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Publisher's Summary

In this unprecedented account, The Washington Post's former Baghdad bureau chief, Rajiv Chandrasekaran, takes us into the Green Zone, headquarters for the American occupation in Iraq. In this bubble separated from wartime realities, the task of reconstructing a devastated nation competes with the distractions of a Little America: a half-dozen bars, a disco, a shopping mall - much of it run by Halliburton. 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.
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Critic Reviews



A National Book Award Finalist
"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)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Rick Grant on 04-25-07

A stunning work and performance

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.

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46 of 50 people found this review helpful

5 out of 5 stars
By TM on 01-29-14

Shocking Indictment of Hubris

Any additional comments?

I was a bit worried this book would be a lefty hatchet job and whilst the account certainly helps to make a case for those who were critical of the post invasion phase of the Iraq war, it was laid out in a very factual and coherent manner.Its the facts themselves that are shocking.Numerous accounts of qualified and experienced (and often republican) personnel in key positions being replaced at key moments with unqualified, inexperienced friends of the administration, or politically-motivated appointees was deeply troubling.I already knew some of this, such as Garner's replacement early on, but there were many others.I struggle to understand how those involved could disregard the damage they were doing for the sake of winning an un-winnable political argument.

So many bad decisions, but the key ones:

- indiscriminate de-Bathification
- disbanding the Iraqi army

Thankfully Bush did belatedly come to his senses and change direction, by lessening Cheney's influence, and replacing Rumsfeld with Gates.I was against the Iraq war from the start, but I felt once we were in, we couldn't just abandon the country to chaos, and I think Gates did about as good a job as anyone could have in that situation.

I also want to spare a thought for all of our military personnel whose sacrifice was needed to clean-up the damage done by this phase of the invasion. Thank you!

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4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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