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The good life in the Green Zone

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    The good life in the Green Zone Monday, February 19, 2007 http://southernstudies.org/facingsouth/2007/02/good-life-in-green-zone.asp For Iraqis, there s
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 4, 2007
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      The good life in the Green Zone
      Monday, February 19, 2007
      http://southernstudies.org/facingsouth/2007/02/good-life-in-green-zone.asp


      For Iraqis, there's probably no better symbol of what's wrong with the
      U.S. mission in Iraq than the Green Zone -- the fortified and
      insulated "Little America" that U.S. forces created in the aftermath
      of the invasion.

      While brutal violence, lack of basics like food and electricity, and
      other crises consumed Iraq -- and still do, 25 more were killed today
      -- the out-of-touch opulence enjoyed by U.S. forces in Saddam's palace
      seemed almost designed to outrage the very people the Bush
      administration claimed they were there to help.

      Today's Guardian (London) features an eye-opening excerpt from
      Imperial Life in the Emerald City, a damning portrait of the Green
      Zone by The Washington Post's former bureau chief in Iraq, Rajiv
      Chandrasekaran. The book continues to receive widespread coverage
      abroad but little in the U.S.; a paperback edition is due out this
      spring. Here's a taste:

      Unlike almost anywhere else in Baghdad, you could dine at the
      cafeteria in the Republican Palace in the heart of the Green Zone for
      six months and never eat hummus, flatbread, or a lamb kebab. The
      palace was the headquarters of the Coalition Provisional Authority
      (CPA), the American occupation administration in Iraq, and the food
      was always American, often with a Southern flavour. A buffet featured
      grits, cornbread and a bottomless barrel of pork: sausage for
      breakfast, hot dogs for lunch, pork chops for dinner. The cafeteria
      was all about meeting American needs for high-calorie, high-fat
      comfort food.

      None of the succulent tomatoes or crisp cucumbers grown in Iraq made
      it into the salad bar. US government regulations dictated that
      everything, even the water in which hot dogs were boiled, be shipped
      in from approved suppliers in other nations. Milk and bread were
      trucked in from Kuwait, as were tinned peas and carrots. The breakfast
      cereal was flown in from the US.

      When the Americans arrived, the engineers assigned to transform
      Saddam's palace into the seat of the American occupation chose a
      marble-floored conference room the size of a gymnasium to serve as the
      mess hall. Halliburton, the defence contractor hired to run the
      palace, brought in dozens of tables, hundreds of stacking chairs and a
      score of glass-covered buffets. Seven days a week, the Americans ate
      under Saddam's crystal chandeliers. [...]

      If you had a complaint about the cafeteria, Michael Cole was the man
      to see. He was Halliburton's "customer-service liaison", and he could
      explain why the salad bar didn't have Iraqi produce or why pork kept
      appearing on the menu. Cole was a rail-thin 22-year-old whose forehead
      was dotted with pimples. He had been out of college for less than a
      year and was working as a junior aide to a Republican congressman from
      Virginia when a Halliburton vice-president overheard him talking to
      friends in an Arlington bar about his dealings with irate
      constituents. She was so impressed that she introduced herself. If she
      needed someone to work as a valet in Baghdad, he joked, he'd be happy
      to volunteer. Three weeks later, Halliburton offered him a job. Then
      they asked for his CV.

      Cole's mission was to keep the air in the bubble, to ensure that the
      Americans who had left home to work for the occupation administration
      felt comfortable. Food was part of it. But so were movies, mattresses
      and laundry service. If he was asked for something, Cole tried to get
      it, whether he thought it important or not. [...]

      Whatever could be outsourced, was. The job of setting up town and city
      councils was performed by a North Carolina firm for $236m [£121m]. The
      job of guarding the viceroy was assigned to private guards, each of
      whom made more than $1,000 [£513] a day. For running the palace -
      cooking the food, changing the lightbulbs, doing the laundry, watering
      the plants - Halliburton had been handed hundreds of millions of dollars.

      The Green Zone was Baghdad's Little America. Everyone who worked in
      the palace lived there, either in white metal trailers or in the
      towering al-Rasheed hotel. Hundreds of private contractors working for
      firms including Bechtel, General Electric and Halliburton set up
      trailer parks there, as did legions of private security guards hired
      to protect the contractors. The only Iraqis allowed inside the Green
      Zone were those who worked for the Americans or those who could prove
      that they had resided there before the war. [...]

      Americans drove around in new GMC Suburbans, dutifully obeying the
      35mph speed limit signs posted by the CPA on the flat, wide streets.
      When they cruised around, they kept the air-conditioning on high and
      the radio tuned to 107.7 FM - Freedom Radio, an American-run station
      that played classic rock and rah-rah messages. Every two weeks, the
      vehicles were cleaned at a Halliburton car wash.

      Shuttle buses looped around the Green Zone at 20-minute intervals,
      stopping at wooden shelters to transport those who didn't have cars
      and didn't want to walk. There was daily mail delivery. Generators
      ensured that the lights were always on. If you didn't like what was
      being served in the cafeteria - or you were feeling peckish between
      meals - you could get a takeaway from one of the Green Zone's Chinese
      restaurants. Halliburton's dry-cleaning service would get the dust and
      sweat stains out of your khakis in three days. A sign warned patrons
      to remove ammunition from pockets before submitting clothes.

      Iraqi laws and customs didn't apply inside the Green Zone. Women
      jogged on the pavement in shorts and T-shirts. A liquor store sold
      imported beer, wine and spirits. One of the Chinese restaurants
      offered massages as well as noodles. The young boys selling DVDs near
      the palace parking lot had a secret stash. "Mister, you want porno?"
      they whispered to me.

      Most of the CPA's staff had never worked outside the United States.
      More than half, according to one estimate, had got their first
      passport in order to travel to Iraq. If they were going to survive in
      Baghdad, they needed the same sort of bubble that American oil
      companies had built for their workers in Saudi Arabia, Nigeria and
      Indonesia.

      "It feels like a little America," Mark Schroeder said as we sat by the
      pool on a scorching afternoon, sipping water bottled in the United
      Arab Emirates. Schroeder, who was 24 at the time, had been working for
      a Republican congressman in Washington when he heard that the CPA
      needed more staff. He sent his résumé to the Pentagon. A few months
      later, he was in the Republican Palace.

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