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The Prince of the Marshes: And Other Occupational Hazards of a Year in Iraq

3.99  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,359 Ratings  ·  179 Reviews
In August 2003, at the age of thirty, Rory Stewart took a taxi from Jordan to Baghdad. A Farsi-speaking British diplomat who had recently completed an epic walk from Turkey to Bangladesh, he was soon appointed deputy governor of Amarah and then Nasiriyah, provinces in the remote, impoverished marsh regions of southern Iraq. He spent the next eleven months negotiating hosta ...more
ebook, 416 pages
Published February 1st 2007 by Mariner Books (first published 2005)
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I was unprepared for this book. It surprised me utterly. I didn't know what to expect, given the author's previous book, which was his walk through Afghanistan, called The Places in Between. To say I liked that earlier book does not quite describe my reaction--I was bowled over. I gave the book as a gift to several people and looked to see what else he'd done. I bought this one and put it aside, thinking it would be nice to read someday. When I stumbled upon his participation in some interviews ...more
Chris Ross
I listened to the audio book and did so at the recommendation at the end of The Osama Bin-Laden I know by Peter Bergen. Before listening to this book I thought that the War in Iraq had gone well and was going to go well for the USA. Somewhere in the first quarter to half of the book I changed my mind and I began to realize what a mistake we had made as a country and "winning" the war in the military sense was impossible. I also realized how our invasion of Iraq would make things in the Middle Ea ...more
Harry Rutherford
Occupational Hazards is Stewart's account of trying to administer Maysan province in southern Iraq. He's obviously an interesting character; to quote his author bio: 'After a brief period in the British army, he studied at Balliol College, Oxford, and then joined the Foreign Office, serving in Indonesia and Montenegro, Yugoslavia. From 2000 to 2002 he walked six thousand miles across Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Nepal. In 2003, he was posted to Iraq as CPA Deputy Governate Coordinator ...more
Steeped in politics in post war Iraq. It was interesting how provisional government was suppose to be set up. I don't think it is that way now. I think it has reverted to pre-invasion mentality and security. It all looked good on paper,but old dogs do not like new tricks. Iraq will always have tribal and religious differences. Do we really think we can change the structure of their every day lives. I think not. And should we even try to, again I think not. They will have to come to that decision ...more
Dec 15, 2010 Owen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Prince of the Marshes. Rory Stewart is a certified crazy person. He proved this by walking across Asia, including Afghanistan. The Places In Between put his crazy in book form, and should be read by anyone going to Afghanistan (though why you would be going there for any reason other than a deployment is beyond me). Anyway, after writing The Places in Between, around 2003, he got bored. So he applied for a job in the British government, to work in Iraq. No one got back to him. So he took initiat ...more
Apr 18, 2008 Martin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2008books, favorites
I wish everyone would read “The Prince of the Marshes.” On the one hand it a fascinating read about a part of the world that is SO much in the news these days yet is also so utterly unknown to us (and unknowable, says Stewart). On the other, it is a clear-eyed, detailed description of the ground-level work in Iraq that DOESN’T show up on CNN.

The epilogue to the book – written in Kabul in 2007 – should be five pages of required reading for everyone, everywhere. I particularly enjoyed Stewart’s re
Jun 12, 2015 Jake rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I can't stop reading Iraq books. This one is by Rory Stewart, who spent roughly a year as a provincial deputy governor for the CPA in southern Iraq in the early period after the fall of Saddam. His tale of CPA incompetence, Iraqi strife and mistrust, and gradually creeping chaos is still dismaying, even today.

Rory Stewart is an interesting, somewhat slippery, and stereotypically British character who will make a lot of money whenever he sells his movie rights. You would think that someone who ha
Mar 11, 2015 Brian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was excited to read this after "The places in between." Stewart's focus, whether he's trekking across southern Asia or trying to serve as Coalition provisional governor in the Maysan province in Iraq, is on community-scale socio-economic networks and how they affect and are affected by the larger, overarching systems. (This book is about his year serving in 2003-2004 as an administrator in Iraq.) He's a brilliant writer, packing a thousand pieces of genuine cultural, personal, social, historic ...more
Richard Anthony
Jun 16, 2015 Richard Anthony rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Having spent some years in Southern Iraq from 2002-2015 this is a useful guide to how nation building is fine in theory (especially if you're a neo-con who's rarely left the states) but much harder in practice. Rory Stewart writes a brave account of his honourable effort to afford security and prosperity through empowerment of the local population, that he largely fails in the task is honestly admitted. However he can be proud of achieving as much as he did given the pressure to balance juxtapos ...more
Mike McNeff
This is another book that shows why western countries failed change Iraq. Although the book is tedious to read at times, the information is essential to anyone concerned about why the operation was a failure in Iraq. The folly and stupidity of western governments shows prominently in this book.
Sep 05, 2007 Dan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
There were many typos, oh, and Iraq is a shitty place right now. Also, the Italians are pussies.
Jan 04, 2010 Joe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Compelling account of the author’s time as a governor in the South East of Iraq during the first few years after the invasion. In this book the occupation certainly looks like a complete shambles. Ignorance, lack of preparation, ideology, greed, fanaticism and dislocation between the various coalition partners ensured disaster followed. However, Stewart is careful to point out that tweaking this aspect or making sure they’d done something differently somewhere else probably wouldn’t have made mu ...more
ريما المديرس
“And somewhere within these anxieties was guilt. We were controlling the lives of people who had not invited us in and who had not voted for us. We wanted to justify the invasion by doing some good; but we knew little about the people who surrounded us, or their culture..”

