Sunday, September 25, 2011

Imperial Life in the Emerald City

I am admittedly way behind the times in both reading and recommending this book.  It has been sitting on my shelf since early in 2008.  If you have already read all you ever plan to read about Iraq, I understand completely.

Chandrasekaran's book, however, is both well written and illuminating.  Or maybe illuminating isn't quite the right word for this tale of American hubris run amok.  I mean, how many books have been written about members of the American military industrial complex acting like total idiots and squandering vast sums of money in the process?  

Of the cast of characters presented here, Bernie Kerik (remember him?) combines stupidity and arrogance in almost Herculean proportions.  It's comforting to know that he is now behind bars, albeit for criminal activities having nothing to do with his short stay in Iraq.  Too bad more of his Green Zone compatriots haven't found their way into a small cell somewhere. 


  1. "Too bad more of his Green Zone compatriots haven't found their way into a small cell somewhere."

    Not to mention Bush, Cheney et al. who put them there in the first place.

    We have no stomach as a nation for even _investigating_ the crimes of our so-called leaders in Washington or Wall Street, much less prosecuting them, but no doubt whatsoever when applying the death penalty to man who may or may not be guilty. So much for the idea of living in a country of laws rather than a country of (conservative, white) men.

  2. I take it you are referring to Troy Davis. While I don't support the death penalty for a number of reasons, Davis' case wasn't nearly as suspect as his supporters and lawyers made it out to be. I also think his lawyers at times did more harm than good, especially with respect to those seven recantations we heard so much about. They were just about as suspect as some of the eye witness testimony. Additionally, a reviewing court will give no weight to an affadavit if the maker of the affidavit is available to testify but is not called to do so. The media also played a role that was something less than up front. Very little was ever said of the two eye witnesses whose story never changed.

    In my opinion there is a much better Georgia case for the proposition that the death penalty should be abolished. It involved a guy by the name of Jerry Banks. He was not ultimately executed by the state, but what was done to him may in the end have been worse, as difficult as that may be to imagine.

  3. I'm not so concerned about guilt or innocence here, because I have absolutely nothing to go on either way.

    I also don't believe in responding to the letters that pour in on behalf of a prisoner, no matter how lofty the letter writers. Giving into that kind of pressure would would mean that the most popular or high-profile cases might get a second chance while others don't.

    What concerns me about this case is that so many stepped forward to recant and that some jurors said that if they knew then what they know now, they would not have convicted. A hung jury could have at minimum got him another trial, which I think was in order here. What's the hurry to kill someone if there may be some doubt -- any doubt -- that he was guilty?

    I'm personally glad that the media picked this one up because it makes people question the death penalty generally. I heard Cynthia Tucker say that the only way she could make sense of the state refusing to reconsider evidence was that they were too bought into the system and couldn't even accept the _possibility_ that they made a mistake. That's scary to me.

  4. Recantations like the ones in this case frequently materialize as the accused's execution date nears. In the meantime years have gone by, and that is just one of the reasons why they are seldom given much weight by reviewing courts.

    As for this case focussing attention on death penalty prosecutions, it succeeded. I'm just not so sure it helped the cause all that much.

  5. I have this book in paperback . . . somewhere in my apartment. Haven't read it yet.

  6. Krugman got into a whole lot of trouble for calling out Kerik along with Bush and Giuliani in his blog piece. So much graft in Iraq. Billions of dollars remain unaccounted for. Guys like Chalabi made out like bandits as well. He still finds ways to keep himself in the news.

  7. Was that the blog post that coincided with the 9/11 remembrance? Maybe not the best timing, but I can see how it would have been very tempting to inject a little reality in the midst of all that bloviating.

  8. avrds: The link below provides a lot of information on the Troy Davis case that seldom if ever found its way into the news stories. This is the best overview of the case that I have found online.

  9. Thanks, Rick. Again, I'm not questioning his guilt or innocence. I'm just questioning whether or not he got a fair chance at justice (as much of a low life as he may or may not have been) since there is no such thing as a fair execution.

    And the answer is I just don't know, even reading through these 60% sures and you never forget seeing something like thats. And doubt is something you don't want hanging over your legal system.

    It may have been impossible at this late date to get a fair trial in any event. But from my outsider perspective this one really didn't feel right.

    In any event, my original point is that Bush and Cheney should have a chance at their day in court, too. And it shouldn't be off the record, and with both there at the same time, with Cheney whispering into Bush's ear what to say.