That said, the middle of the book sucked me in. Anthony is South African, and SA was officially a neutral party in the occupation. The stories of the sidemen, the Department of Defense photographers, or the Afrikaan mercenary/security contractors, as well as the NGOs interested in conservation is pretty compelling. The story of the animals in the Zoo is really sad, although ultimately positive. There are also anecdotes about Uday and his pet lions that are pretty disturbing. In general, the portrait of Third World zoos and treatment of animals seemed pretty accurate based on my experiences. And Anthony is sympathetic to the Iraqis who are looting anything to feed their families, but he also rightly wonders about the psychosis that compelled people to loot things –iron bars from animal cages?– they couldn’t possibly sell. I was also interested to read that Captain William Sumner, who oversaw the Baghdad Museum, was also in charge of putting the Zoo right (it’s all Civil Affairs).
At 250 pages or so, the book seemed a bit overlong to me, but there’s definitely some good stories in there. An interesting angle through which to lament the war.