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FDL Book Salon: Imperial Life in the Emerald City, Week 2

Even in Washington, DC... Imperial Life

Every now and again, I still argue with Green Boy, my co-blogger at Needlenose, about whether the invasion and occupation of Iraq was 100% doomed from the start or whether there was some small sliver of a chance (even 1% or so) that a reasonable facsimile of a non-brutal, non-authoritarian government might have been coaxed forth to rule a more-or-less unified country.

There's plenty of reason to think it was always impossible. As I wrote recently, the factions that are fighting now to reign over Iraq's carcass were plotting out their strategies well before the invasion, and none of them were thinking in terms of genuine power-sharing and democratic consensus.  Rather, they suspected that Iraq would continue to be a land ruled by the gun and the police who come in the night — and each of them was determined that, to the greatest extent possible, it would be their guns and their police rather than someone else's.

But those factional plotters didn't necessarily speak for millions of ordinary Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds who had lived in close proximity for decades and undoubtedly wouldn't have minded doing so under a less autocratic regime.  If the U.S. had somehow provided enough security to isolate the groups determined to provoke conflict, why wouldn't those people be happy to see Saddam go and have a chance at genuine democracy?

If we could have brought it to them.. If we had any intention of bringing it to them.

Rajiv Chandrasekaran's Imperial Life in the Emerald City is the story of how that 1% chance, if it ever existed, was snuffed out.  Instead of public servants who cared about results and helping the people of Iraq — who could have seen the urgency of providing security and services to create a constituency for our continued presence — the occupation (known as the Coalition Provisional Authority) was staffed with sheltered twentysomethings like Mark Schroeder:

Schroeder was incredulous when I told him that I lived in what he and others called the Red Zone, that I drove around without a security detail, that I ate at local restaurants, that I visited Iraqis in their homes.

"What's it like out there?" he asked.

And it was run by shallow self-promoters like Jerry Bremer, who pretentiously wore desert combat boots with his business garb even when waiting to be interviewed in Washington, DC (as shown above).  Naturally, instead of limiting the influence of the exile-led factions that were scheming to maximize their own power, Bremer got rolled by them:

Bremer and his governance team . . . allowed religious Shiite political leaders, particularly Abdul Aziz al-Hakim of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq, effective veto power over the selection of other Shiite members [of the pre-sovereignty Governing Council].  As a result, several more liberal and secular Shiites favored by the CPA were kept off the council, strengthening the position of SCIRI and Dawa [another exile-led party].

Please welcome Rajiv Chandrasekaran, who will be here to take your questions on the book and his experience in Iraq reporting for the Washington Post.

NOTE FROM MODERATOR:  Please keep discussion on topic for this thread, in keeping with FDL guidelines.  If you need to post something off-topic, please comment on the prior thread.  Thanks all.

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FDL Book Salon: Imperial Life in the Emerald City, Week 2

Even in Washington, DC... Imperial Life

Every now and again, I still argue with Green Boy, my co-blogger at Needlenose, about whether the invasion and occupation of Iraq was 100% doomed from the start or whether there was some small sliver of a chance (even 1% or so) that a reasonable facsimile of a non-brutal, non-authoritarian government might have been coaxed forth to rule a more-or-less unified country.

There's plenty of reason to think it was always impossible. As I wrote recently, the factions that are fighting now to reign over Iraq's carcass were plotting out their strategies well before the invasion, and none of them were thinking in terms of genuine power-sharing and democratic consensus.  Rather, they suspected that Iraq would continue to be a land ruled by the gun and the police who come in the night — and each of them was determined that, to the greatest extent possible, it would be their guns and their police rather than someone else's.

But those factional plotters didn't necessarily speak for millions of ordinary Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds who had lived in close proximity for decades and undoubtedly wouldn't have minded doing so under a less autocratic regime.  If the U.S. had somehow (more…)

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Swopa

Swopa

Swopa has been sharing prescient, if somewhat anal-retentive, analysis and garden-variety mockery with Internet readers since 1995 or so, when he began debunking the fantasies of Clinton-scandal aficionados on Usenet. He is currently esconced as the primary poster at Needlenose (www.needlenose.com).

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