To mark 20 years since 9/11, PBS conducted the following interview with Emma Sky OBE (1987, Oriental Studies) as part of the FRONTLINE’s Transparency Project – an effort to open up the source material behind the channel’s documentaries.
Emma is a global expert on conflict, reconciliation and stability – a self-confessed pacifist and avowed opponent of the Iraq War who nonetheless volunteered to go to Iraq in 2003 as a civilian administrator and latterly Governorate Coordinator of Kirkuk under the Coalition Provisional Authority. In her words, ‘I went to Iraq so as to apologise to Iraqis for the war and let them know that most people in Europe did not support this war.’
A somewhat unconventional route subsequently led Sky to become an adviser to the US military, where she went on to advise Generals Petraeus and Odierno. A fascinating and clear-sighted geopolitical analyst, Emma is the author of The Unravelling: High Hopes and Missed Opportunities in Iraq (2015), which was shortlisted for the 2015 Samuel Johnson Prize for Nonfiction, the 2016 Orwell Prize, and the 2016 Council on Foreign Relations Arthur Ross Book Award. She also wrote In a Time of Monsters: Travelling in a Middle East in Revolt (2019). Today, Emma is Director of the Yale University World Fellows programme and a Senior Fellow at Yale’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, where she lectures on Iraq and Middle East politics.
“I remember 9/11 because I happened to be in Cairo that day. I was there doing some work to support human rights organisations, and I remember there was this tremendous excitement in the streets of Cairo that ‘the superpower’ had had its comeuppance. I remember taking a boat on the Nile that night, a felucca, and thinking our world is never going to be the same.”
Emma Sky, america after 9/11 interview