While qualified Americans willing to serve in Iraq are screened for their views on Roe v. Wade, the country is put into the hands of inexperienced 20-somethings chosen for their Republican Party loyalty. Ignoring what Iraqis say they want or need, the team pursues irrelevant neoconservative solutions and pie-in-the-sky policies instead of rebuilding looted buildings and restoring electricity. Their almost comic initiatives anger the locals and fuel the insurgency.
©2006 Rajiv Chandrasekaran; (P)2006 Blackstone Audio Inc.
"A devastating indictment of the post-invasion failures of the Bush administration." (Booklist)
"An eye-opening tour of ineptitude, misdirection, and the perils of democracy-building." (Newsday)
"With acuity and a fine sense of the absurd, the author peels back the roof to reveal an ant heap of arrogance, ineptitude, and hayseed provincialism." (Boston Globe)
"As chilling an indictment of America's tragic cultural myopia as Graham Greene's prescient 1955 novel of the American debacle in Indochina, The Quiet American." (New York Times)
I have rarely come across a work of journalism as well written and as perceptive as this one. I was in Iraq before, during, and after the events Mr Chandrasekaran relates, and I knew many of the Emerald City denizens that form its core. His account of those events, and the descriptions of the ineptitudes of the incompetent that we sent there are bang on. But I personally think he could have have been a lot tougher.
The other thing I want to praise is the performance of Ray Porter as the reader in this production. He is superb. I have never, with perhaps the exception of Patrick Tull in the Aubrey-Maturin books, heard such an accomplished reader. I suspect that Mr Porter has had classical stage training, possibly British stage training.
He turns out a stunning performance, effortlessly and faultlessly switching from narrative voice to character voice, complete with appropriate accent and mannerism. His range is so vast that I spent some time with an audio program looking at the wave forms to see whether the producers had brought in other actors to provide the voices. But they all seem to be Mr Porter.
My Arabic is conversational, and more Egyptian than Iraqi, but Mr Porter's Iraqi accent for some of the people quoted in Imperial Life is dead on, if not astonishing.
It is a joy to hear someone this accomplished reading such good writing.
It is just too bad that what Mr Chandrasekaran and Mr Porter give us is an account of how inept and ignorant political appointees messed up post war Iraq so badly that thousands of American troops have suffered and died as a result; not to mention the innocent people of Iraq.
I hear voices. But maybe that's because there's always an Audible book in my ear.
I need to say two quick things about this book before I comment on content. #1: Ray Porter is amazing as a narrator. #2: The author does a great job with "just the facts, ma'am" even though his opinions are clear. Look up any number of the things he talks about and you will find supporting facts. I value that with non-fiction.
This is NOT a feel-good book about America's export of democracy or freeing the Iraqis from Saddam Hussein. It is a harsh look at the mechanical parts of occupation and the responsibility you assume when you decide to take over another country. It's too bad the word "hubris" has already been used by another book. This could have been titled the same way.
There are many things I do not understand and this book didn't help. How could we as a country allow bridges to fall into rivers due to infrastructure neglect yet support the billions of dollars it took when we decided to rebuild Iraq? How do lawmakers justify their support of the billions of dollars for this and not for education and health care in our own country? When you look for skills during a crisis, why would political party even matter? And what does it take to put down your political party affiliation and just do the right thing?
There are two particular people in the book who are incredibly effective at carrying out their tasks. Their effectiveness has nothing to do with politics and all to do with pure competence. Reading about them and their M.O. is a great lesson in how to get things done. I was impressed at the odds against them and what they achieved.
A well told story of the inter-workings of the CPA and the early years of the U.S. presence in Iraq. Can be disturbing as it explains just how unprepared the U.S. government was with this occupation. Truly eye-opening.
I'm a manager of a lawncare crew that listens to audio books when feasible. I have 2 years of business and 3 towards a history degree.
