Iraq: An American Tragedy, My Travels to Baghdad
Warren Coats (2020)
Kindle and paperback versions available at: Iraq-American-Tragedy-My-Travels-Baghdad
From the corkscrew landing at Saddam International Airport (now the Baghdad International Airport) to adventures in the Green Zone and beyond, this recounting of my experiences helping the Central Bank of Iraq develop modern market tools of monetary policy exposes the disfunction of the U.S. lead Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in its attempt to govern and rebuild post Saddam Iraq, following one of America’s more foolish and damaging military adventures. The existence of weapons of mass destruction was a lie. American skill at imperial rule–from disbanding the Iraqi Army to De-Ba’athification of the Iraqi bureaucracy– was a myth.
Regime changes usually don’t involve changes in the monetary system. However, the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s government and the occupation of Iraq and the takeover of its government by the United States and a few allies in the name of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) was accompanied by the replacement of the so-called Saddam dinar and modernization of Iraq’s monetary and financial system. The Iraq war was launched with “shock and awe” on March 20, 2003 and President George W Bush declared “mission accomplished” on May 1 a month and a half later. But when I retired from the International Monetary Fund and took up residence in Baghdad to advise the Central Bank of Iraq on developing Iraq’s financial markets and managing its new currency, the fighting was not over on many fronts. I lived in Baghdad the last two months of the CPA (May-June 2004) and made four two-week visits between then and December 2005
In this book, much of it written in diary form at the time, I share the challenges of advising the staff and management of the Central Bank of Iraq from my office in the central bank and of navigating the U.S. interagency rivalry from my office in Saddam’s Republican Palace in Baghdad’s Green Zone. Security was always a challenge, producing many adventures. But the wisest advice I received was from a colleague in the CPA, who told me to “be careful who you talk to here (CPA headquarters in the Republican Palace), your worst enemies are in this building.” Over my 26 years in the International Monetary Fund and the technical assistance missions I lead to some 20 countries, many of them post conflict countries, I have never encountered the disfunction and resulting ineptitude of the U.S. led Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq.
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