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Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Imperial Life In The Emerald City

Imperial Life In The Emerald City by Rajiv Chandrasekaran, is subtitled Inside Iraq's Green Zone. It's the story of the Coalition Provisional Authority whose job was to get Baghdad and the entire region of Iraq back in working order after it had been bombed to smithereens, AND to construct a working democratic government. This was supposed to be accomplished in the shortest time possible since none of the people who went to Baghdad to help with this project had any intention of staying there for lengthy or indefinite periods of time.

One of the first things it is important to know about Iraq is that the Hussein government subsidized everything. The Iraqi people got their jobs, their monthly food rations, their cars, their electricity, their vegetable oil... virtually everything they needed from the government. When Baghdad was invaded and captured, not only was the infrastructure destroyed, but so were many of the records that kept track of the citizenry. Into this chaotic mess came the Coalition Provisional Authority to work their magic and put humpty and dumpty back together again with the grand finale being the statewide election. Anyone with half an ounce of common sense would have said, "You've Got To Be Kidding Me." Very few did, and those who may have uttered those words were considered non-team players.

It could easily be concluded that Imperial Life In The Emerald City is an expose of all the Bush Administration did wrong from the beginning of the occupation until the time Paul Bremer, the head of CPA, came back to the United States. I think Chandrasekaran does a better job than simply criticizing the Bush Team. I think he's more fair in his reporting of the facts than the criticism label implies.

Chandrasekaran was there and observed first hand what he writes about in his book. He certainly does note the stupidity and incompetence he observed within the CPA hierarchy, but he also takes the time to carefully note the work of those who tried to bring stability and resolution of problems to the area. It was a thankless and frustrating task. It was also an impossible one. You simply cannot bomb with shock and awe efficiency a city that houses the main workings of a country and then come in, dust off a few statues, hammer a few boards back together, get an electrician to solder back together a few severed wires, drop some chlorine into the water supply, and voila! Everything's right as rain again.

By the time we got to the elections in Iraq, President Bush was everywhere talking about how wonderful it was to have given the Iraqis their freedom. That's what Bush said they wanted: Freedom, and we gave it to them. They could finally freely vote for the candidate of their choice. That's what they wanted after all.

Well, that may very well be what the Iraqis had in mind when Hussein was removed from power, but during the months of the occupation what most Iraqis wanted was safety to leave their homes, electricity for more than a few hours per day, and jobs. The unemployment rate in Iraq was 40%, and it wasn't improving. Electricity was still sporadic. And you remember all that talk about oil that morons like Michael Moore said was the chief reason we invaded Iraq in the first place? Iraq was not pumping enough oil to provide the gasoline requirements for its own citizens' automobiles. Halliburton was bringing tanker trucks full of gasoline from Turkey and other nearby countries to satisfy the needs of the Iraqi people. The oil was supposed to be what financed the recovery of Iraq. It didn't begin to cover those costs much less provide greedy American businessmen with more Texas Tea dollars.

The reason I wanted to read this book was because I was tired of the finger pointing and name calling taking place among the Congress of the United States concerning the should we or shouldn't we have invaded Iraq question. It doesn't matter one little tiny iota what the answer to that question is. We did it, and now we have to do something about the consequences. I wanted facts about what we did/are doing. And I'm going to keep on reading books that will better inform me about this ongoing process because I want to know. I highly recommend this book to anyone else who feels the same way.

I'm including the following which was written by Joshua Paul, a CPA staffer, who did it as a joke. It made me laugh out loud, but at the same time it makes me shake my head in disgust because undoubtedly there's truth to it:

  • Question: Why did the Iraqi chicken cross the road?

  • CPA: The fact that the chicken crossed the road shows that decision-making authority has switched to the chicken in advance of the scheduled June 30th transition of power. From now on, the chicken is responsible for its own decisions.

  • Halliburton: We were asked to help the chicken cross the road. Given the inherent risk of road crossing and the rarity of chickens, this operation will only cost $326,004.

  • Shiite Cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr: The chicken was a tool of the evil Coalition and will be killed.

  • US Army Military Police: We were directed to prepare the chicken to cross the road. As part of these preparations, individual soldiers ran over the chicken repeatedly and then plucked the chicken. We deeply regret the occurrence of any chicken-rights violations.

  • Peshmerga: The chicken crossed the road and will continue to cross the road to show its independence and to transport the weapons it needs to defend itself. However, in the future, to avoid problems, the chicken will be called a duck, and will wear a pastic bill.

  • Al-Jazeera: The chicken was forced to cross the road multiple times at gunpoint by a large group of occupation soldiers, according to witnesses. The chicken was then fired upon intentionally, in yet another example of the abuse of innocent Iraqi chickens.

  • CIA: We cannot confirm or deny any involvement in the chicken-road-crossing incident.

  • Translators: Chicken he cross street because bad she tangle regulation. Future chicken table against my request.
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