2008 April 27 Sunday
Largest American Embassy In Baghdad For $740 Million

Freedom rings on the Tigris? We've built a $740 million castle for US diplomats in Baghdad.

The 104-acre, 21-building enclave the largest US Embassy in the world, similar in size to Vatican City in Rome is often described as a "castle" by Iraqis, but more in the sense of the forbidden and dominating than of the alluring and liberating.

Our castle is bigger than Saddam's castles in case anyone misses the point.

"Saddam had his big castles; they symbolized his power and were places to be feared, and now we have the castle of the power that toppled him," says Abdul Jabbar Ahmed, a vice dean for political sciences at Baghdad University. "If I am the ambassador of the USA here I would say, 'Build something smaller that doesn't stand out so much, it's too important that we avoid these negative impressions.' "

Yet while the new embassy may be the largest in the world, it is not in its design and presence unlike others the US has built around the world in a burst of overseas construction since the bombings of US missions in the 1980s and '90s. Efforts to provide the 12,000 American diplomats working overseas a secure environment were redoubled following the 9/11 attacks.

I'm reminded of Jerry Pournelle's novel Oath Of Fealty where the residents of the Todos Santos arcology live in a massive building that protects them from a future very distopian Los Angeles. "Think of it as evolution in action."

700 employees (doing what exactly?) and 250 military personnel will occupy it. The place is a mini-economy which allows American government workers to work in another country without getting out into that country.

In the case of larger embassies in the most dangerous environments, as in Baghdad, secure housing is included, along with some of the amenities of home restaurants, gyms, pools, cinemas, shopping that can give the compound the air of an enclave.

The air of an enclave?

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2008 April 27 11:16 PM  Mideast Iraq Costs


Comments
Kenelm Digby said at April 28, 2008 3:42 AM:

Strangely enough when the Crusaders were engaged in their ultimately doomed mission to secure 'the Holy land' for Christianity in the middle ages, one of their defining characteristics was to build massive, impregnable castles all over the Levant as strongholds and to display their power and committment to the cause.
I believe most of these castles are still standing.

Wolf-Dog said at April 28, 2008 5:40 AM:

700 employees (doing what exactly?) and 250 military personnel will occupy it. The place is a mini-economy which allows American government workers to work in another country without getting out into that country.

The main threat to the United States is the possibility that in international trades the dollar will be replaced by other currencies. Once the US becomes unable to buy oil with dollars, we will be forced to balance the trade deficit. The function of the castles in the Middle East, is to delay the Al Qaeda takeover of the oil fields as much as possible. And by bribing the local elite in those countries, it is possible to maintain this status quo, however chaotic, for another decade. Inside the castle, for the benefit of the local Iraqi elite who are dedicated to serving our oil companies, there is Whiskey, French wine, Swiss chocolates, and above all, a large inventory of white European women. Although these castles will probably buy us another decade, if we do not use this extra time to start an energy policy to guarantee 100 % independence from oil imports, the next castles will be built in America, and in the interior of these castles, Whiskey and French wine will be forbidden, and the white European women will have to cover their faces.

JSBolton said at April 28, 2008 5:29 PM:

Krak des Chevaliers was and is one of the greatest of the crusader castles. Our diplomats live in fortresses in walled cities, but will leave not a trace of their tenure, because they preach openness from behind blast walls,and the brotherhood and axiomatic equality of all mankind from inside multiple security perimeters. Stateside, their headquarters could be called the Powell-Rice Houses for all the prestige it has now in comparison to what they used to have. This is really right though, since diplomacy is the cause of war, or has largely been so for the last 100 years or longer.
If that embassy is routinely shelled with impunity by militias with Iranian backing, who would be surprised?

Bob Badour said at April 28, 2008 6:38 PM:
The air of an enclave?

Yes, it's the Buick Full-sized Luxury Cross-over of American Embassies.

tommy said at April 28, 2008 7:01 PM:
Strangely enough when the Crusaders were engaged in their ultimately doomed mission to secure 'the Holy land' for Christianity in the middle ages, one of their defining characteristics was to build massive, impregnable castles all over the Levant as strongholds and to display their power and committment to the cause. I believe most of these castles are still standing.

I've seen many of these impressive castles in photographs from Jordanian blogs.

Stephen said at April 28, 2008 11:59 PM:

Gosh, its kind of like the US intends to stay there indefinitely...

Bob Badour said at April 29, 2008 5:30 PM:

...or at least until it loses that "new car smell". Anyone have figures on the resale value of previously owned quality embassies?

Stephen said at April 30, 2008 2:36 AM:

I'm sure CNN etc have already leased adjacent buildings so they can get good pictures of the last helicopter lifting off of the embassy roof.

