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We welcome you to this evening's program inside Iraq's green zone with Rajiv Chandrasekaran . Tonight's event is sponsored by the World Affairs Council of Northern California, the Marines Memorial Association, and Stacy's Independent Bookstore. My name is Mike Myatt and I'm the President and CEO of the Marines Memorial Association. For those who may be new to the World Affairs Council, the World Affairs Council established in 1947 to engage the public in the exploration of issues and opportunities that transcend borders. To learn more about the organization and its diverse series of programs, please visit their website at itsyourworld.org, or review the fliers that we have out in the lobby. The Marines Memorial Association is a non-profit veterans organization chartered to honor the memory of and commemorate the valor of members of the United States Armed Forces, who were killed, lost, or who died in military service for their country. We provide a living memorial here in this Marines Memorial Club, with the facilities for forums and meetings such as tonight. With educational lectures to promote the literary interests of our members. And I invite you to take a little side-trip tonight to go up one level, perhaps when you go up to the facilities there, and look at our tribute memorial wall, where we have the names of all our youngsters that we've lost in our current war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Membership in the Marines Memorial is open to all veterans who served honorably in any of the services of the US Military, and to Americans currently serving in the US Armed Forces. And you can learn more about us at website at www.marineclub.com. Before we begin, I'd like to introduce some of the other programs coming up in the next few weeks. On Wednesday, the council will host Rasheed Khalidi, director of the Middle East Institute, Columbia University. Mr. Khalidi will discuss his recent book, Iron Cage: the Story of the Palestinian Struggle for Statehood. And the program will take place at the council's auditorium at 312 Sutter St, just down the street from us. That next day, Thursday October the 26th the council will welcome Senior Research Fellow at the New American Foundation, Anatol Levin, and former senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, John Hulsman. They'll discuss the new book on American Foreign Policy, Ethical Realism: A New Way Forward, and the program will take place at the council at 6pm. The following week, on Wednesday November the 1st, 6pm, we'll be hosting a colleague of Mr. Chandrasekaran , Anthony Shadid. He's a reporter also of the Washington Post. He will be at the council to share with us his experiences on the other side of the green zone, captured in his new book Night Draws Near: Iraq's People in the Shadow of America's War. Mr Shadid will also discuss his recent experiences with reporting in Lebanon, during and after the war. And I'll say on Monday the 20th of November, the Marines Memorial and World Affairs Council will host Mr. Tom Ricks, speaking on his book, Fiasco: the American Military Venture in Iraq. Now let me call your attention to the question cards that have been placed on your seats. Please write your questions for Mr. Chandrasekaran and our staff will collect them to be asked during the second half of the program. We will also have a book signing afterwards here, and a wine reception in the room next door. As a courtesy to our speaker and to everyone else in the audience, I ask you all to please turn off your cell phones or any pages or PDAs at this time. I've already done mine, so. And we are very pleased tonight to have with us Rajiv Chandrasekaran, who is currently assisting managing editor at the Washington Post. I'd like to also add that he's native to the San Francisco Bay Area and attended Stanford University where he was editor-in- chief of the Stanford Daily. He joined the Washington Post in 1994 and worked as the papers correspondent in Southeast Asia, as bureau chief in Cairo. And from April 2003 to October 2004, he served as the Post's bureau chief in Baghdad, covering the American Occupation of Iraq and supervising a team of correspondents. He lived in Baghdad for much of the six months before the war, reporting on the UN's weapon inspection process and the build up to the conflict. He joins us tonight to discuss Iraq during the post war period, chronicled in his new book Imperial Life in the Emerald City. Drawing on hundreds of interviews and internal documents, Imperial Life tells the story of the people and ideas that inhabited the green zone during the occupation. Please join me in welcoming Rajiv Chandrasekaran. Thank you, General Myatt, for that kind introduction, it's a pleasure to be here back in San Francisco this evening. Home. It's