Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The colossus of Baghdad

The United States' vast US$592 million "embassy" - 20-odd buildings on 42 hectares in Baghdad's Green Zone - is due to open in September. From the pool house (and tennis courts) to the recreation center and office space, it's a colossus of the modern world and a concrete-and-bricks symbol of the Bush administration's (fading) vision of a US-reordered Middle East.

By Tom Engelhardt
Asia Times

".......The Guardian's Jonathan Freedland in the most recent issue of the New York Review of Books terms it a "base" like the United States' other vast, multibillion-dollar permanent bases in Iraq. It is also a headquarters. But what a head! What quarters! It is neither town, nor quite city-state, but it could be considered a citadel, with its own anti-missile defenses, inside the increasingly breachable citadel of the Green Zone.

It may already be the last piece of ground in Iraq (excepting those other bases) that the United States, "surge" or not, can actually claim to occupy and control fully - and yet it already has something of the look of the Alamo (with amenities). Some day, perhaps, it will turn out to be the "White House" (though, in BDY's sketches, its buildings look more like those prison-style schools being built in embattled US urban neighborhoods) for Muqtada al-Sadr, or some future Shi'ite party, or a Sunni strongman, or a home for squatters. Who knows?

What we know is that such an embassy is remarkably outsized for Iraq. Even as a headquarters for a vast, secret set of operations in that chaotic land, it doesn't quite add up. After all, the US military headquarters in Iraq is already at Camp Victory on the outskirts of Baghdad. We can certainly assume - though no one in the mainstream media world would think to say such a thing - that this new embassy will house a rousing set of Central Intelligence Agency (and probably Pentagon intelligence) operations for the country and region, and will be a massive hive for American spooks of all sorts. But whatever its specific functions, it might best be described as the imperial Mother Ship dropping into Baghdad......

As an outpost, this vast compound reeks of one thing: imperial impunity. It was never meant to be an embassy from a democracy that had liberated an oppressed land. From the first thought, the first sketch, it was to be the sort of imperial control center suitable for the planet's sole "hyperpower", dropped into the middle of the oil heartlands of the globe. It was to be Washington's dream and Kansas City's idea of a palace fit for an embattled American proconsul - or a khan.

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 Strait of Hormuz in daylight as a visible warning to a "neighboring" regional power; and whose CIA operatives feel free to organize and launch Balochi tribal warriors from Pakistan into the Balochi areas of Iran to commit acts of terror and mayhem......."

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