plans. She was contemplating writing anecdotes about Arab women. She discussed the possibility of writing a book
to be finished in 1992 with her agent, Alysss Dorese. Sasson praised Dorese and spoke of their future long-term relationship.
Eventually, Sasson pitched the idea of writing about a Saudi Arabian princess she met in 1985 and the pitfalls she endured
in Saudi society. On May 24, 1991, she sent the following letter to Dorese:
Princess: Summary only, of
course this book is being done by someone else. We can talk about this over the phone since she will not speak with anyone
but me out of fear. Perhaps over time I can get her to meet with you or at least talk with you over the telephone. I imagine
this one can be completed no later than January 30, 1992.
That's it. I think our main focus on me should be that I have so many books in me after so many years in living
in foreign lands. What do you think?
Sasson then mentions information
about other correspondence and ends the letter with, "Gotta dash! Talk to you soon. Three more pages to follow this."
Dorese was totally unaware that Sasson had already written a considerable portion of a book
called Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia. She also was did not know that Sasson was
seeking another agent at the same time she was sweet-talking Dorese.
a discovery transcript from a court case brought against Sasson for plagiarism, she admitted:
I realized that I did want to get another agent for the next book because I had an agent in
California, and you need one in New York, and when, in the course of our many conversations over the summer, I kept bringing
it up to him, and as the time neared that I was going to finish the book sooner rather than later, I remember I said, since
you have been in the business so long, do you think you could recommend and agent for me, because I wanted a New York agent.
I am going to say something real sexist. I wanted a male, not a female. I thought he might be tougher because Alyss was sort
of soft. He said he could, but he didn't have anyone at the moment to tell me about, but he would research it and get
back to me.
Sasson did get a new agent, Peter Miller. It came
as a shock to Dorese, who had worked on The Rape of Kuwait so it would be publishable. She went well beyond the normal
duties of an agent.
Miller got William Morrow and Company to commit to publish
the book. This was Sasson's ticket to stardom.
The manuscript presented
to Miller was well-written, yet Sasson was not a skilled writer. She employed Pat Creech, an outstanding editor and writer
to work on the manuscript. In the above-mentioned court case, Creech at first said she did light editing and eventually changed
her story and said she had more of a role in major work on the book.
can tell a person's real writing skills by reading his/her personal messages and statements. If you go to Jean Sasson's
webpage, you will see an incredible number of basic mistakes in the English language. She uses exclamation points liberally
when they are wrong. Also, instead of italicizing a word she wants to highlight, she writes them all in upper case; something
no legitimate writer would do or have his/her work accepted with such anomalies. Plus, in her real writing, Sasson lacks accuracy
in historical and geographical information. For instance, she mentions a newspaper in the UK that wrote an article about her.
The newspaper is The Guardian. Sasson called it a "London newspaper." It is not. The daily paper is in
Manchester, not London. It is world famous and anyone who reads it knows it is not a London publication. At times, Sasson
has written about the woman who sued her for plagiarism. She has called her a German, an Austrian and an Australian cook.
The mistakes I've picked up from reading her personal statements are far too numerous for me to elaborate here. You may
think I may be nit-picking, but for someone who is called a world-class writer by some, these mistakes are incredible. She
has had the luxury of astute editors and authors working on her behalf. Once she acquired fame, it was easy to get people
to reconstruct her writing because the public believes she is an excellent writer.
was released in early 1992 and became an overnight sensation. The tales of "Princess Sultana" of Saudi Arabia riveted
the readers to their seats. It had all the markings of incredible intrigue: murder, torture, male domination and other atrocities.
In other words, it had everything that US readers would want to hear about Saudi Arabia's male-dominated society.
Not long after, some cracks began to appear. As in The Rape of Kuwait, Sasson did
not use real names. She alleged that if she used the princess' name, her life could be in danger. Another problem was
the language barrier: the princess spoke no English and Sasson spoke no Arabic. It is quite odd to have seen her mention to
her former agent, Alyss Dorese that she may one day let the princess speak to her. There would have been the same language
Then, more cracks appeared. Some of the information Sasson mentioned
about Saudi society and culture were challenged by people who were aware of the social mores of the desert kingdom.
