The Must-Have Iraq Book of 1943 ... and 2007 ?

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“American success or failure in Iraq may well depend on whether the Iraqis like American soldiers or not.”

That’s not from a think tank primer prepared in 2003, but from a pamphlet prepared 60 years earlier and just published in book form by the University of Chicago Press. Instructions for American Serviceman in Iraq During World War II could be unusually successful for the press, at least as reprints of obscure government documents go. The press has shipped out 20,000 copies in the first 10 days it has been available.

Carol Kasper, marketing director for the press, said that the idea came indirectly from the University of Oxford. Chicago distributes books published by the Bodleian Library at Oxford, where in 2004 scholars decided to publish the U.S. Army’s World War II guide for soldiers stationed in Britain. In the pre-D-Day period when increasing numbers of American soldiers were stationed in Britain, the guide was intended to help the allies understand one another. One bit of advice: “The British don’t know how to make a good cup of coffee. You don’t know how to make a good cup of tea. It’s an even swap.”

The book wasn’t a huge success in the United States, but Kasper said that sales in Britain were impressive. So the press approached the Bodleian about whether it was interested in publishing more volumes in the series, especially one on Iraq (World War II having been a truly global war, the Army produced country guides for just about everywhere). When the Bodleian passed on the idea, Kasper said press decided it should track down a copy of the Iraq guide and it found one in the University of Chicago’s Regenstein Library....

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