The U.S. public, by and large, is probably unaware of the mighty fortress built in Baghdad at taxpayer expense. The new U.S. Embassy, which opened in January 2009, is the largest and most expensive in the world – comparable in size to Vatican City.
As Iraqi police training and reconstruction projects are being transferred from the DOD to the State Department, I thought we should take a closer look at the embassy, now headed by U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Christopher R. Hill.
Throughout its construction phase, the embassy was wrapped in secrecy and controversy. Work on the rising embassy complex, under contract with First Kuwaiti Trading and Contracting, generated reports of unethical practices and even human trafficking in slave labor.
According to the official government Web site, total cost of construction was $592 million, a supplemental spending bill signed by former President George W. Bush. This does not include on-going operational budgets.
Located on the Tigris River inside the Green Zone, the embassy complex houses 21 buildings on a 104-acre site. Facilities include:
* Six apartment buildings for employees
* Water and waste treatment facilities
* A power station
* Two major diplomatic office buildings
* Recreational facilities including a gym, a cinema and a swimming pool
* Heavy fortification
So, we’re all set in Iraq, right?
“The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad ‘is planning to double its ranks' as it takes over a host of missions for the military there, Deputy Chief of Mission Robert Ford tells Foreign Policy. ‘If Congress gives us the money we are asking for, this embassy is going to be twice the size it is now. It's not going down, it's getting bigger,’ said Ford.”
The Foreign Policy article is essential reading for those interested in the transition of the United States’ role in Iraq. (Citation below.)
Ford puts the embassy’s mission in simple terms: “ … (I)t's simply time for the United States to start taking its hand off the bicycle seat and let the Iraqis learn to fend for themselves.”
When the article states the embassy will double its size, it appears to refer to personnel rather than its actual physical plant. Yet, Ford goes on to state:
"My biggest problem here is figuring out where are these people going to live, how are we going to get the security for them, how are we going to get food for them, and how are we going to get their mail delivered."
Isn’t he saying the current facilities are inadequate?
In my opinion, the only government projects U.S. taxpayers raise hell about are those which have an actual price tag - say, healthcare reform. In areas where the true costs might never be known – homeland security, our mission in Iraq, our mission in Afghanistan – there seems to be blind acceptance. Ironically, the most protested programs stand to benefit Americans.
I am not espousing isolationism, but I do assert that the costs of solving our continuing domestic problems undergo inordinate scrutiny and opposition while those which bleed our treasury seem acceptable.
“U.S. Embassy in Baghdad has plans to double in size,” Foreign Policy, Josh Rogin, January 7, 2010: LINK
“New U.S. Embassy in Iraq cloaked in mystery,” MSNBC, April 14, 2006: LINK
"Fortress America" (VIDEO), NBC Nightly News, April 17, 2006, Andrea Mitchell reports: LINK
Official Web site: U.S. Embassy – Baghdad: LINK
U.S. Ambassado to Iraq Christopher R. Hill: LINK
“Embassy of the United States in Baghdad,” Wikipedia: LINK