Friday, 15 July 2016

Imperial Life In The Emerald City by Rajiv Chandrasekaran

Imperial Life In The Emerald City by Rajiv Chandrasekaran
Published by Bloomsbury in March 2008.
Green Zone film edition published in March 2010.

Where to buy this book:
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How I got this book:
Purchased the ebook

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Imperial Life In The Emerald City by is a journalistic recounting of the disastrous American attempts to rebuild Iraq as a mini-America in the aftermath of the second Gulf War. Being British I have read numerous historical accounts of our monumental Empire-building cock-ups, however it would have been nice to believe that such heavy-handed imperialism was a thing of the past. Chandrasekaran's book shows that it certainly isn't and I spent much of the first half in a state of almost continuous disbelief. By the second half, I was becoming quite punch-drunk from the continued revelations.

When Iraq fell to the American army, politicians back in Washington had already determined that they wanted the country to rise up again as a shining beacon of capitalist democracy in the Middle East. They didn't know how to achieve this goal, but set about it by cocooning their staff in Saddam's luxurious palace complex, giving lots of press conferences in English and, most importantly, by only sending people who had been vetted for the 'right' political leanings. Not for ability or experience, just for an unshakeable belief in George W Bush. Extreme paranoia an advantage.

Imperial Life In The Emerald City is basically a guide for how not to occupy a country you have just invaded. Even if that country's people wanted you there initially, they will soon change their minds if treated as irrelevant and, with hindsight, it really is no surprise that organisations such as ISIS grew out of the chaos. I appreciated Chandrasekaran's clear writing style as there are so many different people mentioned that keeping track of who's who is difficult, especially for someone like me who doesn't really follow American politics. The book has extensive detail which makes vividly imagining the Green Zone enclave easy and I now feel as though I have a far greater understanding of what really happened in Iraq and why.

Search Lit Flits for more:
Books by Rajiv Chandrasekaran / Reportage / Books from America

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