Thursday, October 25, 2007

Outside reading final part #1

Chapter 13- Travel by car was very fluid before the occupation. Peter Mcpherson, the man in charge of economics, removed the previous tax on cars and this led people to import cars and therefore, traffic was a major problem. John Smathers, who was in charge of traffic, rewrote the traffic law basing it on the Maryland traffic code. The law was ridiculous and the Iraqis wouldn't accept it unless they could make revisions. Two Iraqi lawyers, who had been exiled, created a draft of a bill of rights for Iraq. This was strange to everyone, because the Americans were usually the ones making laws and the Iraqis were usually sitting on the sidelines. The Transitional Administrative Law or TAL, was drafted by these lawyers. The TAL was difficult to get signed by everyone, because there were disagreements between the different ethnic groups; the Kurds, the Shiites, and the Sunnis. There was great difficulty in choosing a leader for the new government. The Iraqi elections were unfair to candidates of smaller parties and also to individuals because the whole country was counted as one electoral district.

Chapter 14- The people who worked in Saddam's weapons programs were very well payed. After the liberation, the workers simply went back to living normal lives. Anne Harrington attempted to get the old scientists jobs but the Pentagon wanted to punish them seeing them as Saddam's accomplices. Alex Dehgan was put in charge of redirecting Iraqi scientists. He clashed with the CPA staffers because he was from the state department. He had extreme difficulty doing his job because nobody would give him supplies or help. He did however make more progress than CPA staffers because he didn't have to worry about the CPA hierarchy. There were many militias in Iraq. Bremer wanted them removed before he left. He thought that they could be used for political intimidation. David Gompert was the man in charge of dissolving the militias. He had a tough time, because the Kurds and the Shiites thought that they needed protection and deserved militias.

Chapter 15- When the First Cavalry division arrived in Iraq, their mission was to restore municipal services and act as glorified policemen. Sadr city, a slum of Baghdad, was in very bad shape before the occupation and was still getting progressively worse. A platoon of men patrolling Sadr City had run in with some armed Iraqis after turning on to the main thoroughfare they were ambushed by some of al-Sadr's men. It turned out that they were just guards but their weapons had to be confiscated. Moqtada al-Sadr openly criticised Americas actions in Iraq. He believed that the U.S. had handled the post-liberation looting poorly. Bremer wanted to dismantle al-Sadr's militia but al-Sadr would not comply. Bremer shut down al-Sadr's newspaper which made al-Sadr furious. He responded by telling his followers to attack Americans. A platoon of men patrolling Sadr City had run in with some armed Iraqis after turning on to the main thoroughfare they were ambushed by some of al-Sadr's men. Eight men were dead one of which was Casey Sheehan, son of Cindy Sheehan, future antiwar activist. Moqtada al-Sadr had taken control of all of al-Sadr City and several cities in central and southern Iraq. The Iraqi police were extremely ill prepared for a rebellion. They had hardly any equipment and they were either poorly trained or not trained at all. The rebellion created unprecedented fellowship between Sunnis and Shiites against the Americans. During the rebellion, CPA staffers were absolutely forbidden to leave the Green zone for any reason. Everyone including Tony Blair apposed the Marine offensive in Fallujah which Bremer had set up to quell the resistance. The Marines were accidentally killing innocent civilians and this is what everyone was against. The CPA eventually realized that their efforts to create a democracy overlooked the fact that the country was in turmoil and needed to be under control before it could become a stable democracy. This was the underlying fact that plagued the CPA from the start. They were focusing on little things that a country recovering from a war did not need or in some cases want.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Outside Reading Week 5 post #2

Chapter 11-
The green zone's hospital is very modern with lots of medical equipment. The rest of Iraq's health care system is a complete and total disaster. Before the war, the hospitals in Baghdad were top notch but after the Americans arrived, they ran out of supplies and funding and were a wreck. Frederick M. Burkle Jr. was put in place to rehabilitate Iraq's health care issue. A week after the liberation of Baghdad, Burkle was replaced by James K. Haveman. Steve Browning, a man who was in the CPA government, used his reputation to sway Bremer's decisions. Browning decided to get generators for every hospital in the city and gave one of his officers the power to take drugs from drugstores and other places in order to get them to the hospitals. Haveman tried to organize campaigns against smoking and other things which led to the need for hospital treatment. Kimadia, which was Iraq's public pharmaceutical company, was in charge of everything that had to do with drugs. Haveman also implemented a formulary, which was a list of drugs that doctors could prescribe to people. This formulary would cut costs to Iraqi health care. Ted Briski headed the team that created the formulary. He found out soon after he arrived that Haveman and his team had no idea what they were doing. After Bremer had made the decision to delay the handing over of the government, Haveman knew that his plans were going to have to be rewritten. Of all the ministries in Iraq, the ministry of health was the first to be handed over to Iraqis.
Chapter 12-
Faez Ghani Aziz was killed because of his involvement with the privatization of Iraqi industry. Tom Foley was put in charge of privatizing Iraq's industry. Nobody wanted to invest in Iraq because of Aziz's death. The Iraqis in charge of the ministry of finance were afraid they would be targeted if they made radical changes. Foley received a plan to lease factories to private owners to create a transition between ownership which he grudgingly agreed to. Several senior staffers refused to stop their pet projects even though they were scheduled to leave in November. They basically had seven and a half months to finish their projects. Jim Otwell opposed all of Bremer's efforts to privatize food distribution calling a "humanitarian debacle". Bremer ignored Otwell's complaints but in the end the U.S. military shot down the plan because they couldn't handle the insurgency and food riots. The CPA staffers decided to put in place a system giving Iraqis debit cards which would be replenished every month. Otwell realized that this would never work because Baghdad didn't have the infrastructure to support electronic transfers. Jay Hallen wanted to rebuild the Iraqi stock exchange from the ground up even though the Iraqis just wanted to get back to work while he was planning the new stock exchange. Hallen fired many employees and created a board of governors which was composed of completely Sunni Arabs. This was not wise because the Shiites and Kurds would not like this. The board made many decision which Hallen disapproved of. These disagreements caused much tension between Hallen and the Board. Hallen was disappointed with his work after he left Iraq and yet at the same time, he thought he had done well considering the circumstances.

