• World’s Largest Embassy Soon to Be World’s Loneliest Embassy

    March 24, 2013

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    Posted in: Embassy/State, Iraq

    It was with great fanfare a few years into the American invasion of Iraq that plans were announced to build America’s largest embassy, in the Green Zone in Baghdad. The embassy itself would cost over one billion dollars, and occupy more land than the Vatican. The U.S. ambassador of the time boasted it would be seen from space. As America’s largest embassy, no, the world’s largest embassy, it was to be a symbol of American might and power dropped smack dab into the heart of the Middle East. That it sat on land conquered– taken– from Arabs was part of the point.

    The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad was also a symbol that the State Department, left out of the Neocon fury of 2003, was going to be a player in Iraq’s future, and indeed in America’s broader plans for the Middle East. The military would soon withdraw (they thought) to a string of permanent bases large and small across Iraq, but the embassy would stand proud and big in Baghdad forever, full of important State Department staff doing important things for the United States. Daddy liked the State Department once again, and to make up for all those bad, bad things Daddy once said, had bought the State Department the world’s largest embassy as a welcome-back gift.

    As the Iraq War crumbled underneath America, State still clung to the plan. Thousands of diplomats and contractors were flown in to fill the embassy which, even at its massive size, was still too small to house them all. At one point the State Department had close to 20,000 personnel on its pay roll in Iraq.

    The war ended (for America) and the mighty U.S. military quietly slunk out of Iraq. The Obama administration began pretending like Iraq never really happened, devoting it no intellectual capitol and no bandwidth as it turned its attention to “winning” in Afghanistan. The Iraqis returned the favor, turning down American training programs and sidelining U.S. diplomats in favor of their Iranian counterparts. Everybody seemed to be reaching a new normal.

    Everybody but State of course, which continued to staff the Baghdad Embassy as if it was the epicenter of the American Empire instead of an awkward mistake. A year ago State still had some 16,000 people in Baghdad. Even on the sad tenth anniversary of the Iraq invasion, State somehow still has 10,500 personnel on the ground. Finally, now, State has caught a glimmer of reality and ironically on the tenth anniversary date itself, announced that they will cut the head count to 5,500, of which over 4000 will be contractors and cooks. It is still a huge number of people, but it is slightly closer to the typical size of such a mission.

    With personnel soon down to about one-fourth of capacity, one wonders what life in the sprawling U.S. Embassy compound must be like. With three empty offices for every occupied one, for a huge cafeteria and gym designed to serve thousands now catering to only hundreds at a time, the place must feel like one of America’s decayed downtown old cities, like Buffalo or Louisville. In the Green Zone, have they boarded up windows? Thrown white sheets over the furniture? Do they turn off street lights in some parts of the compound, as they do in abandoned neighborhoods in Detroit to save money?

    The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, once intended as a monument to American power in the heart of conquered Iraq, now looks just like our own decayed U.S. cities. Now there’s your symbolism, and while the State Department may not fully get it, the rest of the world likely does.



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  • Recent Comments

    • meloveconsullongtime said...

      1

      I’ve tried to jog my memory for similar examples of earlier imperial megalomaniac projects which died at birth, but can’t think of any such failures as collossal as this one.

      One does come to mind, on a far smaller scale. The Third Reich established a “House of German Art”, featuring nothing but purely “Aryan” art for the public’s edification. Here’s an example:

      http://www.goodart.org/abready.jpg

      Well, that museum was a miserable failure, because the art sucked. It failed even before they lost the war.

      On the OTHER hand, they also established a “House Degenerate Art”, to teach the public what BAD art is – meaning non-Aryan art. THAT museum included works by Chagall and Picasso, and THAT museum always had large crowds because it was the only good one left in Berlin.

      03/24/13 12:11 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      2

      “My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings, Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair! Nothing beside remains. Round the decay Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

      The Baghdad embassy is a colossal monument to our colossal stupidity. Speaking of monuments, I hear there are plans for a Rushmore-type monument to celebrate our stupidity in putting our fate in the hands of Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld. Calling it the “Axis of Evil.”

