The Largest “Embassy” in the World

As I was reading this OpenDemocracy column on current U.S. Iraq policy options (conclusion: they’re not leaving anytime soon), I happened across a reference to the new U.S. embassy in Baghdad as the largest in the world. This pricked my interest, so I dug up this column in The Nation from June describing the American embassy under construction in Baghdad. The scale of this massive project is astounding, and illuminating…

The size of 80 football fields, 104 acres. 15-foot thick walls. At $600 million, the biggest construction project in Iraq. Will employ 8,000 people. 619 apartments. Luxurious accommodations. Shops, supper clubs, swimming pool, hair salon, movie theatre. Self-contained and self-sufficient.

The Nation article concludes:

This gigantic complex does not square with the repeated assertions by the people who run the American government that the United States will not stay in the country after Iraq becomes a stand-alone, democratic entity. An “embassy” in which 8,000 people labor, along with the however many thousand military personnnel necessary to defend them, is not a diplomatic outpost. It is a base. A permanent base.

So it turns out that the plan, if that is the right word for the haphazard, faith-based, fact-free and data-scarce decision-making that has been the one constant in this adventure, is to stay in Baghdad and run the country. This is beyond lunacy.

You know, sometimes what appears as incompetence can actually be legerdemain. Or am I paranoid?

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4 thoughts on “The Largest “Embassy” in the World”

  1. I guess it’s a matter of a shocking disconnect between propaganda and reality. The language of the administration is that there is a legitimate democratic government today, which is increasingly blamed for the country’s instability. It appears that the time-frame planners have in mind is measured in generations, and that democracy is not the primary strategic objective in either the short or medium term.

  2. Indeed, the operative adjective seems to be “stand-alone”, not “democratic”. The US government had in mind a country able to manage its own affairs, which is not happening.

    Credible sources in the USA have said that the administration was looking to replace a dictatorship by a democracy, to establish a shining example for the people of the region of a preferable alternative to an Islamic state, a kind of local Turkey, only richer.

    However, given that US administrations have historically not promoted democracy, this was a new thing for them and they had no idea how to go about it, or if they did they were unwilling to take the risks required. For instance, a certain Rohan Jayasekera other than me who is Associate Editor of Index on Censorship (and about whom I know a lot because I check what Google is saying about “me”) has spent time in Iraq and has written about how the US military controlled the media there, actively interfering with the emergence of a free press. No surprise that a military imposes control!

  3. An actual democracy was always against U.S. interests in a region with strong religious parties. A “managed democracy” with limited autonomy operating within American-defined limits was probably closer to the actual strategy, but that hasn’t worked out because of the inability of the Iraqi government to consolidate control and maintain legitimacy.

    It is fascinating the people one can find doing interesting stuff by googling one’s own name.

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