The book does a great job of pointing out the failures of the Bush Administration's attempt to remake Iraq after the war. Iraqi industry was more of a joke than we thought, and all the money put into updating many things, such as their stock exchange, went to waste when they reverted back to the old ways they knew. The author presents conversations he heard as second or third hand accounts as if they were a first hand retelling which is rather misleading to the reader. His bias is obvious and the bias of those reporting conversations of Military Officers to him could pretty easily have leaked into the retelling of those conversations. Interpret those instances with a grain of salt. As to actual solid facts, the author did a very good job and did an excellent job with his observations of the American redevelopment failures in Iraq. I can say I'm a Conservative and have read a lot on the Second Persian Gulf War, and this book is one among those I would say are must reads even though I don't care for some misleading tactics of the author. Another book I'd recommend on the subject is John Keegan's "The Iraq War". Keegan is a renowned British Military History and his book cover's Saddam's rise to power through his downfall. This book then does a fair job covering everything that was not included in Keegans book, as in what happened after the war.
I bought this on a whim, and was pleasantly surprised. It's not action-packed, but it is a seemingly objective account of how America handled post-war Iraq. It opened my eyes to what was actually happening there, which would be very difficult to piece together from what you hear and see on the news. I would recommend this book.
I can't tell you if this book was accurate, or if it presented a balanced perspective of events. I can tell you, however, that it was very interesting to listen to- excellently written and well narrated. There was a lot of critisicm, but it was non-hostile. The author seemed to be lamenting missed opportunities, rather than pointing his finger. It was concise and informative.
Simply the best book I've read yet concerning the events in Iraq. Rajiv uses an insider's perspective to explain what's really going on in the Middle East. I found it enlightening, educational, shocking, and entertaining. Best of the Best!
Gives some wonderful crystal clear understanding of what went wrong so quickly with US efforts in Iraq after the overthrow of Hussein. You have direct quotation from Bremer and many others on the ground in the first days of the occupation, so this isn't a partison attack piece. I'd highly recommend this book to anyone with a curiosity as to why things went so poorly in the US efforts and for anyone interested in getting a flavor for what Iraq was really like in the opening days of the occupation.
I teach Business, Economics, and English at a university in Tokyo. My interests are in politics, economics, and philosophy. I hold a BA in English Literature, and an MA in Political Science.
I am not so sure this is the best book on Iraq. There have been some really good ones written. This one is perhaps one of the more damning. Too much is written with only the Iraqis and non-American perspective addressed. Ultimately this book misses a huge point...perspective. A foreign force of 130,000 is occuppying a country of nearly 27,000,000. There are vast cultural differences. In the historical perspective, the US military is doing an exceptional job...though the US administration is questionable. The attacks on the personnel on the ground and people in unifrom was a little too much. This is not a movie and it is not a video game. This is not occurring on a controlled set. This volume fails because it tries to make a case for a Hollywood style story, but the characters do not stick to the script.
Actor/director/teacher. Split my time between Beijing and Seattle now. Listen to Audible on the subway and while driving. Love the reviews.
This is definitely a case of truth beggaring fiction. I found this account of America's occupation and attempted transformation of post-Hussein Iraq to be riveting--a kind of masochistic fascination is perhaps the best way to describe it. Eight years after the book was written, there has still been no adequate response to the indictment it embodies, even though the account Chandrasekaran presents is substantially undisputed.
The picture here is so appalling that it is hard not to suspect (hope?) that the author has neglected to report some positive aspects of the U.S. occupation, but one looks in vain for such material elsewhere. What's more, his on-the-spot access to the events and personnel involved with the story was clearly extraordinary. So in the end his reportage, compellingly straightforward and extremely well written, is convincing.
Ray Porter's voicing of the book was, in keeping with all his work, superb.
Do not be misled by the cover art for the book. The "Green Zone" movie starring Matt Damon was a piece of fiction inspired by but definitely distinct from this non-fiction work.
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