124 internautes sur 127 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
- Publié sur Amazon.com
Do you REALLY want to know what it's like in Iraq? Probably not - All the more reason to read this book. Rory or "Seyyed Rory" as he is called throughout most of the book has written a well-penned, deadpan account of his eleven months or so as an administrator: Governor, Deputy Governor etc., with the Brits in the South of Iraq. Early on in the book, he reflects:
"I had never believed that mankind, unless overawed by a strong government, would fall inevitably into violent chaos. Societies were orderly, I thought, because human cultures were orderly. Written laws and policy played only a minor role. But Maysan (the province to which he's assigned) made me reconsider." P.78
Thus, we have the quotes from Machiavelli at the beginning of each section bearing, in some way, on the Byzantine, disorderly, well, mess in which he finds himself in each particular situation, with Sheiks, militias, clerics, and divisions and sub-divisions and sub-sub-divisions of each.
Those with axes to grind on either side probably won't fancy this book. It doesn't have the headline grabbing title of "Fiasco" or "The End of Iraq" - Furthermore, he depicts good Brits and bad Brits, good Yanks and bad Yanks, good Iraqis and bad Iraqis, as well as some who are at some times courageous and kind and at others cowardly and corrupt.-In other words, the human condition, not some idealised vision of the (all too many) sides. - All the more reason for those with said axes to drop them and read this book.
Yes, I agree that this book does not have the emotional pull of The Places in Between, Rory's earlier book. But this lack goes pari passu with the situation he is in. He is not on an epic quest with a lovable dog he has adopted.-But, rather, trying to make sense of a political muddle.
I agree with the other reviewers that the droll, British understated humour is a saving grace here. - You will often find yourself laughing in spite of yourself, because this humour is based on not very pleasant facts, such as Rory's visit with the soi-disant "Prince of The Marshes" to a girls' high school refurbished by the CPA with Coalition funds, the contractor for which apparently has (as does almost everyone described herein) skimmed a bit of the funding for himself. The Prince turns to Rory and matter-of-factly says: "Now I need to find the contractor who did this work -tell me his name, and I will rip his tongue out."-End of chapter.
This is the first book I've seen on Iraq since the invasion that doesn't have some preconceived notion to pound into the reader's head. It is worth reading for that fact alone. As for what one should come away with from this book as far as notions about what to do or not do in Iraq, this book will be singularly (and delightfully) unhelpful. As the Oxford-educated student of history, Rory Stewart, puts it here:
"History has few unambiguous lessons." P.46
43 internautes sur 49 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
Yesh Prabhu, author of The Beech Tree
- Publié sur Amazon.com
This book was first published by Picador in London in June this year, with the title "Occupational Hazards: My Time Governing in Iraq". It has now been published in the USA by Harcourt with a new title: "The Prince of the Marshes: And Other Occupational Hazards of a Year in Iraq".
The Prince of the Marshes is a tribal leader named Abdul Karim al Muhammadawi, who led a group of Shia men who opposed Saddam Hussein's reign over the marshy territory. This tribe fought with Saddam Hussein's army in the 1990s and until the fall of Saddam's regime. The marshes were drained by Saddam's army as a collective punishment to the tribe, to deprive the tribesmen of their source of food and trade. Writing about the marshes, Rory quotes Azzam Alwash, manager of the Iraq Foundation's New Eden project: "In a few short years, Saddam drained them to allow access for his tanks to establish control in the area. After they were dried, the marshes were burned and villages were destroyed."
The Prince is also known as Abu Hatim, "father of Hatim", even though he never had a son called Hatim.
After the invasion of Iraq by the coalition army, Rory Stewart, seeking employment, sent his resume to the occupying British army, but received no reply. Writes the author: "I had resigned from the Foreign Office, but when the invasion of Iraq began in March 2003, I sent in my CV(Curriculum Vitae',resume). No one replied. So in August I took a taxi from Jordan to Baghdad to ask for a job from the director of operations. A month later, the Foreign Office asked me to be the deputy governorate coordinator of Maysan, which lies in the marshes just north of the Garden of Eden."
This is how he describes Iraq as he saw it upon his arrival: "But the province on election day looks a little like a police state. There are armed men at checkpoints every few kilometres up the highway; policemen with vehicle-mounted machine-guns are checking IDs on almost every street corner; no civilian vehicles are allowed to move on the streets. This may be part of the reason `security has improved.' Yet despite the checkpoints, which are in place every day, there are still daily car-jackings and roadside bombs, and towards the Iranian border there's drug smuggling, looting, and kidnapping of children."
As in "Places in Between", the author's much acclaimed book, there are quite a few humorous passages in this book also. Writing about a reporter named James Astill, a reporter for the Economist, interviewing an Iraqi: "Astill's longest conversation with an Iraqi in Fallujah was with a man urinating against a wall with a suitcase on his head, and thus unable to move for twenty seconds." Here is an example of the author's wicked sense of humor: In a lounge the author decides to dance with an attractive woman to while away time, and talks with her in Bosnian as he dances. "But I must have bored her with my bad Bosnian, because she turned her back on me and went to join a group of women who, from their build, looked as though they were in the army".
If you wish to know one of the reasons why the invasion of Iraq has turned into a fiasco, you can gleam it from this minor episode. The military officers of the occupying army know very little about the Iraqi people and their culture, and even less about how to deal with and talk to the Iraqi men. They have only contempt for the Iraqi men. Soon after Rory's arrival in Iraq, this is what a British military officer says to a small group of new recruits at the airport, in case they are taken hostage by Arabs: "Since you will be taken hostage by Arabs, it is likely that they will male-rape you." Also, he says something so outrageous that it's quite unprintable in a decent website. Shocking, isn't it, that this is what the British military officers think of Arabs? And now you know why they failed so miserably in Iraq.
To place this book in context, however, I think it is appropriate to say a few words about the author's previous book, which I liked very much. In fact, I quite marveled at it. In the year 2001, the author walked across Afghanistan and wrote an extraordinary travelogue and memoir titled "The Places in Between". It received much acclaim and well-deserved rave reviews. This book, however, didn't grip me the way his "Places in Between" did. There are mainly two reasons for this, I think. Reason number one is that there is no Babur in this book. Babur was an affectionate, orphan mutt that Rory Stewart adopted as a traveling companion - a retired, burly, courageous fighting mastiff, unloved and much abused, earless and tailless, and as big as a "small pony", whose loyalty, affection and bravery gave the book an emotional depth. Babur is sorely missed. Reason number two is that Rory walked across Afghanistan like a pilgrim, visiting remote, barely accessible villages, and met many poor but kind and generous and proud and interesting people. In this book, however, the pilgrim has turned into a bureaucrat working for the Coalition Provisional Authority, and the change in his status reflects very clearly in his prose. (The generals expect Rory to show the Iraqis who is the real boss, and he is told: Do not promise them anything, deny their requests, and use authoritative voice.)And unlike in Afghanistan where he chose to walk, he now travels by taxis and military vehicles to meet corrupt politicians, crooked warlords, stupid generals, prejudiced and insensitive military officers, and tribal leaders and men with selfish motives.
On the whole, however, "The Prince of the Marshes" is written well. And even though it lacks the sheer dazzle of "The places in Between", it still manages to impress on the reader's mind.
Read it, please.