Though given the current psychosis gripping the US polity, I'd bet that the Pentagon would much rather demolish the shiny new embassy than abandon it.

Doesn't really matter though, demolition will make just as good TV as a helicopter flying off the roof.

Wolf-Dog said at April 30, 2008 4:31 AM:

Very funny... But all this humor is concentrating on the present situation, and it is basically deflecting attention from the mysterious psychology of the United States that made it possible for the most powerful and well educated nation in the world, to make such a terribly obvious and stupid mistake of being trapped in these wars. Basically, not only the 9/11 was a trap, but the most intelligently engineered trap of the century to lure us into this guerrilla war. How is this possible?

Bob Badour said at April 30, 2008 8:00 AM:

The US is not trapped. GWB is trapped mostly by his own stupidity and bullheadedness. A year from now, he'll be history, and the US will be on its way to freedom from this shit.

gcochran said at April 30, 2008 10:06 AM:


Bush may be an idiot, but invading Iraq required millions of other idiots going along with him. And even though of many of those people have realized their error and may not make that exact mistake again, the world offers new problems every day, and those same people will make new mistakes in responding to _those_ problems - because they're idiots. Of course I'm using 'idiot' as shorthand for a cluster of error-production strategies, including (but not limited to) genuine stupidity, ignorance, laziness, wishful thinking, team loyalty, dishonesty, and groupthink.

Wolf-Dog said at April 30, 2008 12:31 PM:

The US is not trapped. GWB is trapped mostly by his own stupidity and bullheadedness. A year from now, he'll be history, and the US will be on its way to freedom from this shit.

In some sense we are trapped very badly, it is not just GWB. This is because the staunchly secular Saddam Hussein was keeping both Islamists and Iran in check. Right now if the US pulls out of Iraq, not only will Al Qaeda and Iran gain ground, but in addition, they will see this as a victory, encouraging them to use Iraq as a springboard to export further trouble to Saudi Arabia and also the rest of the world. Just imagine Al Qaeda with a de-centralized nuclear industry all over the world. It will be impossible to stop their infernal industry. This war will continue ad infinitum. London, Paris, Berlin, Rome, etc will be threatened with smuggled and assembled nukes, not nuclear missiles.

I am sure Europe will be full of Quislings ready, willing, and able to convert to Islam to become local Gauleiters.

Whoever becomes the president next year, will have only a small window of opportunity to start a Bronx Project for alternative energy, by spending at least $100 billion per year on solar, wind, cellulose and algae biomass, and nuclear energy R & D, in addition to battery research.

Randall Parker said at April 30, 2008 6:51 PM:

I agree with Greg Cochran. The real problem is we are trapped on this planet with lots of idiots making decisions.

gcochran said at April 30, 2008 10:49 PM:

Wolf-dog: you're crazy. How strong are Al-Qaeda-like Islamist groups in Iraq? They don't have a thousand members. The Kurdish peshmerga are much stronger, Sadr's Mahdi Army is much stronger, the various Sunni groups that dislike Al-Qaeda in Iraq are much stronger, and even the Iraqi army is much stronger than they are. The real Al-Qaeda consist of ~150 guys hiding in the boonies of Pakistan plus a few thousand wannabbees scattered around the world who spend their free time on chat rooms daring each other to do something. They have no money, no materiel, no state backer, no technical expertise, and they are few in number. Since 9-11, they've managed to kill 200-300 people per year, over the whole world. As Sageman points out, many more people have drowned in their bathtubs over this period in the US alone. Yet you go on and on talking about how the Europeans are on the verge of being conquered. Just looking at the numbers, the Colombian narcotraficantes are stronger than Al-Qaeda. The Tamil Tigers are stronger. The Shining Path was stronger. The IRA was comparably strong, the Klan was undoubtedly stronger in its heyday. The regular military forces of dipshit countries that you've never even heard of (can you say Burkina Faso?) are stronger.
How are a few hundred ragheads in caves going to become a nuclear threat? That's fucking nonsense.

Of course the Government of the United States is just as crazy. I am old enough to remember a time when our government was _less_ crazy than that of China, less crazy than that of Russia. Crazier than Switzerland of course, but then sanity is their speciality. It sure as hell isn't ours.

Wolf-Dog said at May 1, 2008 5:27 AM:

How strong are Al-Qaeda-like Islamist groups in Iraq? They don't have a thousand members.


According to various news, Iran is building good relations with Al Qaeda by giving assistance and training to many new generation members of Al Qaeda. So when I said "Al Qaeda", I was loosely using the word to imply a gradually unifying group.