nice to be back. And just to follow on the General's programming note, if you guys can make Anthony Shadid's talk I'd highly recommend it. Anthony is a friend and a close colleague, he and I reported from Iraq together for about a year and a half. In fact we shared the same house out there and while I was focused on the covering the-- you know, workings of the American occupation effort, the life inside the green zone, Anthony was out and about on the streets of Iraq, in Sadr City, in Najaf, reporting on the development sort of from the ground up as one of the first to notice the growing clout of Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani, as well as the militia leader Muqtada al-Sadr. And so I think he will have a fascinating program. I'll start out by saying that I thought we could pull it off in Iraq. Today, some might suggest I'm defeatist for even calling into question our ability to pull it off, and others probably think I'm woefully naive. And yet others must be wondering, What does "pull it off" mean? Haven't we been moving the Gulf Coasts all along? Initially, before the fall of Saddam's government, didn't President Bush pledge that the United States would transform Iraq into a democracy? Then, of course, in those heady days after Saddam was overthrown, did not our ambitions grow larger? Iraq wasn't just going to be a democracy. It needed to be a secular democracy. And a federal democracy. And its economy needed an overhaul. State-owned industries would need to be privatized. Government subsidies needed to end. They needed capitalism. And we can't forget the army, now, can we? Ambassador Paul Bremer, the American Viceroy of Iraq, decided Iraq needed a new one. Now it seems the White House would be content with anything short of a fuller-blown civil war. Raids by the militia-riddled police that violate Iraq's constitution? No problem, so long as you're getting the bad guys. Reconstruction, the pledge to generate enough electricity to satisfy national demand? To provide clean drinking water to major cities? Forget about it. By "pull it off," I need something in the middle. A stable democracy on rocky terms with the functioning economy and modest reconstruction. At least that's what I hoped for when I returned to Baghdad the day after the statue of Saddam was felled in Firdos Square. Before I continue, let me make one point clear. In my book, I do not take a position on whether the United States should have invaded Iraq. I begin with the fact that we were there in Baghdad on the 9th of April, 2003, and that we had a strategic and moral obligation to get Iraq back on its feet. I should also add that I'm not one of those people who assumed from the very beginning that Ambassador Bremer was the wrong man for the job. Let me read you a brief passage from the fourth chapter of my book: As we talked, I was struck by Bremer's zeal to help the people of Iraq, while Washington remained focused on Saddam's alleged weapons of mass destruction and the human rights abuses of his government. Bremer's emphasis on the future was refreshing. I wondered if his aspirations would change once he had heard from more Iraqis or if he would demonstrate a missionary's unshakable commitment to doctrine from the home country. But those thoughts were soon eclipsed by the viceroy's vision of a new Iraq. It sounded like he wanted America to be as ambitious in Iraq has it had been in Germany and Japan after World War II. After 15 minutes of conversation, I found myself believing in Bremer. Of course, Bremer had a daunting challenge before him: there hadn't been enough troops on the ground to prevent the looting of almost every significant government building in Baghdad, and in much of the rest of Iraq. There wasn't a plan for the transition to an Iraqi-led interim government, and there were no significant resources for the reconstruction of Iraq on stand-by. I'm not going to litigate the decisions to disband the army or debathify the government this evening. Like many others I consider both of those decisions to be the same mistakes, and I write about them in the book. But addressing those topics will consume too much time here in this form, and I'm sure many of you have already heard way too much about those issues. Despite all the challenges that America faced in the early months, I remained hopeful that Bremer and his staff and their superiors back in Washington would do the right things. That the chair meaningful government authority with the Iraqis. That they'd assemble the necessary resources for rebuilding the country, and that they'd be pragmatic. They would, as T. E. Lawrence so famously cautioned, not try to do too much with their own hands under the odd conditions of Arabia. We all know that didn't happen. We all have our reasons. I'd like to highlight three of them that I