So far what I have been reading is very revealing reading. The reoccurring theme I have noticed is that the post-war government in Iraq was very, very poorly run. This was mostly due to the people who were appointed to posts in the CPA. They were not always the best suited for the job. In some cases they were very simply put in place because they were close friends of the president. In fact, you were most likely not going to get a job in the CPA if you weren’t a republican. The CPA staffers also wanted to create a Baghdad that was way beyond their capabilities. They had expectations that were way too high and that is why they failed. Before I read this book, I was against the U.S. being in Iraq. Now, after reading this book I feel even stronger about the U.S. leaving. I am angry that we didn’t make the right decisions when it mattered. I now see why the situation in Iraq is the way it is. The amount of times that different offices changed hands is amazing and frightening. Most people weren’t in Iraq long enough to really accomplish anything that mattered. This is also a relatively unbiased account of the war but it still does have a slight bias mainly due to the fact that the author is a journalist.

Outside reading week 5 post #1

"You're in charge!", Rajiv Chandrasekaran "Imperial Life in the Emerald City" (61) . The quote is really a good summary of the book so far. It shows the attitude of the CPA towards Iraqi involvement in the creation of the post-war government in Iraq. The quote was directed at one of the men chosen to lead Iraq after the Americans left.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Reflection on "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"

The book was good and I liked it. I personally thought that for a book written by a guy who could only blink his left eye it was well written. I liked the book because even though there were some weaknesses, they were strongly outweighed by the strengths. One of the strengths was the quality of writing. The book was written by a man who was generally cut off from the outside world, and yet he managed to have the story flow with a very good rhythm. I also liked the point of view in the book. The fact that he is, “locked in”, makes for an interesting point of view on things. I personally have always wondered what it would be like to be in a coma, and to have someone with writing skills tell the story from that position is incredible. I also enjoyed the content of the story. I thought the way that he went through events in his life that came to him in his state was very interesting. In fact, it almost makes me wonder what I would remember if I was in that condition. The book was good but it also had weaknesses. One flaw that I had a problem with was the frequency with which he would jump in and out of his real life and past life. This constant switching back and forth was a little annoying and did make the book a little less enjoyable to read. While reading the book, I didn’t like the story very much for the most part because of this switching of storylines, but now that I am done reading the book, I am glad that I read it because in hindsight it was a fairly good story. The fact that a man who is unknowingly writing his last memories, feelings,and thoughts can achieve the goal of a book this length blinking out the entire thing with his left eye is simply amazing. The fact that he wrote the book that way give you an even greater apreciation for the quality of the story.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Week 3 part 1

Part 1

1) Summarize what you've read as if you were creating a Spark Notes version of the memoir.

Chapter one-The author, Rajiv Chandresekaran, narrates the story. The cafeteria in the republican palace has very American food. Everyone has a very patriotic mood and nobody questions America's role in Iraq. The cooks are all either Pakistani or Indian. All of the people working in the palace separate themselves into cliques and that is how they seat themselves in the cafeteria. The customer service liaison from Halliburton makes sure that everyone feels more or less at home in the palace. The Palace was the headquarters for the Coalition Provisional Authority or CPA. The CPA was Iraq's government from April 2003 to June 2004. They did everything a government would do. The palace was Versailles on the Tigris. It was very luxurious. As many jobs that could be outsourced as possible were. The green zone quickly became Baghdad's little America. The coalition staffers lived in trailers outside the palace. The area around the trailers had many shops and restaurants. The law in the green zone was strictly American and was enforced by military police. Mark Schroeder comments on how much it feels like America. He explains how all of the amenities they have make it seem a lot like home. Mark Schroeder is an analyst who is working for the CPA in Baghdad. In the first few weeks of the occupation, it was safe enough to drive around the streets of Baghdad alone. When leaving the green zone one had to be escorted by two cars, both of which had to have machine guns in them. The author would go around the city outside the green zone to do activities that the people inside the green zone would deem unimaginable. The people inside the green zone would never experience the real Baghdad, the one just outside the walls. The Iraqis who wanted to enter the green zone all had very different stories. A bombing of a Shrine in central Baghdad killed many people, but the Americans didn't discuss a word of it.

