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4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 4.00 (2,831 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Rajiv Chandrasekaran Narrator: Ray Porter Publisher: Blackstone Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: January 2006 ISBN: 9781455187348
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The Washington Post’s former Baghdad bureau chief, Rajiv Chandrasekaran, takes us into the Green Zone, headquarters for the American occupation in Iraq. In this bubble separated from wartime realities, the task of reconstructing a devastated nation competes with the distractions of a Little America—a half-dozen bars, a disco, a shopping mall—much of it run by Halliburton. While qualified Americans willing to serve in Iraq are screened for their views on Roe v. Wade, the country is put into the hands of inexperienced twentysomethings chosen for their Republican Party loyalty. Ignoring what Iraqis say they want or need, the team pursues irrelevant neoconservative solutions and pie-in-the-sky policies instead of rebuilding looted buildings and restoring electricity production. Their almost comic initiatives anger the locals and fuel the insurgency.

This is a quietly devastating portrait of imperial folly, and an essential book for anyone who wants to understand those early days when things went irrevocably wrong in Iraq.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Absolutely brilliant. It is eyewitness history of the first order...It should be read by anyone who wants to understand how things went so badly wrong in Iraq.”

    New York Times Book Review

  • “A vividly detailed portrait of the Green Zone and the Coalition Provisional Authority that becomes a metaphor for the administration’s larger failings in Iraq…often reads like something out of Catch-22 or MASH.”

    New York Times

  • “As chilling an indictment of America’s tragic cultural myopia as Graham Greene’s prescient 1955 novel of the American debacle in Indochina, The Quiet American.”

    New York Times

  • “Extraordinary…Indispensable…Full of jaw-dropping tales of the myriad large and small ways in which Bremer and his team poured fuel into the lethal cauldron that is today’s Iraq.”

    Washington Post Book World

  • “An eye-opening tour of ineptitude, misdirection, and the perils of democracy-building.”

    Newsday

  • “With acuity and a fine sense of the absurd, the author peels back the roof to reveal an ant heap of arrogance, ineptitude, and hayseed provincialism.”

    Boston Globe

  • “Narrator Ray Porter delivers the author’s story of hubris, corruption, excess, and destruction with the perfect degree of revulsion, outrage, and disdain…[Chandrasekaran] misses not a detail or nuance in this unintentional black comedy‚ nor does the highly professional Porter.”

    AudioFile

  • “A devastating indictment of the post-invasion failures of the Bush administration.”

    Booklist 

  • Winner of the 2006 Cornelius Ryan Award
  • Winner of the 2007 Samuel Johnson Prize for Nonfiction
  • A 2007 Guardian First Book Award Finalist
  • A 2007 New York Times Book Review Top 10 Book of the Year
  • New York Times Book Review 100 Notable Books for Nonfiction, 2007
  • A 2006 Los Angeles Times Book Prize Nominee for Current Interest
  • A 2006 National Book Award Finalist for Nonfiction

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jonathan | 2/20/2014

    " I originally saw this author on the daily show and had meant to read this book a while ago. It details what the situation was like inside the Green Zone during the US occupation of Iraq. The author had fantastic access to the Green Zone, which is where nearly all of the US staff lived during the occupation and rarely ventured outside of it, if at all. If you are interesting in this area, its a great. It focuses on the situation and realities in Iraq, and not nearly as much what was going on in Washington. Components include the occupation team having to deal with looting, running foreign ministries, Bremer's policies, life and attitudes inside the Green Zone, contractors, and more. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Seligne | 2/19/2014

    " No writer of fiction could imagine such lunacy! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 David Brook | 2/18/2014

    " The best book written on the Iraq invasion. Ignore any connection to the later film "Green Zone" "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jak Holding | 2/17/2014

    " Imperial Life in the Emerald City by Rajiv Chandrasekaran is the most impartial book about America's first year in Iraq that I've found so far. Rajiv spends a lot of time criticizing Bremer, who rightly deserves it because of many of the decisions he made while serving as the Administrator of Iraq. I was in Iraq during the last 6 to 7 months of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) and saw the effects of a lot of his decisions first hand. If you're looking to form your own opinion about Iraq, this is one of the better books to use as one of your resources. I've rated it 4 out of 5 stars because although it is the most impartial book I've found so far, Chandrasekaran does draw his own conclusions at times that are only partially informed. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Grahambo | 2/12/2014

    " I think I've finally read everything except tactical vignettes about the Iraq war. Now that we've finally pulled out, there is a sense of closure but my frustration at the hubris and insanity that led us down this path is never dulled and likely never will be. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 K. | 2/8/2014

    " I still have not finished this book and I don't know if I ever will. It was good, very insightful, however I felt like it was poorly organized....much like the green zone that it describes (so maybe it can't be helped). "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Stephanie | 1/31/2014

    " This book is truly edifying, yet also interesting, and compelling in the same sort of manner as a runaway train. For a reader without much background knowledge of the Middle East, it provides a great introduction with a witty narrative style. If you want to know more about Iraq, and the follies of the post-Sadaam occupation, I highly recommend "Imperial Life in the Emerald City." "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Allen | 1/24/2014

    " A fascinating, cringe-inducing account of how political arrogance triumphed over reason in the Bush admin's occupation of Iraq. A must-read to understand what went so terribly wrong. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Patty | 1/20/2014

    " The complete ineptitude of the Bush Administration displayed. Not the greatest writing ever, but important reporting. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Everett Maroon | 1/15/2014