think are particularly important, that form key themes of my book. They can be roughly broken into the people, the place, and the policies. And by people, I mean the process of selecting people to work for the Coalition for Provisional Authority, the US occupation administration in Iraq, from April 2003 until June 2004. Instead of sending the best and the brightest, in many cases we simply sent the loyal and the willing. The result is that the CEA is dominated and ultimately hobbled by administration ideologues. Let me give you-- read a little bit from chapter 5 of the book. The hiring of senior advisors in the Coalition Provisional Authority was settled upon at the highest levels of the White House and the Pentagon. The selection often followed a pattern. A well-connected Republican made a call on behalf of a friend or a trusted colleague. Others were personally recruited by President Bush. The White House wanted a new team to replace Jay Garner's staff, which was viewed as ideologically suspect because it had been drawn from the State Department and other federal agencies without any screening for political loyalty. The rest of the CPA staff was assembled with the same attention to allegiance. A gatekeeper was James Coburn, the White House liaison at the Pentagon. He took charge of personnel recruitment, dispatch inquiries from the resumes of the offices of Republican congressmen, conservative think tanks, and GOP activists. Frederick Smith, who served as the deputy director of the CPA's Washington office, told me that the criterion for sending people over there was that they had to have the right political credentials. Smith said Coburn once pointed to a young man's resume and pronounced him an ideal candidate. The young man's chief qualification? He'd worked for the Republican party in Florida during the presidential election re-count in 2000. Coburn's staff asked questions in job interviews that could have gotten an employer in the private sector hauled into court. The Pentagon was exempt from most employment regulations because Coburn hired people to work for the CPA as temporary political appointees, and as such, was able to bypass most of the normal civil service regulations that prevent questions about political ideology. The questions that were asked in pre-deployment interviews, quite frankly, were startling. Two CPA staffers told me that they were asked for their views on the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade. Others were asked whether they voted for George W. Bush in the 2000 presidential election, and others were asked whether they were members of the Republican Party. One former CPA employee, who had an office near the White House liaison staff, wrote an email to a friend describing the recruitment process. Let me read that to you. He wrote, quote, "I watched resumes of immensely talented individuals who had sought out the CPA to help the country thrown into the trash because their adherence to the President's vision for Iraq, a frequently heard phrase of the CPA, was uncertain. I saw senior civil servants from agencies like treasury, energy, and commerce, denied advisory positions in Baghdad that were instead handed to prominent RNC contributers. Another CPA staffer told me that when he went for his pre-deployment interview to the Pentagon, one of Jim Coburn's deputies launched into a ten-minute soliloquy about domestic politics that included statements opposing abortion and supporting capital punishment. The young man didn't agree with what was said, but he felt compelled to nod. He said, 'I felt pressured to agree if I wanted to go to Baghdad.'" Let me tell you about the story of Munzir Fat Fat, an American citizen of Lebanese descent who'd applied to be the senior advisor to the ministry of youth and sport for the CPA. He told me that he was asked during his interview at the White House Liaison's office if he was a Republican or a Democrat. When he replied that he was a registered Democrat, he was asked for whom he had voted in the 2000 presidential election. "I avoided the question," Fat Fat told me. Fat Fat, who's a Muslim, was then asked about his religion. "I told them, 'I am a Muslim, but I'm married to a Christian. My children go to Catholic schools. I went to a Catholic school,'" he said. Fat Fat had a doctorate in youth policy studies. He was eminently qualified, he'd worked for the United Nations for four years as the minister of youth and sport in Kosovo. He also had the support of a Republican congressman from Pennsylvania. In the end, he got the job, but he was subjected to five separate interviews at the Pentagon. Most applicants just have one. When he arrived in Baghdad, his faith once again became an issue. He tells me that one of Bremer's top aides "asked me what my religion was. When I answered, he was surprised. 