The Green Zone, Baghdad, 2003: in this walled-off compound of swimming pools and luxurious amenities, Paul Bremer and his Coalition Provisional Authority set out to fashion a new, democratic Iraq. Staffed by idealistic aides chosen primarily for their views on issues such as abortion and capital punishment, the CPA spent the crucial first year of occupation pursuing goals that had little to do with the immediate needs of a postwar nation: flat taxes instead of electricity and deregulated health care instead of emergency medical supplies.
In this acclaimed firsthand account, the former Baghdad bureau chief of The Washington Post gives us an intimate portrait of life inside this Oz-like bubble, which continued unaffected by the growing mayhem outside. This is a quietly devastating tale of imperial folly, and the definitive history of those early days when things went irrevocably wrong in Iraq.
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.