James G. Akins was the US Ambassador to Saudi Arabia from 1973 to 1976. He spoke fluent Arabic
and was familiar with many countries in the Middle East. On August 30, 1995, he reported on Princess: A True Story of
Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia and Sasson's follow-up book, Princess Sultana's Daughters:
I have prepared the attached report summarizing my conclusions on the authenticity of the basic
premise of both Princess and Daughters - the existence of a Saudi Arabia princess named "Sultana"
and her co-authoring both Sasson books. I am quite confident that the books were not 'written' or 'inspired'
or 'approved' by any Saudi princess. It is quite clear that "Sultana" does not exist.
The report went on to list many anomalies, too many to include here. Most considered of basic
mistakes that anyone with a cursory knowledge of Saudi Arabia should not have made.
On August 30, 1995, Dr. Jack J. Shaheen stated in an affidavit in the County of Beaufort, State of North Carolina:
Since 1993, I have been employed as a CBS News Consultant on Middle East Affairs. I am also
Professor Emeritus at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. I am a Fulbright Scholar and earned my Ph.D. at the University
of Missouri (1969), Masters of Arts at Pennsylvania State University (1964), and a Bachelors of Fine Arts at Pennsylvania
State University (1964) and a Bachelors of Fine Arts at the Carnegie Institute of Technology (1957). Under the auspices of
the United States Information Agency (USIA), I have lived and lectured in most Arab countries and have lectured at hundreds
of major universities and schools throughout the United States and abroad. Additionally, I have written over 300-plus essays,
almost exclusively on Middle East affairs, as well as on how Arabs are perceived in American popular culture. I am the author
of the highly-acclaimed book, The TV Arab.
have thoroughly studied Jean Sasson's Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia
("Princess") and Princess Sultana's Daughters ("Daughters").
Based upon numerous gross cultural errors and inaccuracies depicting the people and the country
of Saudi Arabia in both of Sasson's books, as set forth below, it is my professional opinion that the character named
"Sultana" is absolutely pure fiction - she does not exist. I do not believe Jean Sasson conducted interviews with
a Saudi Arabian princess' diary or upon her personal notes.
then continued to list many discrepancies.
After reading what other experts
had to say about these books, I called my colleague, Professor Khaleel Mohammed of San Diego State University. He is a professor
of religious studies and an Islamic scholar who has been to Saudi Arabia many times to attend conferences. I asked him to
read Princess and give me his input about the religious statements made in it. About a week after he picked up the
book, he returned it to me, again with many contradicting statements. For instance:
- Abu Dhabi is actually a city-stare, not a city.
- Haram: Wrong
meaning. It means "forbidden," not pity or sympathy.
- Ijma: Means
consensus or scholarly opinion. It does not mean what she says. She is thinking about "tafseer."
- Mutawa: Not religious police of Islam, but of Saudi Arabia.
- Shi'ite: Her explanation is terrible. The Shi'ites are probably older than the Sunnis. They did break away
from the main body, but the main body was not called Sunnis at the time. This is a horrible gaffe for someone to make.
Despite all these mistakes, plus hundreds of others that have been pointed out by scholars
and Arab nationals, Sasson still maintains that the character Princess Sultana is real, not fabricated. She has said that
in time, she will reveal the princess' identity when it won't put her in danger. Sasson has repeated this promise
at various times over the years. I would think that more than two decades would be sufficient. We all know that Saudi Arabia
is not the most enlightened country on the planet, but in the past decade, it has tried to put on a more humane face to the
outside world for political and business reasons. To think that outing the princess at this time would endanger her life is
Jean Sasson has the effrontery to insult her readers
with occasional statements on her webpage saying how she just received a message from the princess and she thanks all her
fans. Again, how can Sasson communicate with her?
Eventually, Sasson wrote
three books about the princess and her family, calling them the "Princess Trilogy." Not one has real names. I can't
recall any author of merit who has written three "nonfiction" books without indicating the names of the people involved.
Such a fishy aspect has gone virtually unnoticed.