'Oh, you're a Muslim,' he said. 'But you're not like a, a terrorist, are you?'" As the Muslim holiday of Ed-ul Fitr approached, which just began today, a fellow senior advisor asked him exactly when it would begin. Fat Fat explained that there was no firm date. It depended on when the first sliver of the moon was seen over Mecca. "He said to me, 'This is stupid! It's in a week and you don't know when you're going to celebrate it?' I was speechless," Fat Fat recalled. As soon as Bremer arrived in Baghdad, he put out the call for more bodies. The CPA needed hundreds more staffers, most of them with special expertise. He and a staff repeatedly raised the issue in secure video teleconferences with the White House and the Pentagon. They wrote letters to cabinet secretaries. And finally, on Bremer's first trip back to Washington in late July 2003, he met with Fred Smith, who at that point was just named the deputy director of the CPA's office, and he told them that the number one priority was to be sent more people. Smith went around Washington to plead for help. Some agencies, such as treasury, offered people right away. Others, such as the Justice Department, blew them off. What Smith told me is that, "What we heard from them constantly was, 'You know, we've got a war on terrorism at home.' We would say, 'Well this is one of the President's top priorities.' And we just got pushed back and pushed back, pushed back, pushed back. Bremer eventually dispatched one of his top aides, Ruben Jeffrey the Third, back to Washington to take charge of the personnel recruitment process. Ruben Jeffrey is a former Goldman Sacks banker and he headed up the lower Manhattan economic development commission after 9/11. Again, another talented individual. And Jeffrey approached to problem like someone out of the private sector. He decided, okay look, I need to hire skilled people, I'm going to call up some friends at executive head-hunting firms. So he called up somebody he knew at Heidrich and Struggles and another guy he know at Corn Fairy International. And both firms, realizing the importance of the CPA's mission, offered to sort of deputize one person to work on a temporary basis for the CPA in Washington. But when Jim Coburn's staff discovered that Ruben Jeffrey had his own group of people that were scouring the private sector and the government world for non-partisan talent to go to Baghdad, the White House liaison's office went apoplectic. They all ordered the two head-hunters to clear their desks out and leave the Pentagon by the end of the day. Jeffrey was able to intercede and keep them employed, but their jobs were then relegated to simply processing resumes that had already been recruited by Coburn's staff. Fred Smith characterizes the process well. He said, "I just don't think we sent the A-team to Baghdad. We did at tap, and it started from the White House on down. We just didn't tap the right people to do this job. It was a tough, tough job. Instead we got people who got out there because of their political leanings." What was the result? There was young Jay Halland. He was 24 years old. He had never worked in the securities industry, but he had applied for a job at the White House. He was send to Baghdad with a job of re-opening Baghdad's stock market. There was Scott Erman, 21 years old, hadn't even graduated from college. He was a former intern in Vice President Cheney's office. He was assigned to work for the CPA team trying to overhaul the interior ministry. This, as we all know, is no throwaway job. The interior ministry, as we all understand, oversees all of Iraq's police forces and vetting them for bad elements, militia men in particular, is a top priority and a key pre-requisite for the withdrawal of US forces. Mr Erman told an interviewer that his favorite job before going to Baghdad was as an ice cream truck driver. And then there was the case of Jim Haveman and Skip Burkle. This one is particularly galling to me. A few weeks before the invasion began, US Agency for International Development dispatched Frederick Burkle, known to his friends as Skip, to Kuwait with the orders to go on to Baghdad. To be in charge of rebuilding Iraq's health care system. Skip Burkle is an eminently qualified man. He's a physician with a master's in public health, and he's got post-graduate degrees counted from Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth and UC Berkeley, right here across the bay. Burkle taught at the John Hopkins school of public health, one of the foremost public health institutions in this country, where he specialized in disaster response issues. He was a deputy assistant administrator at USAID. He'd worked in Kosovo and Somalia and Northern Iraq after the 1991 Persian Gulf War. He was a Navel man with two bronze stars. A USAID colleague called him, quote, "The single most talented