Transition of Thoughts

Weaving thoughts into words

Book review – Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Baghdad’s Green Zone – America’s true story in IRAQ!!!!!

This is the first book I have read about the American occupation in Iraq. Its gives the real picture of what exactly happened during the 2003 war and in the years ensuing that. Rajiv Chandrashekaran is a writer and reporter who stayed in Baghdad for quite some time before and after the war. This book contains a lot of narration and also conversations which he had with various individuals of the CPA (Coalition Provisional Authority) – the administrative occupation force, the police force, army and other citizens of Iraq.

The book starts off after the attack to overthrow Saddam was over. Even the false pretext of the invasion, the so called Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) aren’t spoken about much. The book is divided into two parts – Building the Bubble and Shattered Dreams. As the name suggests, one signifies trying to build Iraq and other talks about the terrorist attacks and complete anarchy. The book starts off with how the Americans had built a home for themselves away from all the problems, destruction everything, aptly titled “Green Zone”. It was fully replete with Burger Kinger, king sized life like in the US, Halliburton trailers, amazing houses etc everything. Its very high blast resistant walls made everyone realise each time the dangers they were living in.

To give a historical perspective, Iraq was one of the most developed countries in the Gulf in 70s and 80s. The Iran war and Gulf War had drained it off its resources. There were problems in Iraq like corruption but no terrorism and people were pretty satisfied. Jerry Bremer, the CPA head behaved like a dictator more than anything else. And this led to the ultimate disaster of what should have been the post conflict reconstruction period. People who didnt know anything about a particular field were put in charge of it. A man who didnt know a thing about finance was made in charge of the stock exchange. Privatization of all industries which wasnt even an important task was attempted with so much hurry.

The Baath party loyalists of which Saddam was a part were removed from every department including the army. Schools and colleges were destroyed and there were no tables, desks and chairs. Electricity production was decreasing by the day and there was only 10 hours of power in Baghdad every day. Even the so called governing council, elections and also handing over of power was all done to show the media that everything was hunky dory. The Americans wanted to write the constitution as well despite reservations by Ayotallah Sistani.

In hindsight the two biggest turning points against the Americans were –
1. When they started removing Baath party loyalists, it resulted in humungous increase in unemployment.
2. When they wanted to hold elections, instead of dividing the country into different constituencies, they made it into one and this way the Sunnis couldnt vote and mostly Shia’s came to power. This created a civil war.

The writer brilliantly moves through his narration and conversations with people at breakneck speed portraying the state of affairs in that country. I have always hated America for the invasion. But after reading this true account, my hate has grown manifold. He rightly says that these Americans lived in Emerald City and made laws and rules thinking if it works in America, it would work here too but they were hugely mistaken. The writer deserves a pat on the back for braving all odds to put this book forward which I am sure would have brought a lot of condemnation.


One Iraqi man’s comment sums it all – “We wanted them to support us so that we can rise again. But instead they came and occupied this place as if it were their property.

Rating – 5/5 (One of the best non – fiction books I have ever read)
For the uninitiated this book has got the Booker Prize for Non – Fiction!!!


Honour killings – An increasingly dangerous phenomenon!


India and Pakistan – What are we trying to prove by TALKING?


  1. mini

    Have to read this one πŸ™‚

  2. Hey Aseem… Nice review this. You seem to have covered many important aspect. Hope to get a hold of it sometime soon. 5/5 – How often do we get such reviews? πŸ™‚

    Thanks for the same.

    • aseemrastogi2

      yeah this book deserved a 5/5 for such an amazing description of the behind the scenes story of how American policies really screwed up Iraq..his courage to expose the problems shows throughout the book…:)

  3. Aakash Rungta

    well written dude.. reaaly. feels. like picking the book right away and read..

    • aseemrastogi2

      hey thanks for ur comment..its really awesome if one wants to know the real truth behind what america really did in iraq..a movie featuring Matt Damon made by Paul Greengrass called Green Zone based on the book released this year..

  4. Lata Singh

    Appreciate the author who try to conveyed the real happenings to masses .. love the blogger for the crisp review.. didnt know that it awarded with the Booker Prize for non-fiction .. Added to my Must-Read List πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

    • aseemrastogi2

      thanks for ur comments…this is a must read book for those who want to know what exactly America did in Iraq…a movie called Green Zone released this year is based on the book itself…:)

    • aseemrastogi2

      thanks for ur comments :)..great to connect with an avid reader like u πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

  5. Anita

    Book review is great. I am sure that by the statement of ‘hating America’, blogger means ‘hating American policies’. American people are generally nice. An average American doesnt know much about middle east. In fact, they hardly know the happenings outside America. Its their policies which are creating problems all over the world whether it is middle east or Afghanistan.

    • aseemrastogi2

      Yeah I mean hating american policies…If my blog portrayed about hating America, I am really sorry I didnt mean that..An average American is sadly fed with the news what sounds good and not what is reality..and in the end they call themselves a democracy! What a shame!!

  6. Abhishek

    Very good review of the book. Keep up the good work.

  7. Hi Aseem,

    (Today is the first time I saw your blog – followed thru your post.)

    Great review. Thanks.

    I am going to lay my hands on this book. Found it on Amazon –

    No kindle edition yet πŸ™

    • aseemrastogi2

      Hi, nice to see you on my blog for the first time. Thanks, for the nice comments regarding the review. This is one of my all – time favorite non – fictional books..I am sure there will be a kindle edition soon..Do check out my other blogs too :)..would be looking forward for your comments and suggestions

  8. Good Evening to you.Each time I watch the Movie Green Zone I come close to tears, because of the frustration of our fellow humans whatever creed or colour maybe at last looking at life through all the lies and deceit offered and served on a plate by our so called elected masters
    .we all have a voice what is this world we live in where policy dictates who can share in the fruits to bear from our mother planet.?.we ramain …in our silence ,strong,..resliant.. and respecful to our morals..and one day we will wake to the sunshine of hope..coming through the window..and reaching our hearts..and minds once again.

    • aseemrastogi2

      Green Zone is seriously one of the only movies I have ever seen that has depicted the real story of how USA actually played around with the lives of the common Iraqi people!

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