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Occupational Hazards: My Time Governing in Iraq Paperback – Unabridged, 4 May 2007

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Product details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; Reprints edition (4 May 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330440500
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330440509
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 2.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 87,032 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Rory Stewart was born in Hong Kong and grew up in Malaysia. After a brief period in the British army, he joined the Foreign Office, serving in the Embassy in Indonesia and as British Representative in Montenegro, Yugoslavia. In 2002 he completed a six-thousand-mile walk from Turkey to Bangladesh. His account of crossing Afghanistan on foot shortly after the US invasion, The Places In Between, was published in 2004, drew widespread acclaim, and was shortlisted for that year's Guardian First Book Award. He was awarded an OBE in 2004 for his work in Iraq, which is recounted in his book Occupational Hazards. He now lives in Cumbria.

Product Description


`Bush, Blair and the other coalition leaders should read this - one of The
Times Top Ten Books of 2006 - and weep. It is as good as Evelyn Waugh's
Scoop, but this is fact, not fiction. With a fine eye for the barmy and the
bizarre and in crisp, clear prose, Stewart chronicles the waste, the farce
and the tragedy.'
-- The Times

`His conclusion . . . seems depressing, but nobody has done more than
Stewart in this compelling and brilliantly written book to provide insight
into the problems facing this devastated country.' -- Sunday Times - Pick of the Week

`Stewart tells his story well, with a great eye for detail and a
necessarily dark sense of humour, and his book is a timely corrective for
anyone who thinks they understand what's going on in Iraq - or that we can
possibly control it.' -- Daily Telegraph

'Engaging, practical scholarship.' -- The Herald

'Rory Stewart describes people's motives with perception and wit.' -- Sunday Telegraph

'This is traveling at its hardest and travel-writing at its best'
-- David Gilmour

'will endure as a classic' -- Independent

Book Description

'The best book by far to come out of the Iraq mess' Sunday Herald

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

41 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Chris F on 15 Aug. 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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 Stewart pulls no punches, but nor does he set out to criticise any party.

I would recommend that this is read in conjunction with "Dusty Warriors: Modern Soldiers at War" by Richard Holmes which tells a similar story that happened at around the same time, but from the army's perspective.

The best book I have read in quite a few years.
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42 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Petrolhead VINE VOICE on 5 May 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Rory Stewart gives us a rare, enlightening and honest (albeit subjective) account of what it was like on the ground as an administrator in provincial Iraq in the early days after the invasion.

Tasked with developing and effectively governing one of Iraq's regions, he encounters slippery sheikhs, treacherous clerics, post-modern civil-society-builders, cowardly Italians and -- later -- mortar bombs and RPGs. On arriving, he seems to be terribly out of his depth, largely because he is unprepared and unsupported, but he never seems daunted and one gets the impression that most people would have done a much worse job. But it's painfully clear that the overall operation was woefully inadequate in preparation, naive in its conception and incompetent in its execution.

The story is littered with broken promises that seem to surprise Stewart and his hard-pressed colleagues. If you were against the war to begin with, you may find yourself wondering: "Just what did you expect? How could you ever expect to just walk in there and run Iraq?" But Stewart seems confident that success is possible and he tirelessly tries to engage with all the major players. His optimism is completely devoid of any neo-con zealotry -- he's just there to do a job. This is laudable, but with hindsight we know all his efforts are doomed, thwarted by US incompetence, Iranian interference, and Iraqi sectarianism, and so, unavoidably, it proves.

Stewart writes well, explains complex tribal politics elegantly, and is thoroughly polite about the people he deals with, often through gritted teeth.
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69 of 74 people found the following review helpful By Guy Edmunds on 27 Jun. 2006
Format: Hardcover
This book, Rory Stewart's second, is hugely impressive. Those who enjoyed The Places in Between, his astonishing account of his walk across Afghanistan, may have wondered "Where on earth does he go from here?" The answer lies in this gripping account of his year working for the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq.

Stewart clearly makes for a talented administrator, bringing enormous energy, enthusiasm, deft political judgement and skilful diplomacy to the job at hand. His writing is understated, crisp, lucid and occasionally poetic. His descriptions of those he meets reveal a perceptive eye and deep sense of humanity, while his comments on policy reveal a keen intellect and reflect a wisdom borne of experience. He is sceptical about the grand rhetoric and designs emanating from Baghdad, wary of the all-too-easy universal theories of "foreigners in a hurry", and pragmatic about what he can achieve in a limited period of time. And throughout the chaos, confusion and intermittent danger, you have the impression that he is unfailingly polite.

Stewart's narrative is also, I suspect, unusual in at least three other respects. He demonstrates a clear honesty about his own limitations that more careerist bureaucrats might avoid. He records disagreements about policy decisions with little desire to settle scores or have the last word. And he displays a deep interest in Iraqi history and culture that contextualises the narrative magnificently. Should you feel a little perplexed by the proliferation of political factions, sheikhs and tribes that tumble across his pages, do not be put off; consider instead the size of the challenge that confronted those foreign administrators.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Ethan Cooper on 15 Feb. 2007
Format: Hardcover
Rory Stewart, a young veteran of the British Foreign Office, worked as a coordinator in the Iraqi governorate (state) of Maysan from September 2003 to January 2004 and as an advisor in the Coalition Provisional Authority in the Iraqi governorate of Dhi Qar from March through June of 2004. In OCCUPATIONAL HAZARDS: My Time Governing in Iraq, Stewart describes CPA efforts to establish representative government in these two Iraqi states in the first 15 months after the invasion.

Surprising to me was the progress that Stewart and his colleagues made in this visionary project. While local commitment to a representative government in each governorate was shallow, at best, Stewart and his colleagues either appointed representative governments or held actual, albeit imperfect, elections that produced governors. While alternative Sadrist governments existed, the Western diplomats had the machinery for representative government in place.

So what happened? In Maysan, violence immediately after elections demonstrated the weakness of the new democracy, with its politicians then claiming autocratic powers. Thereafter, everything unraveled. And in Dhi Qar, the failure of Italian military units to establish control allowed a relative handful of violent Sadrists to drive out the CPA, as well as intimidate elected officials.

The fundamental failure in Iraq, in other words, was the failure to provide security. Without security, the CPA's new government structures could never establish legitimacy. The existence of violent intimidation also showed moderate Iraqis that they were unprotected if they took the side of representative government.
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