“Absolutely brilliant. It is eyewitness history of the first order. . . . It should be read by anyone who wants to understand how things went so badly wrong in Iraq.”—The New York Times Book Review “A visceral – sometimes sickening – picture of how the administration and its handpicked crew bungled the first year in postwar Iraq. . . . Often reads like something out of Catch-22 or from M*A*S*H.”—The New York Times“Revealing. . . . Chandrasekaran's portrait of blinkered idealism is evenhanded, chronicling the disillusionment of conservatives who were sent to a war zone without the resources to achieve lasting change.”—The New Yorker“Incredible . . . fantastically written. . . . Chandrasekaran's sharp-eyed account of life inside Baghdad's Green Zone offers some of the blackest comedy at the bookstore.”—Entertainment Weekly"Black comedy, set in the graveyard of the neo-conservative dream. Superb."—John le Carré
Books about Iraq almost invariably slip into one of two niches; battlefield narratives or accounts of Washington-based policymaking. Imperial Life in the Emerald City creates a whole new path. Rajiv Chandraskaran, the former Baghdad bureau chief of The Washington Post, has composed a brilliantly perceptive chronicle of life inside the Green Zone, the insulated American bubble that housed the occupation leadership. This well-upholstered realm seems far removed from the embattled world surrounding it; while war rages outside, Paul Bremer and his inexperienced team discuss implementing an Iraqi flat tax and national debit card system. As the situation devolved, one official moaned, "I'm a neoconservative who's been mugged by reality." Arguably the most readable Iraq book yet.
It would have been worthwhile if Chandrasekaran had given us a greater sense of what he thought about overthrowing Hussein and, more to the point, what he felt upon returning to Washington after having seen the bloody result of its policies. But that is a philosophical difference I have with the author. This is a clearly written, blessedly undidactic book. It should be read by anyone who wants to understand how things went so badly wrong in Iraq.
The New York Times Book Review
Mr. Chandrasekaran, an assistant managing editor of The Washington Post and the paper's former Baghdad bureau chief, spent nearly two years reporting from Iraq, and in Imperial Life in the Emerald City he draws a vividly detailed portrait of the Green Zone and the Coalition Provisional Authority…that becomes a metaphor for the administration's larger failings in Iraq…By focusing closely on the goals, initiatives and missteps of individuals involved in the Coalition Provisional Authority, Mr. Chandrasekaran is able to re-examine the mix of motives involved in the American invasion and the roles that hubris, idealism and denial played in shaping the occupation. His book gives the reader a visceralsometimes sickeningpicture of how the administration and its handpicked crew bungled the first year in postwar Iraq, showing how decisions made in that period contributed to a burgeoning insurgency and growing ethnic and religious strife.
The New York Times
As the Baghdad bureau chief for the Washington Post, Chandrasekaran has probably spent more time in U.S.-occupied Iraq than any other American journalist, and his intimate perspective permeates this history of the Coalition Provisional Authority headquartered in the Green Zone around Saddam Hussein's former palace. He presents the tenure of presidential viceroy L. Paul Bremer between May 2003 and June 2004 as an all-too-avoidable disaster, in which an occupational administration selected primarily for its loyalty to the Bush administration routinely ignored the reality of local conditions until, as one ex-staffer puts it, "everything blew up in our faces." Chandrasekaran unstintingly depicts the stubborn cluelessness of many Americans in the Green Zone-like the army general who says children terrified by nighttime helicopters should appreciate "the sound of freedom." But he sympathetically portrays others trying their best to cut through the red tape and institute genuine reforms. He also has a sharp eye for details, from casual sex in abandoned offices to stray cats adopted by staffers, which enable both advocates and critics of the occupation to understand the emotional toll of its circuslike atmosphere. Thanks to these personal touches, the account of the CPA's failures never feels heavy-handed. (Sept. 22) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.