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.
MY MAIN AIM OF WRITING THIS BLOG IS TO MAKE ALL OF YOU AWARE AS TO WHAT AMERICA REALLY DID IN IRAQ!
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!!!