The wisdom of the Bush Administration hits the news yet again. While Condi is admiting, perhaps unwittingly, to the mistakes of the Administration in Iraq (by mostly pointing the finger at Rumsfeld by the way), comes more news in the mainstream media about what will become a legendary debacle of US Public Diplomacy. The American embassy in Iraq, as reported by MSNBC (picture of all the construction cranes at right should be warning itself), will be massive and the largest in the world at 21 buildings and 104 acres.
The fortress-like compound rising beside the Tigris River here will be the largest of its kind in the world, the size of Vatican City, with the population of a small town, its own defense force, self-contained power and water, and a precarious perch at the heart of Iraq’s turbulent future.
Interestingly, the MSNBC report parroted the names of the security measures built into the compound. So-called "no-go areas" used to be called "killing zones", "no-man's land", or similar clearly named places to avoid.
The over 5,000 (!!) American and Iraqis who will work in the embassy will be isolated from interaction with the unwashed masses of the public to carry out the new 'special' brand of diplomacy, whatever that is. Should we ask how many of the 5k+ will be DoD reports with Rumsfeld taking more of a role in public diplomacy?
David Phinney's story on the embassy back in February goes deeper into the impact of this embassy on our worldwide relations. Not only are we building a structure that will intimidate the state it is in (and dominate the skyline of the capital city we are guests in with our sovereign territory), but we are importing labor from other countries with lies, deceit and low-pay. How do think that plays back in their home countries?
Well, at least we're continuing to give our friends the Kuwaitis financial assistence. It's good to help friends, right?
More than a few U.S. contractors competing for the $592-million Baghdad project express bewilderment over why the U.S. State Department gave the work to First Kuwaiti General Trading & Contracting (FKTC). They claim that some competing contractors possessed far stronger experience in such work and that at least one award-winning company offered to perform the all but the most classified work for $60 million to $70 million less than FKTC....
Mohammad I. H. Marafie, chairman and co-owner of FKTC, is a member of one of the most powerful mercantile families in Kuwait....
American contractors witnessing the plight of some of these migrants at military camps around Iraq have openly complained that the Asians endure abysmal working conditions, live in cramped housing, eat poor food, and lack satisfactory medical care and safety gear.
Typically, these migrants work 12 hours a day, often seven days a week, and earn as little as $500 a month performing tasks considered unsuitable for US war fighters. They work construction, drive trucks, run laundries, clean latrines, pick up rubbish and operate stores, dining facilities and warehouses. Without them, and the "body shop" subcontractors that provide such laborers, the US and coalition military camps -- virtually small cities -- would shut down.
I listened to a CorpWatch interview with Phinney when this first came out. I suggest you do the same if you don't want to read the entire article.
What do you think this will do to our image? Probably not much since it will only reinforce the perceptions of America. Tell me how this embassy, and its construction, symbolizes the United States?
Is a place that looks like a "remote crusader castle" or a "maximum security prison"? Both of which were used to describe our $83m Istanbul Consulate. What again does this tell the local population?