How to behave in Iraq

As the year turns and US troops look forward to extricating themselves finally from Iraq, a guide has appeared that sets out how to achieve victory in the battle for hearts and minds of the Iraqi people. Surfacing now, six years after the invasion, it may come as a surpise — and certainly qualifies as tardy. However, it has lain buried even longer than that: This little tome predates Shock and Awe by all of sixty years.

An ambassador of goodwill

An ambassador of goodwill

Events in Iraq in 1941, described in Memories of Eden, resulted in a British invasion and a pogrom (the Farhud) which foretold the end of the oldest Jewish community in the Diaspora. Churchill had ordered regime change in Baghdad after a Nazi tyrant seized power, threatening Britain’s vital oil interests.

One year later, US forces were sent to Iraq to help protect the oil fields and deliver supplies to Russia under Roosevelt’s Land Lease programme. To make sure they fulfilled their roles as ‘ambassadors of goodwill’ they were presented with what constituted a crash course in local history, culture, customs and language. Originally published in 1943 by the War and Navy Departments in Washington DC, it has since lain on the shelves, forgotten, until now. With poignant timing, it has been reproduced in facsimile edition* and makes fascinating reading in the light of recent history.

usforces-coverTo quote the Preface of this 2008 edition: ‘For many Americans, Iraq conjured up romantic images of “the mysterious East” conveyed in early films, while for others it was completely unknown… The Guide inculcates a respect for the local civilization, its people, and its culture, attaching the utmost importance to a proper understanding of religious practice and the avoidance of unintended insult or injury based on ignorance of beliefs and customs.’

Read more, and some excerpts, in Features.

Happy New Year!

*Dark Horse Publications, 2008. ISBN 978-0-9556221-0-6. £4.99/$10.00.