It was a good read. Not spectacular, but it gave me decent insights about what the situation was like in Iraq upon the invasion.

After "The Places in Between" Rory Stewart, a 30 year old British diplomat, heads to Iraq in 200
Daniel Hammer
Rory Stewart's experiences as a coalition governor in Iraq are interesting and well written. I had been unaware of the degree to which tribal affiliations compete with religious sects for control over politics in the regions. Based on my familiarity with Bosnia and Herzegovina, it seems that many of the same evolutions of interventionist thought applied in Bosnia were carried over to Iraq. To a degree, this is good to see. It is evidence of what we call 'institutional learning.' Stewart aptly il ...more
Steven Peterson
Jan 16, 2010 Steven Peterson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Rory Stewart's book is a useful addition to the literature on the American invasion and occupation of Iraq and the efforts by that country of establishing a functioning stable democracy. The most useful aspect of Stewart's work is that it is based on his administrative work in the Shi'ite southern part of Iraq (e.g., assistant governor in Amara in Maysan Province and an administrator later in Nasiriyah in Dhi Qar province). Many of the better works on Iraq focused more on Baghdad, the Green Zone ...more
Achingly frustrating account of a British member of the International Coalition attempting to assist Iraqi self rule after Hussein's reign.

It underscored the often insurmountable problems of countries trying to aid in self rule endeavors in other countries. There were at least three (major) factions that had to be reconciled: one group with intricate ties to Iran, the religious conservative faction, and various tribes with long standing animosity to other tribes. A Herculean task on par with tr
May 13, 2009 Tim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Governments, projects and businesses tend to fear insider accounts. That's because being on the inside means access to even the most damaging information. Yet what can be even more revealing is an insider account by someone who isn't really an insider.[return][return]That may not have been what Rory Stewart set out to accomplish with The Prince of the Marshes , the U.S. edition of his book about his time with the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Iraq. Yet it can plainly be viewed as suc ...more
This is a book by that guy who wrote the book about when he walked across Afghanistan. This time around he was back at his job in the British Foreign Service acting as a provincial governor for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq. After years of dumbed-down, over simplified media coverage of the war in Iraq, I've been really thirsty for some details to try to have an understanding of what actually is going on there. From this book, I know there's A LOT of stuff going on that we'll never ...more
Nov 03, 2012 Laurence rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Not a lot of books on recent Mideast history out there. I believe, because of the ongoing strife, that it's hard to write a compelling account and not have it come off as an anti-war screed.

Rory Stewart was the Scots deputy governor of a marsh Arab province in southern Iraq, for about a year shortly after the 2003 invasion. Stewart, educated and well-bred, is the main character in this gripping story of the attempt by the Coalition Provisional Authority to build a liberal democracy in Mesopotami
Jul 27, 2010 Bluenose rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very recent history at that. If you want even a glimmer of what Iraq is all about, read this book.

I had read THE PLACES IN BETWEEN, Stewart’s account of his lone walk across Afghanistan after his service in Iraq and it was a terrific book. It put in question some of my fondly held prejudices about Afganistan, muslims and that part of the world in general. It left no doubt as to Stewart’s ball busting nerve and his deep understanding of the people and history of Afghanistan.