and experienced post-conflict public health specialist working for the United States government." But two weeks after Baghdad's liberation, Burkle was told he should pack his bags and come back home. A very, very senior official at USAID told him that the White House had decided he wanted, quote, "A loyalist in the job." As I write in my book, Mr. Burkle had a wallfull of degrees, but he didn't have a picture with the President. Well, who was he replaced by? He was replaced by a guy named Jim Haveman, a 60 year old social worker. Mr. Haveman is not a physician, he is not a post-conflict public health specialist, he didn't have extensive experience in the Middle East. He had been the community health director in the state of Michigan, where he'd worked for the former Republican governor there, John England, who recommended him to Paul Wolfowitz, who was then the deputy secretary of defense, and Mr. Wolfowitz got him out to Baghdad. Mr. Haveman was well-travelled but most of his international trips were in the capacity as a director for a faith-based release organization that promoted Christianity in the developing world. Prior to his stint in government, he ran a large adoption agency in the state of Michigan that urged pregnant women not to have abortions. When he got to Baghdad, one of his top priorities, and I kid you not here, was to promote an anti smoking campaign Before I go onto reason number two, I'd like to read you a little vignette from the book. In between my chapters I have these little scenes from the green zone. There's one that seems to be particularly apropos at this moment, and that is the green zone, scene three. Bumper stickers and mouse pads praising President Bush were standard desk decorations in the Republican palace. Other than military uniforms, Bush/Cheney 2004 t shirts were the most common piece of clothing. CPA staffers weren't worried about employment prospects after Baghdad. Oh, I'll just work on the campaign, several told me, the Bush/Cheney re-election campaign. "I'm not here for the Iraqis," one staffer said. "I'm here for George Bush." When Gordon Robinson, who worked for a media contractor for the CPA, opened a care package for his mother in the strategic communications office to find a book by Paul Krugman, a New York Times columnist. People around him in the palace stared. "It was like I had just unwrapped a radioactive brick," he recalled. The CPA did have a small contingent of democrats. Most were soldiers and diplomats, who by law could not be queried about their political views. Several of them, led by a young foreign service officer, formed a support group called Donkeys in the Desert. They gathered by the pool on Monday evenings to eat pizza and vent about life in what they called the Republican Party Palace. The group faced regular harassment from hardcore Republicans who the Donkeys dubbed Palace Pachyderms. Their posters were either ripped from the bulletin boards or defaced with pro-Republican graffiti. Most Donkeys in the Desert kept their membership a secret, afraid it would turn them into pariahs in the emerald city. Members of the group received t shirts emblazoned with the words "A Democratic Iraq," depicting a donkey between two palm trees, but most of them just stuffed the shirts into their duffel bags. One donkey compared being a Democrat in the green zone to being gay in a small town. "If you know what's good for you," he said, "you stay in the closet." Reason number two. The place. The green zone. Or as I write, the emerald city. The green zone quickly became 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 they had resided there before the war. Americans drove around in brand-new GMC suburbans, dutifully obeying the 35 mile an hour speed limit signs posted by the CPA on the flat, wide streets. There was so many identical suburbans parked in front of that drivers had to use their electronic door openers as homing devices. One contractor even affixed Texas license plates to his vehicle to set it apart. When they cruised around they kept the air conditioning on high and the radio turned to 107.7FM, Freedom Radio, which mixed classic rock and rah-rah messages. Every 2 weeks the vehicles were cleaned at a Halliburton car wash. Just add here that after awhile-- you know, Iraq being a desert environment, where it doesn't rain much, most vehicles are sort of always caked with some degree of sand and mud. And the CPA staffers had these brand-new suburbans, so their only hope of trying to blend in was to get them all sort of caked-up with grime and then they would be a little less noticeable on the road. But this Halliburton edict was that they had to have these things washed every 2 weeks, presumably-- you know, they're washed by Halliburton, and presumably Halliburton was charging the government a pretty penny for each of these car washes. And the CPA staffers just couldn't understand this, and after awhile they came to sort of regard the Halliburton edict to wash their cars as sort of the equivalent of somebody spray-painting on the sides of it, "Please shoot me." 