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Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside…
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Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone (2006)

by Rajiv Chandrasekaran

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,186306,774 (4.08)55
  1. 10
    The Assassins' Gate: America in Iraq by George Packer (rakerman)
    rakerman: Assassin's Gate gives a different but overlapping perspective on many of the issues covered in Imperial Life in the Emerald City; they are good companion books.
  2. 10
    Naples '44: A World War II Diary of Occupied Italy by Norman Lewis (wandering_star)
    wandering_star: Plus ça change... life as a foreign occupier, however friendly, seems to have faced similar challenges in very different environments.
  3. 00
    Shake Hands with the Devil by Romeo Dallaire (wandering_star)
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Heavy indictment of the American civilian administration in Iraq during the occupation 2003-04. The amount of groupthink, suppression of dissent and intentional conformity pressure present that Chandrasekaran details is almost hard to believe. Republican party connections and a right-thinking attitude were the most important qualifications for employees to have. Of course the situation involved many genuinely hard decisions that did not have one "right" answer, but the administration did not seem to have had the humility to admit this. Chandrasekaran is a bit quick to dismiss the efforts at economic reforms as misguided-these had to involve hard trade-offs one way or the other, but it is clear also they were approached haphazardly: A German working on the privatization of state-owned East-German entities in the German unification says they had 8000 people working on it; the privatization in much more chaotic Iraq was managed by three people. Recommended. ( )
  ohernaes | Jul 1, 2014 |
The Green Zone, Baghdad, 2003: in this walled-off compound of swimming pools and luxurious amenities, Paul Bremer and his Coalition Provisional Authority set out to fashion a new, democratic Iraq. Staffed by idealistic aides chosen primarily for their views on issues such as abortion and capital punishment, the CPA spent the crucial first year of occupation pursuing goals that had little to do with the immediate needs of a postwar nation: flat taxes instead of electricity and deregulated health care instead of emergency medical supplies.

In this acclaimed firsthand account, the former Baghdad bureau chief of The Washington Post gives us an intimate portrait of life inside this Oz-like bubble, which continued unaffected by the growing mayhem outside. This is a quietly devastating tale of imperial folly, and the definitive history of those early days when things went irrevocably wrong in Iraq. ( )
  MarkBeronte | Mar 4, 2014 |
This book completed my search to find any valid reason for the US to be in Iraq after overthrowing Saddam's regime. Chandrasekaran showed me many reasons for the US to be in Iraq. He also showed how ignorance, greed, and corruption, spoiled any chance the US had of gaining approval from the Iraqi people. With quotes from over 100 interviews, firsthand accounts, and sheer determination to observe truth; Chandrasekaran exposes the Green Zone. ( )
  Michael.Bradham | Oct 17, 2013 |
This well written book is in part sad and in part entertaining but it in no way gives the necessary background information to the Iraq fiasco. It is a sort of reality TV "crash as it happens" without much or any context at all.

The kind of questions that it raises but doesn't answer are:

Did the US really invade Iraq by mistake (No WMD)?

Why has this unbelievable error (?) not been investigated by Congress?

What happened to the US intelligence services to get it so wrong?

When no WMD were found how was the story so easily switched to "Building Democracy"?

Why was no money or manpower seriously devoted rebuilding Iraq?

Why does the American public so nonchalantly accept torture and kidnapping by its government and the mass removal of its right to privacy?

Why was Chalabi continuously promoted despite having no support among the Iraqi people?

Some "perhaps" answers that Chandrasekaran hints at in the book are that the whole rebuilding project was designed to fail (i.e. it was only a publicity exercise by the US government with no real interest in rebuilding). A good illustration of this on P.131 was the Corliss, Jackson and Carney meeting (tasked with privatizing Iraqi state industries) with German specialists to draw on their experience of the privatization of East German industry. The Germans told them that they had 8000 people working on the project and one of them asked, "How many do you guys have?" Corliss sadly replied that, "You're looking at all of them".

