An informative book without an ax to grind from someone who was really there (who also knows how to write well!)
Rory Stewart was a member of the CPA (Coalition Provisional Authority). He functioned as governor of Amara province in Southern Iraq - a semi-swampland where the Tigras and Euphrates come together. His tale is a tale of success, failure, friendship, war, violence, trust and betrayal. In other words, his is a story of real people in a very difficult situation with the compounded challenges of religious, language and cultural barriers.
Here's what you learn from this book:
-Success in Iraq is best measured on a relative scale and will ultimately have to be determined by the Iraqis themselves - on their terms with their leaders.
-Iran is definitely active in Iraq, as current news from the Bush administration suggests. If Rory Stewart says Iran was involved in his province's politics, I believe him.
-Lots of money was wasted in Iraq, buts lots of projects were completed.
-The Italian armed forces perform under fire according to their international reputation (not worth much since the fall of Rome in 476 AD), as do the Brits (professional).
-The CPA did not seem to have a great game plan going in, which is a real disappointment to me since the war was planned well in advance. The CPA upper echelons seemed pretty well removed from the realities of day to day operations, even to the point of denying that Stewart and his officials were being shelled when he called his superiors to ask for help. It reminded me of some of the insanity of some of the early episodes of the TV show M*A*S*H.
-There was no clear command structure between the CPA military and the CPA civilian leadership.
I rate this book 5 stars out of 5.
This book can be found on Amazon.com here: The Prince of the Marshes: And Other Occupational Hazards of a Year in Iraq by Rory Stewart.
Reviewed on February 21, 2007.