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 take-out 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 please remove ammunition from their pockets before submitting clothes. Iraqi laws and customs didn't apply inside the green zone. Women jogged on the sidewalk 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 boy selling dvd's near the palace parking lot had a secret stash. "Mr! You want porno?" they whispered. Veteran diplomats who'd lived in the Arab world or who had worked in post-conflict situations wanted local cuisine in the dining room. A respect for local traditions. And a local work force. But they were in the minority. Most of the CPA staff had never worked outside the United States. More than half, according to one estimate, had gotten 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. From inside the green zone, the real Baghdad, the checkpoints, the bombed out buildings, the paralyzing traffic jams, could have been a world way. The gunshots never drifted over the walls. The fear on the faces of American troops was rarely seen by the denizens of the palace. The acrid smoke of a car bomb didn't fill the air. The sub-Saharan privation and Wild West lawlessness that gripped one of the world's most ancient cities swirled around the walls. But on the inside the calm sterility of an American subdivision prevailed. Let me switch over to two more scenes from the emerald city. Apropos, this one. The green zone, scene six. Books and magazines from back home were a precious commodity. It was considered bad form not to pass them onto friends when you were done. Mystery novels and thrillers were the most popular. Tomes about Iraq, the Arab world, and Islam gathered dust. After thinking about Iraq all day the last thing you wanted to do was read about it at bedtime. But a few books on Iraq were well-thumbed. A Halliburton employee found copies of the Complete Idiot's Guide to Understanding Iraq while cleaning out CPA staff rooms at the Al Rasheed Hotel. When an Iraqi-American interpreter offered to loan a senior CPA staffer a copy of Haba Batatu's "The Old Social Classes and Revolutionary Movements of Iraq," a seminal work of regional history, the staffer declined. He pointed to a small book on his desk. "Everything I need is in here," he said. The interpreter picked up the book. It was a tourist's guide to Iraq, written in the 1970s. The green zone, scene 8. The cork board in the bard Ocean Cliffs, the British housing compound, was the green zone's version of the Hyde Park speaker's corner. There was a photograph of President Bush dressed as Marlon Brando in The Wild One, in a leather jacket and a touring cap, sitting atop a motorcycle. "Be afraid," the caption read. It was paranoia as patriotic. Another parodied a poster for the movie Jackass. It depicted the Bush Administration's foreign policy team in a shopping cart, flying off a cliff. Other postings involved less graphic design acumen. A handwritten sign admonished, "Yee haw is not a foreign policy." Reason number three, the policies promligated by the coalition of provisional authority. Let's turn the clock back to the summer of 2003. At that point, the CPA's policy planning office created a 28-page list of milestones that were to be accomplished before sovereignty was returned to the Iraqi people. It was divided into three phases. August to October 2003; November 2003-January 2004; and then February 2004 onward. That list of milestones became the playbook for the Americans in Baghdad. The very first goal was to defeat internal armed threats. That task was assigned to the military, and under the CPA's plan, all the bad guys were to be taken care of by October 31st, 2003. The airport was to open that same month, despite warnings that insurgents had hundreds of shoulder-fired anti-aircraft missiles in their possession. Privatization of state-owned enterprises was to begin with a similar alacrity. In fact, they were going to have a trust fund modeled after the state of Alaska, to provide Iraqis with annual cash rebates from oil sales. Monthly food rations were to be converted into cash payments, and in fact one plan in the palace was to disburse these cash payments with Smart Cards. The problem was, nobody in the palace had bothered to realize that most Iraqis never see credit cards, and most places where Iraqis were getting their food didn't have electricity, let alone telephone connections to process Smart Cards. But nevertheless, those food subsidies were going to end along with below-market prices for gasoline and electricity. Iraq was going to join the