Imperial Life in the Emerald City

I must admit to missing this book the first time round. It is, however, rather indispensable for an outline of the lunacy that was the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq.

On reflection, it’s rather grating that Rajiv sticks, in true journalistic fashion, to the facts. I’m normally not a fan of comment pieces, but the world that he painstakingly reconstructs is begging for some form of authorship and voice in the form of his opinion on the matter. He is clearly angry at many things, not least the sheer amateurism in the enterprise that was fostered by reliance upon republican political connections. As a body of work, the book is a damning indictment of the post-war reconstruction effort (though notably even handed towards Bremner and Garner, unlike Ricks who is decisively more critical of the former). But it lacks the coup de grace of a cohesive argument. It is eye opening, and in many places, jaw-dropping, but this lack of thesis hamstrings the book. Furthermore, the reader is left wondering whether anything could have been done. The recollections of former CPA staff mourning their individual missed chances at times drowns out the wider question of whether they would have changed anything had those chances not been missed.

In short it is a worthy read, but one that is about as constructive as the insane world that it documents.