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Undoing Saddam: From Occupation to Sovereignty in Northern Iraq Hardcover – January 1, 2007

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 226 pages
  • Publisher: Potomac Books Inc. (January 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1597970247
  • ISBN-13: 978-1597970242
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,122,899 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“Highly recommended.”

"A thoughtful contribution to the numerous first-person accounts of the Iraq war and aftermath. . . .The author provides an interesting perspective on the Iraqi view of the American invasion that is rarely seen in mainstream media."

Undoing Saddam is an aptly named, candid, and critical examination of coalition nation-building efforts in Iraqi Kurdistan during 2004. Bowen documents the extent to which the development of Iraq’s civilian infrastructure had been all but ignored after Saddam’s ascension to power in 1979. The book is a tribute to the heroic efforts of Americans and Iraqis to rebuild the country and drag it into the twenty-first century.”

"I traveled to Iraq in January 2006 and spent a few days talking with soldiers and airmen from my state. What they told me is reflected in this work by Wayne Bowen. He provides an [eyewitness account] of the conflict in Iraq and does it with a refreshing candor that marks him as neither apologist for the Bush administration nor unbridled critic with a political ax to grind." --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

From the Publisher

The remarkable war diary of an Army civil affairs officer in Iraq

Covers the day-to-day work of reconstructing Iraq, especially rebuilding higher education and preserving archaeological sites

Addresses preparations for the 2005 elections

Describes positive events that occurred in Iraq and were not reported in the media

More About the Author

I was born in Yakima, Washington, and grew up in Lompoc, California. After attending the University of Southern California on an ROTC scholarship, I earned my M.A. and Ph.D. in European History from Northwestern University. From 1996 to 2008, I was a professor of history at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. Since 2008, I have been professor and chair of the Department of History at Southeast Missouri State University. My military career in the Army Reserve has taken me to Bosnia (1998) and Iraq (2004), as a platoon leader, company commander, team chief, battalion executive officer, and battalion commander. In May 2010, I was promoted to lieutenant colonel.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Steven M. Leonard on May 3, 2007
Format: Hardcover
In good conscience, I do not recommend this book. With "Undoing Saddam," Bowen had every opportunity to provide a groundbreaking account of civil affairs operations in a historical and monumental undertaking. Instead, he delivers what constitutes a bad imitation of a Fodor's travel guide.

Having spent most of a year in Mosul with the 101st Airborne Division during OIF, I expected to find Wayne Bowen's account a journey into familiar territory. Rather than provide an insightful account of a remarkably bold and creative effort to bring peace and stability to one of the world's oldest and richest cultures, Undoing Saddam quickly devolves into an inane collection of personal observations, lavishly illustrated with a seemingly endless collection of posed photographs of the author. These observations range from the peculiar (a statistical profiling of the number of American soldiers who regularly attend religious services) to the obtuse (the author repeatedly pointing out that he doesn't "drink and never has") to the downright banal (his belief that the black beret is "the most useless piece of headgear ever invented"). Readers expecting a consistent theme will instead find a disturbing religious undercurrent that can be interpreted as nothing less than a surreptitious attempt by the author to proselytize his faith.

Even more disturbing, however, was the complete dissociation of his observations and efforts from the tactical situation in Nineveh province.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Lawrence J. King on January 9, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is an excellent book with two titles. One of the titles ("Undoing Saddam") is misleading, since this book isn't about Saddam Hussein. The other title ("From Occupation to Sovereignty in Northern Iraq") reveals what the book is really about.

The author, Wayne Bowen, is a history professor at a university in Arkansas who happens to also be a major in the Army Reserve. In 2004 he was sent to Iraq for a year, and his diary became this book. Most of what we hear about Iraq either comes from scholars and pundits in America (who have spent little, if any, time in Iraq), or from soldiers on the ground in Iraq (who don't have a deep understanding of Iraqi history and culture). As a history professor and a soldier, Bowen is able to understand both the history and culture of Iraq on an abstract level _and_ witness what life for real Iraqis is like.

As a result, this book is indispensible for the people running the United States -- and yes, that includes the voters too! You won't find a lot of exciting battles in this book, because Bowen was stationed in Mosul after the conquest. What you will find is a picture of what it's like to _rebuild_ Iraq after the war. And it's _this_ project that the American voters need to understand in order to know what we should do in Iraq in 2008 and beyond.

Some of the stories in the book are utterly tragic. Major Bowen spent a lot of time overseeing the rebuilding of schools and colleges in Mosul -- making sure that the Kurds were allowed to attend school -- making sure that libraries are stocked with books despite the carnage of war and the omnipresent threat of violence. The army relied on Iraqi translators to get their work done -- and therefore the terrorists targeted these translators as "collaborators".
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By John Matlock on February 5, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Most of what we hear about on the news about Iraq regards the growing insurrecion between the Sunnis in the center of the country and the Shiites in the South. The operations in the predominately Kurdish northern provinces have been quiet and therefore largely ignored.

Major Bowen was one fo the officers working in the North. In this book he talks about the nationbuilding efforts in that area during 2004. In short, this is the way that the Bush Administration and the Army believed, or perhaps 'hoped' would be a better word, that the whole country would go.

This is not to say that the work in the North was easy. The civilian infrastructure had been completely ignored by Saddam Hussein's government and basically had to be built from stratch. This included schools, reconstruction, digging wells, roads, power plants.

Fortunately what it did not include was the thousand year old struggle about who was to succeed Mohammad that is the basis of the Sunni/Shiite fight.

It's good to have a little bit of light showing in what appears to be a long tunnel.
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By Mills on September 30, 2010
Format: Paperback
As a memoir, Bowen's book specifically addresses his experience, encounters, and contemplations about his time in Iraq. By providing an American perspective, it allows the reader to "piggyback" and also experience some of the culture shock and concerns that he expresses. The book expresses a great deal of compassion for the people of Iraq and is interested in them as people, not merely as "civilians" or some other impersonal category. In fact, my overall impression of the book is about the people of Iraq, not of a war or a political situation, although they are also present.

I found this book completely approachable and engaging, have recommended it to several friends, and plan on incorporating information I've learned from it when teaching future courses. This work assumes that the reader is an intelligent layperson, not a war buff or scholar on the region. It would make an especially good supplementary text for an advanced high school class or a freshman/sophomore class.
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