And All This For Only $592 MillionAnne Gearan:
The new U.S. Embassy in Baghdad will be the world's largest and most expensive foreign mission, though it may not be large enough or secure enough to cope with the chaos in Iraq.Tom Englehart:
The Bush administration designed the 104-acre compound — set to open in September in what today is a war zone — to be an ultra-secure enclave. Yet it also hoped that downtown Baghdad would cease being a battleground when diplomats moved in.
Over the long term, depending on which way the seesaw of sectarian division and grinding warfare teeters, the massive city-within-a-city could prove too enormous for the job of managing diminished U.S. interests in Iraq.
The $592 million embassy occupies a chunk of prime real estate two-thirds the size of Washington's National Mall, with desk space for about 1,000 people behind high, blast-resistant walls. The compound is a symbol both of how much the United States has invested in Iraq and how the circumstances of its involvement are changing.
At $592 million, its proudest boast is that, unlike almost any other American construction project in that country, it is coming in on budget and on time.
A Lovely New Office BuildingTom Englehart:
As the Iraqi capital's landscape became ever more dangerous, as an insurgency gained traction while the administration's dreams of a redesigned American Middle East remained as strong as ever, its officials evidently concluded that even one of Saddam's palaces, roomy enough for a dictator interested in the control of a single country (or the odd neighboring state), wasn't faintly big enough, or safe enough, or modern enough for the representatives of the planet's New Rome.Scott Horton:
Hence, Missouri's BDY. That Midwestern firm's designers can now be classified as architects to the wildest imperial dreamers and schemers of our time.
The embassy’s designers, Berger Devine Yaeger of Kansas City, Missouri, [...] took down their entire site after being contacted by State Department employees according to the Associated Press yesterday.But "this kind of information" is "out in the public domain" now, courtesy of Dissent Radio dot Com.“Our desire would be that this not be in the public domain,” State Department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos said after officials called the firm of Berger Devine Yaeger within minutes of learning from a reporter that the embassy plans had been posted on its website.
“We work very hard to ensure the safety and security of our employees overseas and this kind of information out in the public domain detracts from that effort,” Gallegos told AFP.
“When it was brought to our attention that these drawings were on their website, they were contacted by department officials and subsequently agreed to take it down,” he said.
Marine Security CenterTom Englehart:
For an American official not likely to leave the constricted, heavily fortified, four-mile square Green Zone during a year's tour of duty, practicing his or her serve (on the taxpayer's dollar) is undoubtedly no small thing.Anne Gearan:
The compound will have secure apartments for about 615 people. The comfortable but not opulent one-bedrooms have offered hope for State Department staff now doubled up in tinny trailers.
Morale is at an ebb among the embassy staff, most of whom rarely leave the heavily fortified Green Zone during their one-year tours in Iraq. The barricaded zone houses both the current, makeshift U.S. Embassy and the new compound about a mile away. A recent string of mortar attacks has meant further restrictions.
On Saturday, three mortar shells or rockets slammed into a Green Zone compound where British Prime Minister Tony Blair was meeting with Iraqi leaders. The attack wounded one person. One round hit the British Embassy compound.
Pool HouseTom Englehart:
When the BDY-designed embassy opens in September (undoubtedly to the sound of mortar fire), its facilities will lack the gold-plated faucets installed in some of Saddam's palaces and villas (and those of his sons), but they won't lack for the amenities that Americans consider part and parcel of the good life, even in a "hardship" post.
Take a look, for instance, at the embassy's "pool house," as imagined by BDY. Note the palm trees dotted around it, the expansive lawns, and those tennis courts discretely in the background.
Recreation CenterTom Englehart:
Admittedly, it may be hard to take that refreshing dip or catch a few sets of tennis in Baghdad's heat if the present order for all U.S. personnel in the Green Zone to wear flak jackets and helmets at all times remains in effect – or if, as in the present palace/embassy, the pool (and Ping-Pong tables) are declared, thanks to increasing mortar and missile attacks, temporarily "off limits." In that case, more time will probably be spent in the massive, largely windowless-looking recreation center, one of over 20 blast-resistant buildings BDY has planned. Perhaps this will house the promised embassy cinema.
CAC West -- The Combined Arms CenterTom Englehart:
When completed, it will indeed be the perfect folly, as well as the perfect embassy, for a country that finds it absolutely normal to build vast base-worlds across the planet; that considers it just a regular day's work to send its aircraft carrier "strike forces" and various battleships through the Straits of Hormuz in daylight as a visible warning to a "neighboring" regional power; whose Central Intelligence Agency operatives feel free to organize and launch Baluchi tribal warriors from Pakistan into the Baluchi areas of Iran to commit acts of terror and mayhem; whose commander-in-chief president can sign a "nonlethal presidential finding" that commits our nation to a "soft power" version of the economic destabilization of Iran, involving, according to ABC News, "a coordinated campaign of propaganda, disinformation, and manipulation of Iran's currency and international financial transactions"; whose vice president can appear on the deck of the USS John C. Stennis to address a "rally for the troops," while that aircraft carrier is on station in the Persian Gulf readying itself to pass through those Straits, and can insist to the world: "With two carrier strike groups in the Gulf, we're sending clear messages to friends and adversaries alike. We'll keep the sea lanes open. We'll stand with our friends in opposing extremism and strategic threats. We'll disrupt attacks on our own forces…. And we'll stand with others to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons and dominating this region"; whose military men can refer to Iraqi insurgents as "anti-Iraqi forces"; members of whose congressional opposition can offer plans for the dismemberment of Iraq into three or more parts; and all of whose movers and shakers, participating in the Washington Consensus, can agree that one "benchmark" the Iraqi government, also locked inside the Green Zone, must fulfill is signing off on an oil law designed in Washington and meant to turn the energy clock in the Middle East back several decades; but why go on?
Chief of Mission's ResidenceTom Englehart:
To recognize such imperial impunity and its symbols for what they are, all you really need to do is try to reverse any of these examples. In most cases, that's essentially inconceivable. Imagine any country building the equivalent Mother Ship "embassy" on the equivalent of two-thirds of the Washington Mall; or sailing its warships into the Gulf of Mexico and putting its second-in-command aboard the flagship of the fleet to insist on keeping the sea lanes "open"; or sending Caribbean terrorists into Florida to blow up local buses and police stations; or signing a "finding" to economically destabilize the American government; or planning the future shape of our country from a foreign capital. But you get the idea. Most of these actions, if aimed against the United States, would be treated as tantamount to acts of war and dealt with accordingly in this country, with unbelievable hue and cry.
Deputy Chief's ResidenceTom Englehart:
When it's a matter of other countries halfway across the planet, however, Americans largely consider such things, even if revealed in the news, at worst tactical errors or miscalculations.Anne Gearan:
"We do believe that the embassy compound was right-sized at the time that it was presented to the Congress," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told a Senate panel this month. "There have been some additional issues since that time. "
Rice's senior adviser on Iraq, David Satterfield, said the embassy is not disproportionately expensive and will serve U.S. interests for years. The second-most expensive embassy is the smaller $434 million U.S. mission being built in Beijing.
"We assume there will be a significant, enduring U.S. presence in Iraq," Satterfield said.