    " Started out strong with surprising and woe-inspiring stories of how political appointees really screwed up the inital occupation in Iraq, but then got a little mired in the minutae of bad decisionmaking. Worth a fast read. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Annette Looks Twice | 12/3/2013

    " Needs to be read in High School Government classes. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Mark Stone | 11/28/2013

    " Possibly the most depressing and enlightening book I have ever read. This book tells us all about what went wrong in Iraq, from the perspective of a journalist who was there. Imperial Life in the Emerald City is scathing, clear-eyed, and fair. I only wish it weren't true. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Helen | 11/1/2013

    " This book made me so angry and disgusted with the invasion of Iraq that I couldn't finish it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Heidi | 9/28/2013

    " sad and scary account of everything that went wrong with the Iraq occupation. i don't know what was worse--the bush admin's ego and false assumptions or horrible string of ridiculous hiring choices. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sarahmarielowe | 7/28/2013

    " It would almost be funny, if it weren't true. Scary, sad, macabre, and impartial to a fault. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mark | 4/24/2013

    " An inside look of life in the Green Zone. Pretty interesting. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Justin | 4/6/2013

    " I can't imagine a book that paints a more thorough picture of how not to engage in nation building. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Paul Anthony | 1/5/2013

    " A heart-breaking, jaw-dropping chronicle of the Iraq debacle from the inside. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kemi | 9/12/2012

    " Well written, if alarming, horrifying, somewhat hilarious. Depressing look at how politics and nepotism hampers effective policy making in one of the most critical areas - war. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Rachel | 9/7/2012

    " Republicans are evil and incompetent - oh, wait, I knew that already.... "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Serena | 9/7/2012

    " A brilliant and salient look at what happened after the "fall" of Baghdad. It certainly didn't make me feel any better about the situation but I derived hope from the spirit of the Iraqi people the author met along the way. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Katherine | 4/28/2012

    " This is an fast read that fully and clearly explains what went wrong after the fall of Sadaam and how we got where we are today. Unfortunately, I kept pausing to close the book and think "you've got to be kidding" after reading about so many of the CPA's stupid missteps. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kevin Kosar | 2/7/2012

    " My review of the book and interview with the author was published in Public Administration Review... "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kevin | 1/12/2012

    " A great book about how disoriented selections of the USA government were during the Iraq war. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Will Colglazier | 10/25/2011

    " Probably the best book besides "The Assassin's Gate" that tells how the Iraq War reconstruction went wrong in the beginning. Captivatingly scary. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Simone Allyne | 8/11/2011

    " I enjoyed and found it very informative but it was slow in parts and you had to have a good recall of names to keep track of everyone mentioned. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 ted | 5/11/2011

    " read back to back with Dexter Filkins' The Forever War. this is a great account of the staggering folly of the official occupation of Iraq. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Simone | 3/19/2011

    " Utterly fascinating!!! Anybody who still thinks it was a good idea to invade Iraq NEEDS to read this book. It not only describes in excruciating detail what we've done wrong, but more importantly, how our imperialistic attitudes have stood in the way of any potential progress. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Nagachan | 3/2/2011

    " very good book. however, it was incredibly frustrating to read as the weaknesses of bureaucracy and brought out into the open. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Abbas Hawazin | 2/6/2011

    " Its depressing topic about a general failure of all humans involved notwithstanding, this book leaves you with an uneasy feeling that it desperately wants you to hate its subject matters. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Elliot | 1/21/2011

    " What a fantastic book! The stories of incompetence and "wilful ignorance" couldn't be better stated. Incredible story after story, the real goings on in the Green Zone we never read about otherwise! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jane | 1/10/2011

    " This book is amazing. It is the story of the occupation of Baghdad after the Americans moved in, written by a Washington Post correspondent. Incredible how inept everyone was and why. Well worth reading. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kristiana | 12/13/2010

    " This was a good quick read at work. I am interested to see what the movie is like. The glimpses into life inside the Green Zone is fascinating and eye opening. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ben | 12/2/2010

    " You won't wonder why Iraq is a mess after this... "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Adam | 11/20/2010

    " The Green Zone can be described as Lawrence of Arabia meets Bowfinger, with the open-eyed naivete of a Scooby-Doo episode tossed in for good measure. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Maria | 11/17/2010

    " Amazing by way of horrifying "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Kim | 11/10/2010

    " Nice solid story. Nothing to do with the movie really except the basic premise about how messy real life is compared to neat and tidy historical hindsight. Actually the book is more interesting (even without Matt Damon). "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jenny | 10/25/2010

    " Exceptional! Details the mess we made of Iraq's infrastructure when we invaded. Reads fast, but very informative. "

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About the Author
Author Rajiv Chandrasekaran

Rajiv Chandrasekaran is the assistant managing editor of the Washington Post where he has worked since 1994. He previously served the Post as a bureau chief in Baghdad, Cairo, and Southeast Asia and as a correspondent covering the war in Afghanistan. He lives in Washington, DC.

About the Narrator

Ray Porter has garnered fourteen Earphones Awards, two Audie nominations, and a multitude of enthusiastic reviews for his sparkling narration of audiobooks. He has also appeared in numerous films and television shows, including Frasier, ER, Will & Grace, The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, and Almost Famous. He has most recently received Audible’s Narrator of the Year Award. He is a fifteen-year veteran of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.