Another mystery is, what
happened to the diaries of the princess that Sasson says she used to write the book? Also, who translated them? When asked
who had them in the plagiarism case brought against her, according to a discovery transcript, she stated, "No one. I
intentionally destroyed my things after I completed the book, and Sultana, of course, took back everything that belonged to
her." Sasson explained that she had 20 or 30 sheets of paper that belonged to Sultana that she returned, but she destroyed
all the notes she had taken over the years or copied from the diaries. However, she has never revealed the name of the company
that translated the alleged diaries that she said were written in Arabic and French.
BIRDS OF A FEATHER
Jean Sasson is not the only writer
who tried to cash in by writing books that may be intriguing to the US public about the Middle East, yet were dubious in nature.
In 2003, Norma Khouri came out with a shocking account of murder in Jordan, called Forbidden
Love, in which a friend was killed by a family member because she wanted to marry a man of a religion other than Islam.
However, to Australian journalist, Malcolm Knox, something wasn't right. Khouri made many historical, geographical and
cultural errors. He investigated it and published a scathing report that discredited the entire book.
For instance, Khouri had two children but said she was a virgin. Then, it was discovered that her account of being
in Jordan for two years and running a beauty salon with her friend was bogus. When checked out, it was found that Khouri was
in Chicago during that time. Plus, many cultural and geographic errors came forth. Khouri mentioned the River Jordan running
through Amman. Unless the river drastically changed its course suddenly by hundreds of miles, this was in fact an outrageous
geographical depiction. The River Jordan is far from Amman.
Random House, admitted that it never checked any items for authenticity. There were red faces all around.
Now, let's look at the back cover for endorsements of the book:
Norma Khouri's courage and candor takes us into the hearts and minds of a world that is
visually cloaked in mystery ... This extraordinary true story is well told, worth telling, and impossible to put down.
Jean Sasson, Author of the International Bestseller, Princess
There's Sasson's use of the word "true" again. Almost everything she writes
or comments on has to include this word, even though if it is true, the word is not necessary. We'll give her a pass on
incorrect noun/verb agreement in the first sentence.
Another horrible tale
of atrocities committed by Palestinians, Burned Alive, emerged in 2003. It was written by a person using the pseudonym
of Souad. To this day, no one knows the identity of Souad, but the book eventually went under scrutinizing and appeared to
be the same mish-mash of half-truths and lies that adorned other books of the same genre: all Arabs were beasts who kept their
women in slave-like conditions.
Thérèse Taylor is a renowned
teacher of history at Charles Stuart University in Australia who quickly found many anomalies in the book. The heroine, Souad
(a pseudonym, as most names in books of this kind, is used). She becomes pregnant and is sentenced to be burned to death by
her family in an "honor killing." Miraculously, she lives through the ordeal and escapes her home country. There
are various accounts of her injuries. Early publications of the book say that 90% of her body was burned. Successive printings
changed that to 70% and then 60%. She speaks of taking a direct air flight from Tel Aviv, Israel to Lausanne, Switzerland.
According to Taylor:
There are no direct flights from Tel Aviv
to Lausanne, there never were, and the airport at Lausanne has a short runway that cannot take the large jets used for international
flights. From any departure in Israel, one can only fly in to Geneva. When confronted with questions about this, the publishers
claimed that this "was deliberately stated in the book in order to make it impossible to trace the location of Souad's
new home in Europe.
By 2007, Burned Alive had been
universally discredited. But, guess who came to the plate to try to turn the tables on the critics who had verified the mistakes
in the book? Of course, Jean Sasson was once again backing a fraud. On September 1, 2007, she wrote on Amazon.com, the bookselling
I read this book when it first came out in hardback
and admit I was blown away although I am someone who is VERY familiar with the challenges so many women face worldwide. I
am disappointed with reviewers who state that the book is not true and only have one question: HOW CAN YOU KNOW THIS FOR A
FACT? CAN YOU PROVE WHAT YOU ARE SAYING? The truth is that you cannot possibly know and that you are simply angry and making
unfair statements. Life is stranger than fiction and no one but the author of this book knows for certain, but I suspect that
this story IS true. There are many people who believe that such book exposures are meant to attack a culture or a religion.
