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Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone (2006)
by Rajiv Chandrasekaran
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Movie has very little to do with the book; and I found the movie to be very disappointing, very simple-minded. The book, on the other hand, is extremely powerful, extremely sad. The pathetic, criminal ignorance and ineptitude of the Bush Administration, Rumsfeld's DOD, and the neo-conservatives running the show makes this a very hard read. Chandrasekaran was the bureau chief for the Washington Post before the war and went back immediately after the invasion. He talks to everybody. (I've been following Chandrasekaran's career since he was writing Wash. Post Metro stories about Old Town Alexandria! as he worked with a friend of mine. He went on to become a foreign correspondent.) Great, great job of reporting.
Grim, fascinating and at times almost unbelievable story of Baghdad after the war. This is a story of incompetence, prejudice and power told in a fairly balanced way.
Imperial Life in the Emerald City describes what went wrong with the reconstruction of Iraq. It was a sad book to read because it pointed out all of the opportunities lost. Although it pointed out a lot of major missteps, I found that it was not politically skewed or motivated. The author did paint some of members of the Busch administration in a bad light, but at the same time it seemed clear that they really thought they were doing the right thing at the time. I enjoyed reading this book and felt that it helped me understand what is going on in Iraq. I just wish that we hadn't messed everything up so badly to begin with.
It would be a comedy of errors, if it weren't so tragic.
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Wikipedia in English (6)
Finalist for the National Book Award, this is the startling portrait of an Oz-like place where a vital aspect of our government's folly in Iraq played out. 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.
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Melvil Decimal System (DDC)956.7044History and Geography Asia Middle East Iraq
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In general, when something goes wrong as badly as the Iraq war, I like to think of the counterfactual of "how many bullets in the right bodies would it have taken to solve this at the time, given what a reasonable person should have known at the time with privileged access". Iraq probably was bigger than the one-bullet naive solution (Chalabi), but might be a 3 body problem. Maybe a few more, but still not that many compared to what happened. ( )