From In These Times:
Features > January 2, 2008
Should it ever be finished, the U.S. embassy in Iraq will stand as a colossal monument to the Bush administration’s failures
By Allen McDuffee
The U.S. embassy in Iraq stands unfinished in Baghdad.
Panic shot through the State Department and White House earlier this summer when the American architecture firm Berger Devine Yaeger posted computer-generated images and layout of the forthcoming U.S. embassy in Baghdad on its website. Ostensibly concerned with security, government officials urgently acted to remove graphics to avoid aiding potential insurgents in their plots to disrupt the embassy’s progress.
The real fear, however, may have been that the disclosure would draw public and congressional attention to everything that’s gone wrong with the embassy. Indeed, it’s difficult to imagine how insurgents could be any more disruptive to the embassy’s existence than those who are building it. Allegations of mismanaged funds, shoddy workmanship, kickback schemes, exploitative labor practices, ill-gotten contracts, blocked investigations, trafficked humans and covered-up deaths have plagued the construction of the world’s largest embassy.
The planned 104-acre, 21-building compound on the Tigris River will include two office buildings, six apartment buildings, a pool, a gym, a movie theater and a food court. The embassy will be supported by its own power and water treatment plants—probably wise in a country that has, on average, one hour to four hours of electricity daily, and where 70 percent of the population lacks clean drinking water.
The White House originally requested $1.3 billion to build the compound, but Congress allocated $592 million for the project in 2005. It was a hefty sum given that the United States didn’t pay a cent to Iraq for the four-square-mile stretch of land in Baghdad’s Green Zone, roughly the size of Vatican City. By comparison, the United States paid $22 million for land that was less than one-tenth that size for a planned new embassy in Beirut, which will now no longer be built because of security concerns over its proximity to a Hezbollah stronghold.
Nevertheless, the nearly $600 million wasn’t enough for the embassy in Iraq. According to documentation provided to Congress by the State Department, an additional $144 million is needed for completion and the embassy may cost as much as $1 billion each year to operate.
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