If the Islamists are so weak in Iraq, then why is the US struggling so much in Iraq? Currently it looks like a guerrilla war against occupation and also a lot of ethnic warfare, but after the US leaves, you will see that Saudi Arabia will be challenged. You will see that after the US leaves Iraq, the region will be dominated by Iran.

gcochran said at May 1, 2008 8:21 AM:


"According to various news, Iran is building good relations with Al Qaeda by giving assistance and training to many new generation members of Al Qaeda."

Horseshit. Untrue. As for your question, almost all, at least 95%, of the people opposing the US in Iraq are various locals who have nothing to do with Al-Qaeda. At most, they were willing to use and expend salafist walk-ons. Right now, the embassy is getting incoming fire from Shi'ites in East Baghdad, who are hardly members of or sympathizers with Al-Qaeda.

Why am I arguing with a crazy person again?




Stephen said at May 1, 2008 5:32 PM:

Wolfdog said: If the Islamists are so weak in Iraq, then why is the US struggling so much in Iraq?

I'm not sure if you're being serious or sarcastic!

Randall Parker said at May 1, 2008 7:39 PM:

Wolf-Dog,

A very small percentage of the fighters in Iraq are from outside of Iraq. A very small percentage owe any allegiance to something called Al Qaeda.

We see tribal factions and splits between Iraqi Sunnis and Iraqi Shias and Iraqi Kurds. These are people who do not want outsiders in their country and Iraqi factions who want to dominate other Iraqi factions rather than be dominated by the other Iraqi factions. The war in Iraq has little to do with international terrorist networks.

Wolf-Dog said at May 1, 2008 8:21 PM:

After the US pulls out of Iraq, then you will see that the trouble will spread outside Iraq. Especially Saudi Arabian oil fields will be interesting for Iran.

Randall Parker said at May 1, 2008 8:28 PM:

Wolf-Dog,

B-2 bombers could prevent any invasion thru Iraq and Kuwait to get to Saudi Arabia. Some US subs and aircraft and sink any invasion fleet the Iranians might try to send out. Iran has a weak military and is bottled up. It will stay that way. The cost of deterring Iranian invasions is very low.

Wolf-Dog said at May 1, 2008 9:47 PM:

But once again you are assuming that Iran's attempt to take the Saudi oil fields will be a centralized and purely military operation similar to Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait. What I am saying is that Iran will start by fomenting a revolution in Saudi Arabia by using the Saudi Shiite minority (which happens to be the majority in the oil-rich eastern regions of Saudi Arabia), and only then assist them from outside. Additionally, Iran is building good relations with Sunni extremists also. For instance, the Palestinian Hamas, is not Shiite, but it is ideologically strongly in sync with the Iranian movements. And remember that Al Qaeda is a Saudi organization, and Iran has an interest in using them too.

Basically by removing the whiskey-drinking and cigar-puffing secular Saddam from power, the US made a precisely the mistake that both Iran and Al Qaeda wanted. Prepare for oil at $250 per barrel.

Stephen said at May 1, 2008 10:41 PM:

Why the fixation on Iran? When's the last time they invaded anybody?

Its almost like some governments go out of their way to create an enemy for their citizens to fear and/or hate...

Nobody said at May 2, 2008 10:17 AM:

Haven't the Iranians been fucking with the Saudis for some time? I recall a years ago, Iranian agents and some shiites fomented a rebellion/riot/general mayhem type shit in the that resulted in hundreds being killed, firefights, lots of dead Saudi security personnel and the eventual calling in of French Special Forces types to "deal" with the situation that was a threat to the monarchy. The Saudis came off looking like a bunch of pussies which probably only encouraged the Iranians. Then later there was some kind of other incident of mayhem during the Hajj with more deaths, mayhem and the usual lunacy, etc...(is anyone else detecting a pattern here?).

Wolf-Dog said at May 2, 2008 12:11 PM:

Bahrain (located in western part of Saudi Peninsula) has a large Shiite minority, and Iran already officially stated that that part of the world used to belong to the Persian empire in the past, and that for this reason it has the right to annex it.

http://middleeast.about.com/od/bahrain/a/me080109.htm

But Iran also has historic claims on Saudi Arabian oil, and justifies this appetite by reading the history books that say that the Persian empire owned that region a long time ago. Since the oil production of Iran is reaching a peak, and since its large population depends on oil, Iran desperately has its eyes on the Saudi oil.

Of course, since history is what aggressors use to justify their conquests, the Nazi philosopher Alfred Rosenberg went to India to investigate the bones of dead Aryans who were there many thousands of years ago, and after he returned back to Germany, before WW II, the Nazis considered invading India by going through in Russia, although the main intention was to take the Russian raw materials first.


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