The US government delegated after war planning to DOUGLAS FEITH, the Undersecretary for Defense for Policy who also handled the so called "Office of Special Plans" which mined intelligence reports for data to make the case that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction and was in cahoots with Al Queda.

The book doesn't say it but this is the same DOUGLAS FEITH who co-authored a 1996 paper entitled "A Clean Break, A New Strategy for Securing the Realm" published by an Israeli think tank, the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies. The principal idea was to foment war in the Middle East and consequently destabilize Israel's enemies.

The policy was adopted by the Israeli pro-settler right wing and Jewish activists in and around the Clinton and Bush administrations such as Richard Perle, David Wurmser and Feith himself (who all helped produce the original document). They identified as targets Iraq, Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia, SO WHY SHOULD FEITH WANT TO REBUILD IRAQ AFTER IT HAS BEEN SUCCESSFULLY DESTROYED?

There's more on this in Sniegoski's remarkable book, "The Transparent Cabal" which can usefully be read together with this one to start to understand what was going on. ( )
  Miro | Jul 27, 2013 |
A gripping recounting of the slow-moving rebuilding effort in post-war Iraq, "Imperial life" is an extremely well-researched effort by one of the only print journalists to cover the entire Iraq story from the "inside."

Chandrasekaran lived in Iraq and had ongoing access to the "Green Zone" -- the walled compound within Bagdahd that eventually came to house the American occupying authority.

While he lays out the events leading up to the current strife in Iraq, the most interesting information concerns the individuals charged with rebuilding Iraq -- and why they made the decisions they did.

The list of mistakes is long, but chief among them is the lack of prior planning, the wildly incorrect assumptions made by officials, the inexperience of the often youthful managers chosen for political loyalty rather than expertise, and the isolation of the Americans from the Iraqis.

It offers a great deal of understanding about the conditions in Iraq, and how they got that way. ( )
  TCWriter | Mar 31, 2013 |
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Do not try to do too much your own hands. Better the Arabs do it tolerably than that you do it perfectly. It is their war, nad you are to help them, not to win it for them. Actually, also, under the very odd conditions of Arabia, your practical work will not be as good as, perhaps, you think it is. (T. E. Lawrence, August 20, 1917)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307278832, Paperback)

The Green Zone, Baghdad, 2003: in this walled-off compound of swimming pools and luxurious amenities, Paul Bremer and his Coalition Provisional Authority set out to fashion a new, democratic Iraq. Staffed by idealistic aides chosen primarily for their views on issues such as abortion and capital punishment, the CPA spent the crucial first year of occupation pursuing goals that had little to do with the immediate needs of a postwar nation: flat taxes instead of electricity and deregulated health care instead of emergency medical supplies.

In this acclaimed firsthand account, the former Baghdad bureau chief of The Washington Post gives us an intimate portrait of life inside this Oz-like bubble, which continued unaffected by the growing mayhem outside. This is a quietly devastating tale of imperial folly, and the definitive history of those early days when things went irrevocably wrong in Iraq.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:45:11 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

In this unprecedented account, the Washington Post's former Baghdad bureau chief, Raviv Chandrasekaran, takes us with him into the Green Zone, headquarters for the American occupation of Iraq. In this bubble, cut off from wartime realities, where the task of reconstructing a devastated nation competed with the distractions of a Little America were a half-dozen bars stocked with cold beer, a disco where women showed up in hot pants, a shopping mall, and a parking lot filled with shiny new SUV's, much of it run by Halliburton. The country is put into the hands of inexperienced twentysomethings chosen for their Republican Party loyalty. Ignoring what Iraqis say they want or need, the team pursues irrelevant neoconservative solutions and pie-in-the-sky policies instead of rebuilding looted buildings and restoring electricity. Their almost comic initiatives anger the locals and fuel the insurgency. Most Iraqis were barred from entering the Emerald City for fear they would blow it up.… (more)

» see all 7 descriptions

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