Imperial Life in the Emerald City

Imperial Life in the Emerald City

Inside Iraq's Green Zone

Book - 2006
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An unprecedented account of life in Baghdad's Green Zone, a walled-off enclave of towering plants, posh villas, and sparkling swimming pools that was the headquarters for the American occupation of Iraq.

The Washington Post 's former Baghdad bureau chief Rajiv Chandrasekaran takes us with him into the Zone: into a bubble, cut off from wartime realities, where the task of reconstructing a devastated nation competed with the distractions of a Little America--a half-dozen bars stocked with cold beer, a disco where women showed up in hot pants, a movie theater that screened shoot-'em-up films, an all-you-could-eat buffet piled high with pork, a shopping mall that sold pornographic movies, a parking lot filled with shiny new SUVs, and a snappy dry-cleaning service--much of it run by Halliburton. Most Iraqis were barred from entering the Emerald City for fear they would blow it up.

Drawing on hundreds of interviews and internal documents, Chandrasekaran tells the story of the people and ideas that inhabited the Green Zone during the occupation, from the imperial viceroy L. Paul Bremer III to the fleet of twentysomethings hired to implement the idea that Americans could build a Jeffersonian democracy in an embattled Middle Eastern country.

In the vacuum of postwar planning, Bremer ignores what Iraqis tell him they want or need and instead pursues irrelevant neoconservative solutions--a flat tax, a sell-off of Iraqi government assets, and an end to food rationing. His underlings spend their days drawing up pie-in-the-sky policies, among them a new traffic code and a law protecting microchip designs, instead of rebuilding looted buildings and restoring electricity production. His almost comic initiatives anger the locals and help fuel the insurgency.

Chandrasekaran details Bernard Kerik's ludicrous attempt to train the Iraqi police and brings to light lesser known but typical travesties: the case of the twenty-four-year-old who had never worked in finance put in charge of reestablishing Baghdad's stock exchan≥ a contractor with no previous experience paid millions to guard a closed airport; a State Department employee forced to bribe Americans to enlist their help in preventing Iraqi weapons scientists from defecting to Iran; Americans willing to serve in Iraq screened by White House officials for their views on Roe v. Wade; people with prior expertise in the Middle East excluded in favor of lesser-qualified Republican Party loyalists. Finally, he describes Bremer's ignominious departure in 2004, fleeing secretly in a helicopter two days ahead of schedule.

This is a startling portrait of an Oz-like place where a vital aspect of our government's folly in Iraq played out. It is a book certain to be talked about for years to come.
Publisher: New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2006.
ISBN: 9781400044870
1400044871
Branch Call Number: 956.704431 C456
Characteristics: x, 320 p. : maps ; 25 cm.
Alternative Title: Inside Iraq's green zone

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jimmybajax33
Sep 06, 2016

A classic example of short-shortsightedness even when the impetus of one's actions are legitimate and valid...it is hard to believe that with all that 'brain-power' in Washington that the U.S. could have missed so badly...a very good read...

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Daveinportland
Aug 26, 2016

Ever wonder how the USA can spend over a trillion dollars in Iraq and have it come out much worse by any measurement than it was under Saddam 'the great Satan' Hussein? Read this book.

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Swede52
Nov 16, 2010

A look at how badly the Iraq war went and how the CPA did little in helping the Iraq government and people get back on their feet. I liked this book because in gives an in depth look at how badly the Iraq war went.

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mmcla15
Jan 22, 2007

This is a well written account of the early days after the invasion of Iraq. It really depresses me that we have learned so little from our time there as the author details the hubris that we approached the culture, the infighting between State Dept and Defense Dept and generally not thinking through the consequences of the invasion.

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