Behind Baghdad Walls, Rosy Plans in the Green Zone

From The New York Times:

Chand190 The Emerald City in Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s revealing new book is not the fabled metropolis in Oz, but the Green Zone in Baghdad, headquarters for the American occupation in Iraq. And yet, as Mr. Chandrasekaran tells it, the walled-off, heavily guarded enclave, centered around Saddam Hussein’s Republican Palace, became as much a fantasyland as anything dreamed up by L. Frank Baum, a place where members of the Coalition Provisional Authority lived in a shiny bubble cut off from the grim realities of Baghdad and the rest of Iraq, a place where the air-conditioning and electricity worked, where Americans wearing “Bush-Cheney 2004” T-shirts could feast on pork and guzzle beer.

“From inside the Green Zone,” Mr. Chandrasekaran writes, “the real Baghdad — the checkpoints, the bombed-out buildings, the paralyzing traffic jams — could have been a world away. The horns, the gunshots, the muezzin’s call to prayer, never drifted over the walls. The fear on the faces of American troops was rarely seen by the denizens of the palace. The acrid smoke of a detonated car bomb didn’t fill the air. The sub-Saharan privation and Wild West lawlessness that gripped one of the world’s most ancient cities swirled around the walls, but on the inside, the calm sterility of an American subdivision prevailed.”

Mr. Chandrasekaran, an assistant managing editor of The Washington Post and the paper’s former Baghdad bureau chief, spent nearly two years reporting from Iraq, and in “Imperial Life in the Emerald City” he draws a vividly detailed portrait of the Green Zone and the Coalition Provisional Authority (which ran Iraq’s government from April 2003 to June 2004) that becomes a metaphor for the administration’s larger failings in Iraq.

More here.