This is not true. You should not take these true stories as an attack on you or your country or your culture.
- Jean Sasson
classic Sasson, denial and misuse of upper-case letters. And, her logic was skewed. In any argument about facts and proof,
no one is supposed to prove a negative. It's up to the person to prove the positive with facts.
SASSON AND THE STARS
fooled by this headline. I'm not inferring that Jean Sasson's hobby is astronomy or that she has an affinity for Hollywood
stars. She is a practitioner of astrology.
In a discovery transcript, Sasson
mentioned her astrologer, Richard Billingsley of Tennessee. She admitted: "He (Billingsley) had three different groups
of the book (Princess) that I had sent during the course of that summer when I was consulting with him about an agent,
a new agent, and also about the book project, which is something I do with all my projects. I consult with Richard."
Sasson went on to describe the difference between an astrologer and a psychic: "Psychics
just go by whatever comes through their heads. You ask questions, they tell you. Astrologers look at your time of birth, look
at spiritual growth by stars, all sorts of things, and I believe that astrology plays a big role in your life's pattern."
When asked if she consulted her astrologer for advice regarding the Princess manuscript, she said, "Yes, I did."
When asked to elaborate what she discussed with Billingsley, Sasson stated:
There is a new project that I'm doing. Do you sense danger? Is this the right thing to do? Also, I consulted
with him about a new agent, my feelings on that, what I should do, what his feelings were by looking at certain signs that
were good. I recall him saying this is going to be a really important time in you life. That was about the time I finished
"Princess," and there would be - I remember him saying this - a powerful connection. I was hoping I could
have a new agent that suited my needs better.
It is quite humorous
to hear Sasson's testimony about the differences between psychics and astrologers. She inferred that psychics were quacks,
but astrologers were astute practitioners of giving advice. This assessment would be similar to one stating that Donald Duck
was a fictitious character, but Mickey Mouse was real. Coincidentally, shortly after this statement, Sasson referred to Billingsley
as "my psychic." She also admitted to using his services regularly since 1989.
Astrology, like psychic powers, is bunk, pure and simple. The US government officially dubbed it "pseudoscience."
And, Islam threw it out the door at the beginning of the second millennium CE. It is odd to see Sasson cite astrology while
putting on the illusion that she is knowledgeable of the Muslim world.
people think astrology is harmless. Millions of people look at the astrology columns in the morning papers while having coffee
and have a quick laugh at their predictions. However, it can be dangerous and Sasson admitted she took the advice of her astrologer
in making a choice for a new agent. Alyss Dorese, her original agent, had her life turned upside down by some quack in Tennessee.
Astrology is not as benign as it is portrayed to be. Unfortunately, most daily newspapers devote more column inches to astrology
than they do to science. It seems there's more money in it. Sad.
CONCLUSION (OF SORTS)
Jean Sasson has led a charmed career
as a writer. She has dubious writing skills and is loose with facts. And, she's the only writer I have ever seen who writes
books not using people's names or facts and calls them nonfiction. If she admitted they were fiction, there would be no
argument and I wouldn't have had to take many hours to research her work and write this article. She has been exposed
many times, but nothing stuck. She just keeps denying and continues on the same path. She does have many admirers, and reading
some of the reviews of her books online and comments made on various websites, they are rabid when someone tries to bring
up discrepancies in Sasson's work. So far, she hasn't suffered the same fate as Norma Khouri and probably never will.
My biggest gripe with her work is that she was a catalyst for what Doug Kellner called, "One
of the biggest lies in history." This lie contributed to the deaths of many Iraqis and created many Iraqi widows and
orphans. Over the years, I've received many messages from Iraqis, both inside the country and those who were made refugees
at the hands of the US military telling me their sad and horrific stories. Each time, Jean Sasson comes to my mind.
In 1995, Monika Pavlik filed suit against Jean Sasson in New York for plagiarism. Her story
is told in The Phoney Princess and can be ordered at http://www.amazon.co.uk/.