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IRAQ: Lawrence of Arabia and Anbar

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The first book that Marine Col. Robert F. Castellvi turned to when he was assigned as a senior advisor to the Iraqi Army’s 1st Division was T. E. Lawrence’s ‘Seven Pillars of Wisdom,’ first published in 1922.

He also asked the Marines in his 45-man team to read it. The book, an autobiographical account of war experiences by ‘Lawrence of Arabia,’ is a perennial on the Marine Corps’ official reading list.

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Castellvi’s team is assigned to help the Iraqi army in western Anbar province get ready to continue the fight against insurgents after the U.S. leaves. It’s a slow process that can be undermined by impatience.

One of Lawrence’s rules that Castellvi abides by is: ‘Better the Arabs do it tolerably than that you do it perfectly. It is their war and you are to help them, not to win it for them.’

— Tony Perry in Habbaniya

Art: Portrait of T.E. Lawrence. Credit: James McBey


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