World Trade Organization, which meant new laws eliminating tariffs, re-writing the tax code, new laws protecting intellectual property, allowing foreign-owned banks to enter the country. And in fact, in this regard, the CPA actually accomplished a few things. Here was a country with forty percent unemployment. You might think that one of the top priorities would be a New Deal-like jobs program, get people employed, get them picking rubble off the streets, re-building government ministries. Well, one of the initial priorities of the economic team was tax code revision. And they did that. And they gave Iraq a tax code that has long been sought by the neocons in this country. Iraq has a 15% flat tax on its books. And it wasn't just that. Tariffs were reduced, foreign banks were allowed to enter the country, and a whole host of other laws were written. A bright young attorney from the US Patent and Trade office was sent to Baghdad to re-write Iraq's intellectual property laws. And this is a particular favorite of mine. She actually went through and kind of re-wrote this line by line. But the great irony was, CPA staffers at the time were living in these white metal trailers, sort of like what the Katrina refugees are living in in the Gulf Coast. Halliburton had equipped them with little televisions and dvd players, but Halliburton had bought these dvd players out of the Middle East, so they only played zone 2 and zone 3 dvds. So if you worked in the palace and you then wanted to watch a movie and you went to the palace PX, the post exchange, the official store there, and you spent about 20 bucks to buy an authentic, shrink-wrapped Hollywood-issue dvd, well it wouldn't work in your trailer. Walk out to the parking lot and find those little Iraqi boys selling dvds, and buy them, pirated, two for a buck, all the while somebody was writing a brand-new intellectual property law. And it wasn't just intellectual property, they actually-- the CPA re-wrote Iraq's traffic code. I kid you not here, they thought that Iraq's traffic was chaotic and wanted to fix it and instead of focusing in on hiring more traffic police or actually trying to get the traffic lights working again, they figured, we're going to re-write the traffic law. And a young army reservist who was also a personal injury attorney in the state of Maryland was assigned the task. He borrowed from a fairly enlightened document, the state of Maryland's motor vehicle code, and re-wrote this, and there are on the books, in a law, signed by Bremer, I kid you not, provisions such as, "Iraqi drivers must grab the steering wheel with both hands," "excessive use of the horn is forbidden," and "pedestrians walking on the street during dusk and nightfall should wear light and reflective clothing. On the political front, Bremer's plan at the time was just as ambitious. Before sovereignty could be returned to the Iraqi people, as you might recall, the Iraqi governing council would have to select a committee to draft a constitution. A constitution would have to be written. Then it would be subjected to a national referendum. And then if it was approved, then there would be national elections for the sort of government specified by the constitution, and then that government would be seated, and then Iraqis would get the keys to their country. But it wasn't just Bremer. His ambition infected almost everybody else in the CPA's head quarters. Young Jay Halland, that 24 year old kid sent to re-open the stock exchange, didn't just want to re-open Iraq's stock exchange the way it was. He wanted to make it one of the best, most modern stock exchanges in the Arab world. Iraq needed a new securities law that would make the exchange dependent on the finance ministry, according to Halland, it needed its own bi-laws and board of directors, even though Iraq only had one exchange, it needed in Halland's view an American style Securities and Exchange Commission. Brokers had to be licensed, companies had to provide financial disclosures, he wanted to install a computerized back-end settlement system. Iraqis, predictably, were fairly aghast at this, they just wanted to get back to buying and selling stocks. Stock brokers wanted to get back to work. They couldn't understand why the system they had before, which involved little sheets of paper and a bunch of blackboards couldn't just be implemented, and then they could make changes over time. But that wasn't what the CPA wanted to do. And then there was Jim Haveman, you know our guy from Michigan, who was sent over for the health care system. Other than his anti-smoking campaign, one of his priorities was to re-work Iraq's prescription formula. What is this. Well, when Mr. Haveman was the director of community health in the state of Michigan, he had sought to slash the huge amount of money the state spent on