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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Book chronicles US’s first year in Iraq

    In the spring of 2003, I was a freshman in high school. Old Xbox buddies of mine had joined the army to go shoot non-virtual bad guys, but I was completely unconcerned with the fact that Saddam Hussein’s reign in Iraq had collapsed. The whole idea was so foreign and surreal to me that I didn’t give it a second thought. It wasn’t until college that I realized I had absolutely no idea what role the U.S. had really played in Iraq.

    “”Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq’s Green Zone”” by Rajiv Chandrasekaran provides startling insight into that world. Chandrasekaran was formerly the Washington Post Baghdad bureau chief. His novel chronicles the U.S.’s first year in Iraq, beginning just after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. The U.S. was newly in charge of Iraq’s administration and the country’s legal power.

    The author recounts firsthand the events that took place within the Green Zone, where soldiers and officials were untouched by the unrest and the poverty that ruled the everyday life of the average Iraqi citizen. Chandrasekaran describes a world very much marked by pre- and post- Green Zone divisions. He details the actions of the Coalition Provisional Authority which held its headquarters in the reassigned Baghdad palace formerly occupied by Hussein.

    While the conditions in Iraq were not rapidly improving for the general public, the Green Zone that Chandrasekaran describes functioned like a college campus. Ballrooms-turned-dining-halls, the PX for shopping and American-run bars created an oasis on the west bank of the Tigris. It was an island.

    Chandrasekaran’s restraint in editorializing is laudable considering the controversial subject matter. He writes like any conscientious journalist would, attempting neutrality and leaving his own opinions out of nearly the entire book. Only toward the closing pages does the reader get any sense of his personal perspective on the United States’ involvement in Iraq, or on the Green Zone. Even then, he remains professional and less judgmental than most would muster. This leaves the reader to their own interpretation of his account.

    The description is vivid and the intricacies of bureaucratic blundering in Iraq are laid open in this novel. The Green Zone compound walls are lifted for the average reader. It’s no surprise that director Paul Greengrass credits this novel as the final inspiration for his recent film “”Green Zone.””

    While a more personal report might have been more sensational, the time period relayed in this work of nonfiction holds enough shock value to keep even the most drama-addicted audience enthralled.

    That said, “”Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq’s Green Zone”” also provides an incredible resource for those of us who weren’t inside the walls when it all went wrong in Iraq, without the distraction of Hollywood flair or virtual bad guys.

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