Imperial Life in the Emerald City

Perhaps you saw the author of this book on The Daily Show. Jon Stewart didn’t even try to be funny because, the fact is, there is not much funny in the surreal and/or insane history of the American presence in Iraq. The Green Zone is that cloistered compound in the heart of Baghdad, a place made to resemble an American gated community, replete with swimming pools, shopping malls and heaping helpings of pork at the buffet luncheons provided by the civilian subcontractors who are growing rich through the price gouging and corruption that characterizes so much of what happens in Iraq. Chandrasekaran interviewed hundreds of people to provide this vivid picture of the incompetence and arrogance of American policy under Paul Bremmer, Bush’s first imperial manager, a guy who was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for those botched efforts to stabilize that place. Cronyism and incompetence of the sort revealed in the aftermath of Katrina were endemic in the early days of the Iraq occupation. This book tells that tale, and explains a great deal about the mess we’re in now. Imperial Life in the Emerald City is a deserving National Book Award finalist.