prescription drugs for the poor by limiting the medication that doctors could provide for Medicaid patients. Unless they received an exemption, physicians could only prescribe drugs that were on an approved list, called a formula. Well, Mr. Haveman figured the same strategy could be used in Iraq to bring down the cost of medicine there. So one might think that a top priority would be maybe rehabilitating all of Iraq's decrepit hospitals, maybe focusing a lot of resources on emergency rooms, trauma centers, because of the disproportionate number of people who were suffering from gunshot wounds and blast But no. A top priority was to re-work the drug formula. So a whole team of pharmicists was brought over from the United States, and they went through the ministry of health's formulary line by line, all 4500 items. Haveman thought this formula was too large, needed to shrink it down because he eventually wanted to privatize the job of distributing medicine. Well, they did that. They actually went through and they struck out a bunch of things, and they determined also where drugs could be purchased from, it was an effort to stop the Iraqi government from buying drugs from places like Iran, and buying more drugs from Europe and the United States. And it was all done. Iraq got a brand-new formulary. World-class, according to people who know this stuff. And then Mr. Haveman left, and the first Iraqi Minister of Health took over. A very talented individual who had worked for the World Health Organization. One of the first things he did when he took over, was he ordered an assessment of the pharmeceutical stockpiles in Ministry of Health warehouses. And at hospitals. And what he discovered shocked him. Fully 40% of drugs deemed by the Health Ministry to be essential were out of stock. The CPA had focused all of its energies, or at least a disproportionate amount of its energies, on re-writing the list, and comparatively less energy on actually ordering, distributing, and ensuring that the right drugs were getting in the hands of the people who needed them most. Had Iraq been a thoroughly defeated aggressor nation that had not choice but to have a foreign power remake its government, much like Japan or Germany after World War II, and had there been enough troops on the ground to sustain an open-ended occupation, then perhaps the strategy could have worked. But the Iraqis obviously didn't see themselves as a vanquished nation in need of an overhaul at the hands of foreigners. Shortly before the hand-over of sovereignty in June 2004, I met with Adal Abdul-Mede, the political chief of the supreme council for Islamic revolution in Iraq. One of the largest Shiite-Muslim political parties. We met for breakfast in the front courtyard of his modest house in Baghdad. He nibbled on a plate of dates and pastries. I asked him what he thought the CPA's biggest mistake had been. He didn't hesitate in responding. "The biggest mistake of the occupation," he told me, "was the occupation itself." He of course had wanted the United States to anoint exiled politicians as Iraq's new rulers in April 2003, a clearly self-interested position. But his self-interest aside, there was an element of truth to what he said. Freed from the grip of their dictator, the Iraqis believed they should have been free to chart their own destiny, to select their own interim government, and to manage the reconstruction of their shattered nation. Iraqis needed help. Good advice and ample resources from a support core of well-meaning Americans. But not a full-scale occupation, with imperial Americans cloistered in the palace of the tyrant, eating bacon and drinking beer, surrounded by blasts. The compromise between their desire for self-rule and the absence of a leader with broad appeal could have taken many forms, as the state department's arabesques pointed out following the invasion. A temporary governor, provided by the United Nations, an interim ruling council, or even a big tent meeting similar to the Loya Jurga convened after the defeat of the Taliban in the Afghanistan. There certainly was a role for a tireless, charismatic American diplomat to shepherd the process. He could easily have been Bremer, with a different title and a shorter mandate, with a viable political plan, and meaningful resources for reconstruction. Would any of that have made a difference? We'll never know for sure, but doing a better job of governance and reconstruction almost certainly would have kept many Iraqis from taking up arms against their new leaders and the Americans. There still would have been an insurgency led by zealots who saw no room for compromise, perhaps, but perhaps it would have been smaller and more containable. "If this place succeeds," a CPA friend told me before he left, "it'll be in spite of what we did. Not because of it." Thank you.