Chapter two-Shortly after American tanks had toppled the statue of Saddam in front of the Palestine hotel, the author got his first look inside the green zone. Looters had attempted to get inside the green zone, and some succeeded. The looting was kept under control by a Lieutenant named Joe Peppers. He showed Rajiv around the palace. Pres. George Bush gave the order to start planning for the war in Iraq a few months after September 11. He put Doug Feith in charge of the planning. Feith then put a man by the name of Jay Garner in charge of post-war planning. Garner assembled a group of his old buddies to help him with the planning. He was making a plan for Iraq but, at the same time a group at the pentagon was doing the very same thing just in case Garner's plan wasn't good enough. Garner arrived in Kuwait a month before the invasion to prepare for his move into Iraq. When he could finally get a palace -the Republican Palace- he was able to start organizing his forces to run Iraq.

Chapter three-In the days immediately following the liberation of Baghdad, looters were everywhere in the city causing chaos. They looted nearly all of the ministries where Garner and his staff had been planning on using as offices. This created a problem with where they were going to work. Finding no better place, they eventually decided on using the Republican Palace due to it's massive size. Tim Carney, who was called in to help Garner, had been a diplomat in many exotic places. Seeing as though the ministry of industry was thoroughly bombed, the ministers met at the state company for batteries. Employees of the factory wanted non-baathist leaders and held up banners outside the factory that said the same. The post-war planners made efforts to put some political exiles, which had been chosen by the U.S., into power in a temporary government. The CPA staffers who needed plenty of amenities, were ignored by the military who wanted to supply only the true necessities. Tim Carney had been prepared and brought things which proved their usefulness over time. Carney wrote in a journal every night and sometimes write his doubts about the U.S.'s plan for Iraq. In order to create a fair and balanced council-which would decide on the government-the CPA had a conference at the convention center where they picked out individuals they saw fit to be in the council.

Chapter four-The man put in charge of post-war Iraq was Paul Bremer. He visited a school and promised to supply it with money, teachers, and security. He toured around Baghdad doing this with other establishments promising to bring them supplies and others things like that. Bremer had doubts about the number of troops that were deployed in Iraq. He was made viceroy and was given very absolute power. He made sure that all staffers responded to him and only him. He wanted to keep total control. Bremer's past made him a very good candidate for viceroy. He had served many years in the military and even more as a diplomat. He implemented a plan for "de-baathification" which was the elimination of baath party members in the government. This plan was viewed as foolish and even stupid by almost everyone, but Bremer had the authority and acted on his plan. His plan nearly destroyed the ministries in which it was acted on and made the upper levels of the government shaky at best. The armies of Iraq were mostly neutralized before the war even began. American planes dropped leaflets telling soldiers in the Iraqi army to disband and return to their normal lives. This worked for the national army, but the Republican guard stayed intact and still fought the U.S. and coalition forces. The national army was needed again later to police the city, but having all of the soldiers return to their barracks could have disastrous effects. Bremer's next action disbanded all soldiers from all branches of the military. This had the soldiers in an uproar because they had no jobs and therefore had no money. This became a problem later, because many of the soldiers later became insurgents.

2) Research the author of your book and write a short biography in your own words. Cite your sources. Leave internet links to your sources. DO NOT COPY AND PASTE. Include a photo of the author and cite the source for the photo.

Rajiv Chandrasekaran is an American journalist. He is currently working as assistant managing editor of The Washington Post, where he has been working since 1994. Born in the San Francisco bay area, he got a degree in political science from Stanford, where he was editor-in-chief of The Stanford Daily. At The Washington Post, he has worked as bureau chief in Baghdad, Cairo, and Southeast Asia, and as a correspondent covering the war in Afghanistan. In 2004 he was a public policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars and a journalist-in-residence at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. I found my facts at this site (Picture included above right) Photo taken by David Shankbone

Part 2

1) Write a journal entry post of the entire book up to this point. Discuss the book's strengths and weaknesses in your mind; talk about your feelings about the issues brought up; relate the book to real life and perhaps your own life; make predictions; discuss your feelings related to the book.
The book's strengths are very apparent as you read into the book. The story picks up relatively quickly and once it gets going doesn't stop very often. A weakness is that the story skips around from time to time. It has sort of a flashback feel with the story sometimes switching story lines mid-page. This is however a good way to keep the story changing. Another strength would be the fact that there is a lot of information which is mostly unbiased. Considering a journalist wrote the book, I am surprised at how unbiased it is. Another weakness of the book would be that, without any background knowledge, the information can go right over your head and you will have to re-read some parts. All in all there are many weaknesses of the book but the strengths outweigh the weakness, making it a very good book so far. The book has really opened my eyes to how badly the situation in Iraq was handled and it really explains why all the stuff that's going on in Iraq is happening. Reading the book has really had me questioning why we went into Iraq so quickly and once there why we didn't have enough troops to handle the city of Baghdad. This book relates to real life because, we are in the Iraq war and it is a continuously growing problem.