This is a great book, by clear, direct, ironic and insightful author Rory Stewart, which is subtitled And Other Occupational Hazards of a Year in Iraq.
If you only read one book about our occupation of that woeful country, this is it. You will understand the complexity of the tribal landscape, the land itself, the religious separations, the roles and interests of the surrounding countries. And it’s all told in stories and commentary, a year-long diary of Rory’s life.
One major irony is that after walking Afghanistan immediately after the Taliban left, and writing a best seller about that journey (The Places in Between), Rory volunteered – nay, insisted – on going to Iraq, thinking perhaps that one experience had prepared him for the other. The first was a pure experience of the Afghani people.
This book is about tangled threads in all directions, and tells us about non-functional bureaucracy, both British and US, and about tribal bureaucracy and protocols in southern Iraq, where the marsh culture held sway until Saddam drained them as punishment.
When Rory lost hope near the end of that year, I lost hope. Quagmire is the only word that fits, though Rory never uses it. Jacob Weisberg of Slate says “Of all the books I’ve read about the tragedy in Iraq, I think Stewart’s is the most likely to last.”
This is an important book for each of us to read.