There was something unsettling sitting in the offices of a certain government department in Baghdad and hearing senior civil servants, some with PhDs from US and European universities, cynically observe that they had swapped their home grown dictator for Dictator Bremer of Washington DC. Perhaps most disturbing was their discussion about how they were poised to assist the imposed coalition government but how they were rejected and ignored – ironic given these are the folk now trying to administer their country and get it back on its feet. We sat in a boarded up building that had been bombed and looted. Here met men charged with providing utilities and basic living infrastructure four years after Bremer had arrived. Outside sat queues of silent and staring Iraqi citizens, waiting for a chance to petition their minister – a novel concept for them. Not all the signs were hopeless, though in my town we are not searched for weapons before we meet our local member.
Those personal experiences had a special resonance with Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s “Imperial Life in the Emerald City”. If ever there was a document which highlights the complete disconnect between Washington DC and Baghdad it is this account of an administration led by people parachuted in with no experience, or any knowledge of where they were and what they were supposed to do. Political and military analysts will be picking over this mess for another hundred year. In the meantime if you want a poignant insight into the colossal arrogance and ignorance that squandered an opportunity to get it right in 2003 and cost thousands of Iraqi citizen lives, and thousands of US and British military lives then get along to Green Zone. I won’t nit pick the detail relating to operations in the field – the point of the story is the underlying deceit that led to war and its conduct. Was it a just war – in terms justifying the action? I think so. Was it a just war in terms of its conduct? Hell no.