In this book he has c
Oct 11, 2010 M rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
In a way one could view this as a sequel to Stewart's The Places In Between, in which he walks across Afghanistan – but if The Places In Between was an adventure narrative (with a healthy dose of personal growth), The Prince of Marshes is a tale of bureaucratic ineptitude, of woefully under-trained people doing the best they can do in appalling circumstances. It is an impressionistic and personal book, in which, strangely, the author does not seemed fully engaged, as though his publisher had sen ...more
This is Rory Stewart's account of his service as a diplomat for the Coalition Provisional Authority in southern Iraq 2003-4. I found his book, The Places in Between well-written and revelatory. I struggled with this book. The Prince of the Marshes: And Other Occupational Hazards of a Year in Iraq is engagingly written with touches of self-deprecating humor and clearly tells of the challenges of "nation building" in Iraq after the coalition invasion. I think why I had a hard time dragging myself ...more
Oct 12, 2007 Foster rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
I finally got around to reading a book about the situation in Iraq, and it was well worth it. Rory Stewart is a young Brit who spent time travelling through the mideast, and became the CPA administrator of a province in the southeastern corner of Iraq in 2003.
His account of the time he spent in Maysan and Dhi Qar is amazing, and results in the full gamut of emotions for the reader. You have equal parts admiration and pity for the author, as he tries to apply a strong set of moral principles to h
Zach Freeman
Oct 15, 2007 Zach Freeman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People interested in Iraq
Seyyed Rory gives an amazing inside view of what it was like during his time working in Iraq. The difference between his book and other books on Iraq is that he is not trying to forward a political agenda, but simply telling his story. At times he tells of their triumphs and how some citizens were thankful for their help, and at other times he tells of their failures and the anger of Iraqis for the Coalition forces even being in Iraq.

Quite often we see how unorganized the Coalition is. We see t
Colleen Clark
Sep 18, 2007 Colleen Clark rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in Iraq, fans of "The Places in Between"
Shelves: iraq
After Stewart walked across Afghanistan in January 2002 ("The Places in Between") he rejoined the British Foreign Office and volunteered to work as part of the British staff of the Coalition Provisional Authority. He was a deputy governor in Maysan and Nasariyah from October 2003 to June 2004.

Like "The Places in Between" this book also is like a modified and selected diary, so it proceeds chronologically. Stewart writes about his and his staff's efforts to engage the local Iraqi population in po
Oct 17, 2008 Blake rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone intersted in Iraq
Recommended to Blake by:
Shelves: iraq, middle-east
For anyone who is interested in understanding America's involvement in Iraq this is a particularly useful book, especially when coupled with other accounts. Prince of the Marshes is written from the perspective of a youngish British diplomat stationed in southern Iraq directly after the invasion. Unlike many other books on Iraq that concentrate on Washington decision making (Bob Woodward's series), military planning and execution (Cobra II and many others), or the perspective of individual soldi ...more
Mar 22, 2012 Dale rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An informative book without an ax to grind from someone who was really there (who also knows how to write well!)

If the Iraq war interests you in any way, even if you are a partisan of the pro-war or anti-war persuasion, read The Prince of the Marshes: And Other Occupational Hazards of a Year in Iraq .

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 Tigris and Euphrates come together.
Feb 15, 2016 Bruinrefugee rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Although framed in short vignettes that hint at much more than they contain, this is a fascinating retelling of Stewart's stint as a 2nd in command (asst. governor) in southern Iraq.

Stewart himself is a fascinating guy and the handling of the occupation -- it's hopes, struggles, flaws, and even occasional success -- is eye-opening from an on-the-ground perspective.
When last we were with Mr. Rory Stewart he was at home in Scotland after completing his hike across Afghanistan. Now he turns up working with the British Foreign Office as deputy government coordinator of Maysan Province in Iraq (under the Coalition Provisional Authority). At the outset, Stewart actually is the guy in charge. This is not compelling reading. There is a long cast on one-dimensional characters. "Prince" is faintly tickling along the way of course, and instructive. It is a facet of ...more
May 06, 2012 Christopher rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Rory Stewart tells the amazing tale of 2 regions of Iraq before the handover to Iraqi control.

What seems to be a modestly written account of his time in Iraq, this book details the incredibly convoluted politics of the regions he worked in as governor or deputy.

It brings to life the "story behind the headlines" - except there were no headlines about the violence and intense political negotiations being carried out on our behalf.

Dealing with everyone from the U.N. to local Iraqi mayors, Rory Stew
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Rory Stewart was born in Hong Kong and grew up in Malaysia. He served briefly as an officer in the British Army (the Black Watch), studied history and philosophy at Balliol College, Oxford and then joined the British Diplomatic Service. He worked in the British Embassy in Indonesia and then, in the wake of the Kosovo campaign, as the British Representative in Montenegro. In 2000 he took two years ...more
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“In the evening [the Iraqi interim governor of Maysan province] asked me for fifty dollars to repair his windows, which had been destroyed in a recent demonstration. Although he was the governor, his salary was only four hundred and fifty dollars a month, and Baghdad had still not agreed to give the governors an independent budget.... For the sake of a tiny sum of money - a couple thousand dollars a month from the hundred billion we had spent on the invasion - we were alienating our key partner and successor.
p. 264”
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