This blog was originally designed to keep me sane as I began learning Arabic. It morphed into a blog of musings about Arabic, the Middle East, and the Islamic World, as well as book reviews about those topics. Then, the blog became a place to keep my family and friends updated on my adventures while I was living abroad. During May and June of 2012, I had a 6-week long internship in Cairo, Egypt through a international student organization called AIESEC. I taught English at the Awladi Orphanage in Cairo, home to several hundred children. I lived in an apartment in Nasr City before moving to Maadi (each is a distinct area of Cairo). I experienced President Mursi's election, camped in the western desert, rode camels by the pyramids, and had countless other experiences. I have since moved past this blog, on towards new endeavors, but if you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment! Enjoy!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Imperial Life in the Emerald City

If you will excuse my language, I must say that this book topic pissed me off. 
Rajiv Chandrasekaran does an excellent job of showing what an absolute mess the U.S. is leaving in Iraq. I would recommend this book to people studying foreign policy, cultural interaction, and how not to conduct your military force.

Here is a review that seems almost generous to the people in the Green Zone:
" This revealing account of the postwar administration of Iraq, by a former Baghdad bureau chief for the Washington Post, focusses on life in the Green Zone, the American enclave in central Baghdad. There the Halliburton-run (and Muslim-staffed) cafeteria served pork at every meal—a cultural misstep typical of the Coalition Provisional Authority, which had sidelined old Arab hands in favor of Bush loyalists. Not only did many of them have no previous exposure to the Middle East; more than half had never before applied for a passport. While Baghdad burned, American officials revamped the Iraqi tax code and mounted an anti-smoking campaign. Chandrasekaran's portrait of blinkered idealism is evenhanded, chronicling the disillusionment of conservatives who were sent to a war zone without the resources to achieve lasting change." -New York Times

There were some parts of this book that I found so infuriating, I had to stop reading it for a couple of days. These parts detailed things like this- "Bernard Kerik’s ludicrous attempt to train the Iraqi police and brings to light lesser known but typical travesties: the case of the twenty-four-year-old who had never worked in finance put in charge of reestablishing Baghdad’s stock exchange; a contractor with no previous experience paid millions to guard a closed airport; a State Department employee forced to bribe Americans to enlist their help in preventing Iraqi weapons scientists from defecting to Iran; Americans willing to serve in Iraq screened by White House officials for their views on Roe v. Wade; people with prior expertise in the Middle East excluded in favor of lesser-qualified Republican Party loyalists. Finally, he describes Bremer’s ignominious departure in 2004, fleeing secretly in a helicopter two days ahead of schedule."

There are SO many things that were done wrong in the planning (or total lack of planning) that happened in the lead up to the invasion of Iraq. The fact that the Bush administration had no competent people to assist in nation rebuilding makes absolutely no sense what-so-ever. Millions of dollars were spent, and they managed to ruin all of the good things about Iraq that could have been kept around for the new government to run with. 

I cannot possibly recommend this book more highly. Though I realize that it is not directly about Middle Eastern culture, it perfectly shows the type of influence that the U.S.'s invasion is leaving on the area.


  1. Hi,

    I will have to check this book out, thanks for the recommendation. I have read Professor Larry Diamond's book Squandered Victory, and I shared the same sentiments of disbelief and disappointment. The US arrived in Iraq with people who didn't know much about the region and many didn't speak a lick of Arabic. Hopefully, we have learned from our mistakes and will not repeat them.

    1. I will definitely have to check into Diamond's book! There were so many mistakes that could have been averted had more thought been put into planning the invasion. Unfortunately, the government has a habit of selling these grand ideas without having a practical way to carry through with them. I hope we have learned our lesson. Thanks for the recommendation! :)