Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Emma Sky's "The Unraveling"

Emma Sky is a senior fellow at Yale University’s Jackson Institute. She worked in the Middle East for twenty years and was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for her services in Iraq.

Sky applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, The Unraveling: High Hopes and Missed Opportunities in Iraq, and reported the following:
From page 99 of The Unraveling:
Why did the Iraqi chicken cross the road?

Coalition Provisional Authority:
The fact that the Iraqi chicken crossed the road
affirmatively demonstrates that decision-making
authority has been transferred to the chicken well in
advance of the scheduled June 30th transition of
power. From now on the chicken is responsible for its
own decisions.

We were asked to help the chicken cross the road.
Given the inherent risk of road crossing and the
rarity of chickens, this operation will only cost the
US government $326,004.

Muqtada al-Sadr:
The chicken was a tool of the evil Coalition and will
be killed.

US Army Military Police:
We were directed to prepare the chicken to cross the
road. As part of these preparations, individual
soldiers ran over the chicken repeatedly and then
plucked the chicken. We deeply regret the occurrence
of any chicken rights violations.

The chicken crossed the road, and will continue to
cross the road, to show its independence and to
transport the weapons it needs to defend itself.
However, in future, to avoid problems, the chicken
will be called a duck, and will wear a plastic bill.
Page 99 quotes from an email sent around the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in 2004, when the efforts to bring democracy to Iraq had already started to run astray. We were based in Saddam’s Republican Palace, then the headquarters of the CPA, and under regular bombardment. The decision was taken to hand over authority to the Iraqis by 30 June 2004.

It shows how we dealt with the absurdity of our situation through humor.

It depicts how different groups in Iraq see things through different lenses. As such, it is illustrative of the different voices that appear throughout the book.

What page 99 does not show is how The Unraveling interweaves my personal experience with those of Americans and Iraqis who I interacted with across a decade in my role first as the representative of the CPA in Kirkuk and then as Political Advisor to the top US Generals.

Through these vignettes, the reader gains deep insight into the coping strategies of people put in difficult circumstances, the bonds that tie them together, and the world views they possess. In each tale lies a deeper theme.

I was very sad and angry when I left Iraq and wondered what all the sacrifice had been for. I came to realize that I had witnessed key events and had a duty to record them. I believe we honor those who lost their lives by trying to learn the right lessons from the war. I set out to acknowledge the huge efforts of those who strived to give Iraq a chance for a better future and to pay tribute to Iraq, a country that I came so much to love.
Learn more about The Unraveling at the publisher's website.

--Marshal Zeringue