I have just finished Imperial Life in the Emerald City by Rajiv Chandrasekaran (a Christmas present). This is pretty much a straightforward account of Americans living in the Green Zone during the tenure of Bremer by someone who was there and who seems not to have been unduly burdened by partisanship. I have no reason to believe that it is other than truthful. It is a story of unbelievable arrogance, ignorance, incompetence, and cultural indifference. As it ends at the time of Bremer's departure it is not able to capture the worse that was to come.
Interestingly, oil is barely mentioned. There is no indication that the attack and occupation had anything much to do with oil. Indeed, the impression one gets from this book is that most of the people who were involved in rebuilding Iraq were truly interesting in doing the right thing for those unfortunate people. But however well intentioned they seem to have universally been handicapped by a lack of funds, mismanagement from afar (the White House and the Pentagon), and an unwillingness to listen to the Iraqis themselves. They wanted to create a viable Iraqi democratic government but, of course, the unspoken assumption was that it would be a pro-American government (democratic only insofar as it pleased us).
The Green Zone (that came to be known as the Emerald City) was a seven square mile area completely divorced from the rest of Iraq. With 17 foot walls capped with razor-sharp wire it was regarded as safe from attack (although this proved to be not completely true). Within this area there was everything you might want in an American city - restaurants, bars, swimming pools, air-conditioning, dry cleaners, movies, and so on. Over time it became increasingly difficult for residents of the Emerald City, be they politicians, reporters, administrators, or whatever, to travel outside for any reason. The critical decisions for the future of Iraq were made within this protected area and almost exclusively by people who knew nothing of Iraq culture or character.
Individuals who were appointed to positions of power and influence were selected most often on the grounds of whether or not they had voted for Bush and believed in his policies, rather than if they actually had expertise in what it was they were to do. Most of them seemed to be true believers. One even confessed to Chandrasekaran that "he wasn't there for the Iraqis, but for Bush." Later, at some kind of reunion of those who had served in the Green Zone at that time, one of them reported that he/she regarded "having swallowed the kool-aid" as a badge of honor. Is it any wonder that we failed so dismally in Iraq? I recommend this book to everyone. It is a no nonsense account of monumental incompetence coupled with unconscionable arrogance and abysmal ignorance.
Giving those involved the benefit of the doubt that they really wanted to do the right thing this would seem to be a perfect example of what Georgie Anne Geyer described as "The Evil Within the Innocence" (Anti-War.com of today):
"If that (failure) happens, ironically, it will because of that layer of the American soul that, eschewing history, human nature, common sense, the public good and natural experience, turns out to be, in its innocence, truly another form of evil."
It has now apparently been decided that we need more troops, not only for the potential "surge" that under the circumstances is patently ridiculous, but also in general (for Bush's never ending "war"). As we are having trouble recruiting enough new cannon fodder, even though the requirements have been drastically lowered and the acceptable age raised to 42, and as trying to reinstitute a draft would probably result in a revolution, the Bush/Cheney Pentagon is suggesting we recruit foreigners as mercenaries, promising them citizenship. If Bush/Cheney can sell this idea to the House and the Senate (and the American public) we will certainly be doomed (indeed, there will be no hope for us whatsoever). We need to cut our military budget by 50% and start to mind our own business (like health care, education, infrastructure, environmental health, etc., etc.). The rest of the world will survive without our paternalistic, imperialistic, holier-than-thou, unwanted and unappreciated interference.