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Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone MP3 CD – 1 Jan 2007
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'A vividly detailed portrait of the Green Zone and the Coalition Provisional Authority (which ran Iraq's government from April 2003 to June 2004) that becomes a metaphor for the administration's larger failings in Iraq... reads like something out of "Catch-22"' New York Times 'A riveting tale of American misadventure...a mission doomed to failure before it had even been launched' Samantha Power, author of 'A Problem from Hell' 'Full of jaw-dropping tales of the myriad large and small ways in which Bremer and his team poured fuel into the lethal cauldron that is today's Iraq' Washington Post 'An indispensable saga of how the American liberation of Iraq turned to chaos, calamity, and civil war' Rick Atkinson, author of 'An Army at Dawn' --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Rajiv Chandrasekaran is an assisting managing editor of The Washington Post, where he has worked since 1994. He previously served the Post as a bureau chief in Baghdad, Cairo, and Southeast Asia, and as a correspondent covering the war in Afghanistan. He recently completed a term as journalist-in-residence at the International Reporting Project at the Johns Hopkins school for Advanced International Studies, and was a public policy scholar at the Wodrow Wilson International Center. He lives in Washington, D.C. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
Written from a first person perspective, the narrative is smooth and flowing, though it does take a while to pick up. Interspersed with the chapters on the CPA's efforts are vignettes on life inside the Green Zone. Some are amusing, some identify the political influences of the staffers, and many address some of the more bizarre decisions made. During the course of the narrative, the author identifies several problems that hindered the CPA's goal of remaking Iraq. First, little post-war planning was done by the DoD and Department of State, and when it came to plan, political tensions dominated. Second, Bremer's dismissal of the Iraqi Army created a ready-made force of trained, but unemployed soldiers who could have become the foundation of a new Iraqi Army and Police, but instead joined the religious militias or the insurgency. Third, those chosen to staff the CPA were often very young with little or no experience; many were chosen based on their political affiliations. Eager to go to Iraq out of patriotism and adventure, most only stayed 3-4 months, making it increasingly difficult to plan and execute the rebuilding program. Additionally, staffers were assigned elaborate tasks in fields that they had no experience in, such as a 24-year old with no experience in finance being selected to remake and rebuild the Baghdad Stock Exchange.
Another major problem was the existence of the Green Zone, which became a self-contained American city in the middle of Baghdad. Travel outside the Green Zone was infrequent or non-existent. For security reasons only personnel with the need to enter Baghdad could go, which is understandable from a security perspective. Ironically, reporters like Chandrasekaran lived outside the Green Zone and traveled without difficulty throughout Iraq. Without first hand knowledge of what was happening outside the Zone, the CPA had difficulty making successful policy decisions. Lots of ideas that sounded good on paper didn't work well outside the Zone. As one staffer is quoted, "they (the iraqis) just kept doing their thing, and we sort of played in our little, imaginary world over at the CPA." Finally, the CPA leadership believed that importing American economic, governmental, and financial systems and establishing them in Iraq was the best solution. As history has shown, however, our systems were ill-suited for Iraq.
Imperial Life is more about the author's observations on the lives and work of folks inside the Green Zone and how they impacted post-war Iraq than a detailed political and military history (of which dozens of titles exist). Chandrasekaran wisely leaves it to the reader to make personal judgements. He concentrates instead on what he saw and witnessed during his time in Baghdad, and it makes for a solid and relevant story. For more perspective on the CPA, pick up Rory Stewart's The Prince of the Marshes, a look at his time as a CPA provincial governer in Southern Iraq. Recommended.
This is an impeccably detailed and revelatory account of the US occupation of Iraq and how the seeds of disaster were sown.
Rajiv Chanrasekaran was the Washington Post's man on the ground in Baghdad in the days leading up to and immediately after the US-led invasion, so has an insight of how pallid life was under Saddam Hussein and how timorous the Iraqi people had become. He is also a rare thing among American journalists working in the daily press out there: a man who asks searching questions of his country and his countrymen's motivations.
Imperial Life is strongest when telling the story of the CPA staffers living in the 'Green Zone', a bubble, supplied with trash food and trash information about the country they occupy. Staffers inherently believe they are doing the right thing, that they have a sense of mission to democratize Iraq and build it according to their political ideals. Of course, when set against the backdrop of a humanitarian disaster, an insurgency, and without the blank cheques needed to bring such changes they never stand a chance of succeeding.
What is perhaps most depressing, beyond the human cost of occupation, is that the corruption and stupidity among most of the American staffers was not as prevalent as one would first think. For sure there is a naivety, but the idiocy lay mostly in Washington, where Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfovitz jettisoned the appointment of competent and well qualified staff in favour of political appointees. Many of these were well meaning, but young, inexperienced and wholly unsuitable Republican interns, workers and other party supporters that want to `make a difference'. Thus you have a 24 year old who had never worked in finance put in charge of rebuilding the Baghdad stock exchange on account of his political credentials and numerous others besides. Oddly, Paul `Jerry' Bremner does not come off too badly: he is portrayed as driven, stubborn, battling against the insurmountable odds on the ground and in Washington, but most often motivated by what he deems to be right (even though it often isn't; most notably in the case of his dissolution of the Iraqi army, which led directly to the insurgency).
This book loses track a bit in the second part, when there is more discourse on politics and the handover to the Iraqis. However, more lucid than Michael Moore, more polemical than the majority mainstream media, Imperial Life in the Emerald City cuts to the heart of where it all went so horribly wrong, and is essential reading not just for those interested in the Middle East but anyone who might consider voting Republican in 2008.