One of the challenge points on the Better World Books 2017 Reading […]
Peter Van Buren
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From a State Department insider, the first book recounting our misguided efforts to rebuild Iraq--a shocking and rollicking true-life cross between "Catch-22" and "The Ugly American"""
Charged with rebuilding Iraq, would you spend taxpayer money on a sports mural in Baghdad's most dangerous neighborhood to promote reconciliation through art? How about an isolated milk factory that cannot get its milk to market? Or a pastry class training women to open cafes on bombed-out streets without water or electricity?
According to Peter Van Buren, we bought all these projects and more in the most expensive hearts-and-minds campaign since the Marshall Plan. "We Meant Well" is his eyewitness account of the civilian side of the surge--that surreal and bollixed attempt to defeat terrorism and win over Iraqis by reconstructing the world we had just destroyed. Leading a State Department Provincial Reconstruction Team on its quixotic mission, Van Buren details, with laser-like irony, his yearlong encounter with pointless projects, bureaucratic fumbling, overwhelmed soldiers, and oblivious administrators secluded in the world's largest embassy, who fail to realize that you can't rebuild a country without first picking up the trash.
Darkly funny while deadly serious, "We Meant Well" is a tragicomic voyage of ineptitude and corruption that leaves its writer--and readers--appalled and disillusioned but wiser.
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