Revolt on the Tigris: The al-Sadr Uprising and the Governing of Iraq

Overview

A former paratrooper in the British Army with extensive experience of conflict and post-conflict management in the countries of former Yugoslavia, Mark Etherington had just completed an M.Phil. in international relations at Cambridge University in 2003 when the British Foreign Office asked him to assume the governorship of Wasit Province in southern Iraq on behalf of the Coalition Provisional Authority or CPA.Etherington established a small team in the provincial capital of al-Kut on the banks of the Tigris in ...
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Overview

A former paratrooper in the British Army with extensive experience of conflict and post-conflict management in the countries of former Yugoslavia, Mark Etherington had just completed an M.Phil. in international relations at Cambridge University in 2003 when the British Foreign Office asked him to assume the governorship of Wasit Province in southern Iraq on behalf of the Coalition Provisional Authority or CPA.Etherington established a small team in the provincial capital of al-Kut on the banks of the Tigris in order to begin the process of reconstruction—both political and physical—of a province with a predominantly Shi'ia population of 900,000 and a long border with Iran.The province was plagued by poverty and beset by social paralysis. A demoralized and often corrupt police force was incapable of imposing the rule of law. Ba'ath party functionaries had been purged, local municipal authority was weak, and basic services were lacking. More challenging still was an escalating armed insurgency by the followers of Moqtada al-Sadr that would culminate in a sixteen-hour firefight for control over the CPA's base in Kut.This gritty and compelling firsthand account of post-conflict Iraq describes the turmoil visited on the country by outside intervention and the difficulties faced by the Coalition in fashioning a new political and civil apparatus.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This important, detailed, evocative and revealing book is by a former Parachute Regiment officer who was awarded the CBE by the Foreign Office for his crucial and highly dangerous work in the aftermath of the Iraq invasion. . . . By not opposing the American decision to invade without proper plans for the reconstruction of Iraq, and then failing to insist upon sufficient troop levels for the far more difficult post-invasion phase, Blair risked hundreds of British lives. Etherington's work on the ground was obstructed and all but destroyed. The well-educated, moderate and potentially supportive Iraqi middle classes are paying the price but, as the ending of this excellent book argues, the dangerous work by brave people such as its author may yet succeed."—Hugh McManners, Sunday Times (London), 31 July 2005

"This is an extraordinary story, brilliantly told. . . . Etherington's courage, intelligence, empathy, intellectual rigour, scepticism and even idealism shine through. His understanding of the region, the reconstruction process and—crucially—the uses and limitations of military power, make him a superb guide through the complexities of occupied Iraq. Above all, one gets the sense that here is the right man in the right place at the right time, using decades of experience to make the best of a tricky brief, and somehow keeping his sense of humour amid the eating-soup-with-a-knife multinational reconstruction experience. . . . Etherington's equivocal success was a function of his energy, courage and integrity, but mostly Iraqi political will—an often inert force, sceptical of charlatans or adventurers, reluctant to be mobilised, often more evident through abstention than presence, but eventually ready, in small ways, to fashion political change. His account should be required reading for anyone who wants to understand the Iraq the headlines never cover."—Dominick Donald, The Guardian, 30 July 2005

"In October of 2003, fresh from a Cambridge degree in international relations, ex-paratrooper and conflict management expert Etherington—who served with the European Community Monitor Force in the former Yugoslavia—was charged by the Coalition Provisional Authority with the nearly impossible task of governing the Wasit province in southern Iraq. Etherington's literate, stoic and dryly humorous prose echoes his self-acknowledged 'English sense of reserve' and his low-key management style, and is in sharply ironic contrast to the chaos, mismanagement, and physical danger he finds in postinvasion Iraq. His climactic account of the uprising that occurred under the leadership of Moqtada al-Sadr is a tour-de-force of war reporting; at times a comedy of errors and, at others, a terrifying drama of suspense, it brings the surrealism of the twenty-first-century battlefield sharply to life. Though a qualified supporter of the war, Etherington provides a measured and intelligent critique of almost every aspect of the coalition's postwar planning. Particularly devastating are his detailed descriptions of the chronic lack of security caused by too few troops and the influence that corporations had on operational planning. But Etherington's annoyance is neither cynical nor defeatist, and his faith in the ultimate viability of a renewed Iraqi state—with intelligent planning and support—is convincing no matter which way one stands on the invasion. Anyone seriously interested either in the future of that beleaguered nation or the possibilities of intelligent diplomacy would do well to read this firsthand account."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Etherington is a hero of mine. I was a coalition deputy governor in two provinces neighboring his. We arrived and left on the same day; we were both besieged in our compounds by Sadr insurgents and we both handed over unstable provinces to our successors. He worked tirelessly and with real success and he writes with wit and powerful conviction. . . . Better plans, better people, more troops might, as Etherington argues, have given us a small advantage in 2003, but direct foreign rule was never going to turn Iraq into a liberal democracy."—Rory Stewart, The Daily Telegraph, 30 July 2005

"Revolt on the Tigris is the best account from the ground of the high intent of many of those sent forth by Paul Bremer, the American proconsul of the hour, to set things straight in post-Saddam Iraq, and where it went wrong"That is up to mid last year. In the dying weeks of 2005, things are still not going right, and there are a whole range of different issues."—Robert Fox, Times Literary Supplement, December 16, 2005

