• Review: Christian Science Monitor

    October 6, 2011

    Tags: ,
    Posted in: Embassy/State, Iraq

    A nice review of the book from the Christian Science Monitor, with some good passages:

    Van Buren alternates engaging but ultimately depressing chapters about the many ways reconstructing Iraq has failed with vignettes about the effort’s cast of characters – private contractors, Army brass, diplomats and spies, some arrogant, some lonely, some homesick. The reader unquestionably needs the respite, but the characters who provide comic relief in a chronicle of relentless failure in fact create the very failure we need to escape.

    In one such scene, Van Buren describes preparing breakfast for a VIP general visiting the base. There is an overabundance of hard-boiled eggs, the general’s favorite, and a display of “significant donut assets,” none of which the general touches. When Van Buren zooms in like this, the absurdity he conveys by co-opting the bureaucratic language of a failed endeavor is humorous. When he zooms out again, the absurdity turns dark.

    This eye for meaningful details, combined with Van Buren’s plain-spoken storytelling, is what makes the book work. He could tell contractors on sight, he says, because they all wore clothing with a plethora of pockets. “If you filled all the pockets, you wouldn’t be able to climb stairs.” From the popularity of line-itemed programs for widows to the Green Zone’s plentiful cargo pants, Van Buren identifies the styles of our war – and demands we think about its substance.

    Read the full review at the Christian Science Monitor.

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