Green Zone, By Rajiv Chandrasekaran

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The Independent Culture

This is one of the most depressing books I have read in the past 12 months and, yes, that is a recommendation. Originally titled Imperial Life in the Emerald City and re-christened for the recent Paul Greengrass film adaptation, it describes the breathtaking, heartbreaking scale of the ineptitude of the Americans placed in charge and housed in the fortified "Green Zone" in Baghdad just after Saddam had been toppled.

In Baghdad as foreign correspondent for the Washington Post, Rajiv Chandrasekaran had access to both the "emerald city" and the ordinary streets, observing how the Iraqis' initial joy at having been liberated from Saddam's rule turned to rage when electricity supplies failed and water was cut off. The Americans, cosseted in their quarters with pictures of the Twin Towers on the walls, pork on their plates and, it seems, contempt for ordinary Iraqis, were largely Republican Party yes-men, eager to climb the political ladder. A folly of monstrous proportions.