"Etherington's book is a rich depiction of the on-the-ground struggles he faced while trying to create the conditions for a lasting peace after major combat operations ceased. . . . He has provided a well-written and engaging narrative of his time in Iraq, describing the great responsibilities of the CPA and describing his bitter disappointment at its failure to provide the conditions necessary for a safe and secure future for the people of the Wasit province. His account paints a negative picture of all involved, including his bosses in Baghdad and London, the entire coalition, the local Iraqis, and finally, himself."—David Southworth, Jr., Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding, Vol. 3, No. 3 (2008)

Publishers Weekly
In October of 2003, fresh from a Cambridge degree in international relations, ex-paratrooper and conflict management expert Etherington-who served with the European Community Monitor Force in the former Yugoslavia-was charged by the Coalition Provisional Authority with the nearly impossible task of governing the Wasit province in southern Iraq. Etherington's literate, stoic and dryly humorous prose echoes his self-acknowledged "English sense of reserve" and his low-key management style, and is in sharply ironic contrast to the chaos, mismanagement and physical danger he finds in postinvasion Iraq. His climactic account of the uprising that occurred under the leadership of Moqtada al-Sadr is a tour-de-force of war reporting; at times a comedy of errors and, at others, a terrifying drama of suspense, it brings the surrealism of the 21st century battlefield sharply to life. Though a qualified supporter of the war, Etherington provides a measured and intelligent critique of almost every aspect of the coalition's postwar planning. Particularly devastating are his detailed descriptions of the chronic lack of security caused by too few troops and the influence that corporations had on operational planning. But Etherington's annoyance is neither cynical nor defeatist, and his faith in the ultimate viability of a renewed Iraqi state-with intelligent planning and support-is convincing no matter which way one stands on the invasion. Anyone seriously interested either in the future of that beleaguered nation or the possibilities of intelligent diplomacy would do well to read this firsthand account. (Nov.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801444517
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/2005
  • Series: Crises in World Politics Series
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.66 (h) x 0.86 (d)

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2006

    An excellent memoir from someone who knows

    Etherington, the former governor of Wasit, gives us an in-depth look through his eyes at the difficult job of managing a 'quiet' province of post-invasion Iraq. Etherington is a superb eyewitness, placed highly enough to give us an inside look at the complexities of the situation, quietly self-effacing and quick to admit his own mistakes and errors of judgment. He brings a dry wit to his book as well as a genuine affection for the Iraqi people that shines through each page. He brings a wealth of experience to the table, being a former paratrooper for the British military along with playing key roles in the peacekeeping efforts in Bosnia, Croatia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Northern Ireland as a British citizen born and raised in Kuwait, he has a much deeper understanding of the culture and mores of the Middle East than most Coalition officials and observers. Etherington has tremendous respect for the US and other military units with which he served. He acknowledges that the CPA officials he worked with, from Paul Bremer on down, seemed sincere in their efforts to bring some semblance of democracy, though they often found themselves working at cross-purposes. He is troubled by the political maneuvering that made his job, as well as the jobs of other CPA officials, almost impossible at times, but is restrained in his criticism, understanding as he does the difficulties inherent in such tasks. He is torn in his feelings towards the al-Sadr insurgents, trying to understand their positions, but angered and at times frightened by their self-righteous Puritanism and their willingness to deal death for their cause. He has little use for the corruption endemic in the Iraqi tribal structures and power organizations, and speaks freely about the problems caused by Iraqis used to wielding power under Saddam Hussein who expect the same perks and prerogatives under the new order. And he is frankly contemptuous of the 'efforts' of Kellogg Brown and Root, the contractors tasked with performing logistical duties for the CPA he regards them as lazy, incompetent, and completely corrupt, and implies that their arrogance is only outweighed by their arrant cowardice. Etherington says that, despite the best efforts of CPA officials and their military colleagues, the 'problem' of Iraq is an insoluable one by outsiders the only way Iraq will produce a democracy of its own is through the efforts of its own people, and the interference of outsiders, no matter how well-meaning, ultimately just breeds chaos and lends itself to the institution of an Islamic theocracy. In that sense, many readers who blindly support the US-led occupation of Iraq will not be pleased with Etherington's book, and will judge it and its author harshly -- and unfairly. It is a modest book, restrained in its scope and sparing in its philosophy, but it is an invaluable resource for anyone who wants a relatively objective yet sympathetic account of the efforts by one obscure CPA official to be part of the well-meaning yet misguided effort to bring Western-style democracy to Iraq. His experiences and observations are critical to gaining a real understanding of what is, and isn't, happening in Iraq, and what may happen in the weeks and months to come.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2006

    A Pompous, Self-Serving Memoir ¿ Void of Facts ¿ Save Your Money

    Most of this book is complete rubbish which does nothing to outline the situation in Iraq but seeks to bolster Mark Etherington's ego. In fact the very fact that he wrote this book making him look like some kind of hero speaks to his character and the character of the book. Etherington personally placed the security of the compound at Al Kut at risk when he disregarded security improvements recommended by the civilian security contractors. He further placed the personnel in the compound at risk by failing to evacuate the compound at the recommendation of the same security contractor. He had no plan to coordinate with III Corps to facilitate the mobilization of the QRF or any other support of that nature. He gave contradicting reports so that he could preserve the illusion that all was well in Al Kut refusing to evacuate the compound. Save your money - do not buy this book. This is one man's ego trip that in no way represents the truth.

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