United States embassies abroad fall under the head of the State Department and, in general, serve as diplomatic liaisons between the United States and the host country. The United States has about 250 “missions” or embassy offices around the world, and staff generally include the ambassador who leads the embassy, the deputy chief of missions who handles daily operations, and commercial, economic, agricultural, political and administrative staff.
The Bush Administration, ever committed to showing the world its fanatical dedication to remaining in Iraq, is building the world’s largest foreign embassy in the embattled City of Baghdad’s Green Zone. The cost? Why a scant $592,000,000 taxpayer dollars. The new Embassy is the size of Vatican City, with the population of a small town, its own defense force, and self-contained power and water so it won’t have to depend on unreliable Iraqi utilities. The 21-building complex on the Tigris River was envisioned three years ago partly as a headquarters for the democratic expansion in the Middle East that President Bush identified as the organizing principle for foreign policy in his second term. Embassy Baghdad dwarfs new U.S. embassies elsewhere, which typically cover 10 acres. The embassy’s 104 acres is six times larger than the United Nations compound in New York, and two-thirds the acreage of Washington’s National Mall.
The State Department lists the following tasks as some of the responsibilities of its embassies: prevention of war, advancing democracy and human rights, establishing economic opportunities for Americans, promoting the safety of Americans abroad, and helping refugees. Embassy staff also issue passports, provide travel information, help if a U.S. citizen is arrested or dies abroad, and evacuate U.S. citizens from areas of conflict, according to the State Department’s Web site.
What a laundry list of Bush objectives in Iraq. Prevention of war – you’ve got to be kidding. Obviously, the Embassy and its personnel get an “F” in this one. Bush pretty much overrode this goal when he decided unilaterally to invade Iraq. Advancing human rights – apparently not an overriding concern at this point given the thousands of Iraqis who have died in this ill begotten endeavor. Establishing economic opportunities for Americans – now there is one at which the Bush Administration excelled – especially on behalf of Halliburton and others who have profited and continue to profit from the “secret, no-competition” contracts awarded in the early days of the occupation.
Current U.S. Embassy functions are temporarily housed at The Republican Palace, a former Saddam Hussein enclave, which is less than a mile away from the new construction site. The 5,500 Americans and Iraqis working at the embassy are far more numerous than at any other U.S. mission worldwide. But they are prisoners in their own Embassy, rarely venturing out into war-torn and violent Iraq.
The entire neighborhood shown in this Google Earth view was leveled to make way for the $592,000,000 United States ‘Embassy’ compound. But the paltry sum of $592,000,000 pales in comparison to the 1.2 billion a year that will be required to keep the Embassy up and running. Twenty of the 21 large concrete buildings are already up on the 104-acre sight. The buildings are self contained with cinemas, American fast-food restaurants, and the “pièce de résistance”, Iraq’s largest swimming pool. The embassy will be guarded by 15-foot blast walls and ground-to-air missiles with the main building housing bunkers for use during air offensives.
Naturally, the construction of the monstrous Embassy was defended by a State Department spokesman, Justin Higgins. He defended the size of the embassy, saying it is indicative of the work facing the United States in Iraq. What a comparison – and that makes it acceptable? As far as putting dollars in the pockets of Iraqi businesses, forget it. Most of the construction money has gone to a Kuwait builder, First Kuwaiti Trading & Contracting, with the rest awarded to six contractors working on the project’s “classified” portion — the actual embassy offices. Higgins declined to identify those builders citing security reasons, but he said five were American companies.
The “Baghdad Behemoth” is to be completed this month – a monstrous “quasi-fortress” implanted in the Green Zone on the banks of the Tigris, its residents sequestered behind 15-foot walls with little or no contact with the world outside its protective barriers. It is a reminder to Iraqis and the world just how determined George W. Bush is to impose his misguided will and direction in the Middle East. Sadly, it is also a construction task that will prove far easier to complete than George W. Bush’s myopic goal of reconstructing Iraq and the Middle East to fit into his democratic vision for the region.