Lying Media Bastards

December 16, 2006

Red Light, Green Light

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I am currently reading the book Imperial Life in the Emerald City by reporter Rajiv Chandrasekaran. It’s the first “how we fucked up in Iraq” book I’ve picked up (I hear that Thomas Rick’s Fiasco is good too), and there’s a jaw-dropping moment every few pages. Emerald City focuses on the Green Zone, the huge, fortified compound that houses the US occupiers. The people who live and work there are almost entirely delusional, working on regulations for a new Iraqi stock exchange and privatizing state-owned factories while Iraqis outside the gates are in mortal fear for their lives.

I’m only about a third of the way through the book, but I can see some pretty broad explanations about how the Iraq invasion went so badly (apart from the obvious, that the war was a terrible idea to start with).

First of all, you had competing agendas. Essentially, the neocons, Defense Department and White House were on one side, and the “realists” in the State Department and CIA on the other. It seems that the first group was so intent on having their war, and was so afraid that negative information could derail it, that they went to great lengths to hide this information from everyone. This included information necessary to reconstruct Iraq; if people knew how much work and difficulty would be involved in reconstruction, it could prevent the war from taking place at all! And their solution to this was simple: don’t make any plans to reconstruct Iraq.

Then you had the Bush regime’s obsession with loyalty. If you talked about the difficulties in invading Iraq, you were undermining the war effort. If you opposed some of the policies or strategies involved in Iraq, you were undermining the war effort. If you were liberal or even moderate, you were undermining the war effort. The White House and Defense Department hired hundreds of civilian staffers to help turn Iraq into a free market republic, who had no relevant skills or experience. The only thing they had going for them were Republican beliefs and high-powered political connections. I mean, smart people with a few years’ experience in office jobs were put in charge the $13 billion Iraqi budget.

And third, you had the fact that no one involved knew anything about Iraq! Some of the folks in the book are idiots, some are scoundrels, but most seem to be well-intentioned people who are just clueless. They don’t know anything about Iraqi society, history, or public opinion, and it doesn’t occur to them to find out before taking action.

And the fourth problem was L. Paul “Jerry” Bremer, who was the emperor of Iraq from May 2003 to June 2004. He made two enormous mistakes that set the stage for the chaos and insurgency– “de-baathifcation” (firing almost everybody who had been a member of Saddam Hussein’s Baath party) and firing the Iraqi military– and he was such a stubborn jackass (or in Henry Kissinger’s description “control freak”) that he refused to reconsider any decisions after he had made them.

I’ve still got a ways to go, but I’d recommend giving it a read. I’ll try to post a review/essay about it all once I’m done.

Posted by Jake on December 16, 2006 2:38 am

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