      03/24/13 1:57 PM | Comment Link

    • meloveconsullongtime said...

      3

      Yes actually I had also thought of Ozymandias, however thta poem was based on a statue of Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses II, whose cities and monuments lasted for centuries, not just a few years.

      03/24/13 2:05 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      4

      Devils Tower was the reported location for the “Axis of Evil” monument.

      “Mission Accomplished” was rejected as a title, as it was considered unbelievable. “America, You are Fucked” was also rejected because it was considered too obvious.

      03/24/13 2:11 PM | Comment Link

    • meloveconsullongtime said...

      5

      Further thoughts on the ephemerality of Empire-Builders in what is now Afghanistan (yes PVB’s post was about Iraq, but Afghanistan is the Empire’s currently failing project):

      Do any of you know the name of Vima Taktu?

      No? I thought not. But he was the ruler of most of what is now “Afghanistan”, around 80 to 90 AD.

      And he was “White”, or anyway he was Aryan – he spoke a language somewhat related to English, and he came from somewhere around what is now Siberia. Or around there, the Eastern fringes of the White “race” in that time.

      But his name was unknown from late antiquity until the 20th century. He disappeared from history for around 16 centuries after his dynasty collapsed. He was rediscovered in the 19th century, first through some ancient coins with his portrait, inscribed in Greek “Soter Megas” meaning “Great Saviour” – and then a correllative ancient inscription found in XinJiang (today’s China) in the 20th century revealed his personal name, Vima Taktu.

      He was ethnically of a culture similar to the ancient Germans, thus a cousin of the English. When he invaded and conquered “Afghanistan” around year 80 AD, he was probably illiterate but he paid some scholars to inscribe his coins in Greek letters, “Soter Megas”, “Great Saviour”. His shitty little dynasty lasted for around 200 years, then faded into oblivion for 16 centuries…

      …AND he was the inspiration for Kipling’s didactic story – set in what used to be Vima Taktu’s kingdom – “The Man Who Would Be King”!:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3dJf5rO0-BM

      03/24/13 4:34 PM | Comment Link

    • meloveconsullongtime said...

      6

      PS to follow my above comment, here’s the final scene of “The Man Who Would Be King” – and yes the movie is true to Kipling’s story.

      It ought to be a warning to the American Empire – who will continue to ignore what Kipling understood – and the compounded tragicomedy for the American Empire, in contrast to the British Empire, is that the latter ended with dignity. The British Empire ended as understated tragedy, but the American Empire is ending as noisy farce:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=twF0Aa7GVJA

      03/24/13 4:59 PM | Comment Link

    • meloveconsullongtime said...

      7

      PPS to follow both of my above comments, more Kipling:

      Now, it is not good for the Christian’s health to hustle the Aryan brown,
      For the Christian riles, and the Aryan smiles, and he weareth the Christian down;
      And the end of the fight is a tombstone white, with the name of the late deceased,
      And the epitaph drear: ‘A fool lies here who tried to hustle the East.’

      03/24/13 5:09 PM | Comment Link

    • meloveconsullongtime said...

      8

      And now I’m gonna go out on a limb and tell you what I REALLY think!

      And yes I’m serious:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FHoLn_QCnRM

      03/24/13 8:11 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      9

      Making lemon-aid out of the world’s biggest lemon, COSTCO and WALMART are reportedly bidding for the property.

      03/24/13 8:38 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      10

      Of course, Iraq can just tell US to get the Hell out and hand it over to their friends, the Iranians:

      http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/25/world/middleeast/baghdad-kerry-iraq-arms-shipments-to-syria.html?_r=0

      Kind of blows a hole in the neo-con wet dream for invading Iraq.

      03/24/13 8:52 PM | Comment Link

    • Michael Murry said...

      11

      “The war ended (for America) and the mighty U.S. military quietly slunk out of Iraq.”

      As a veteran of the Nixon-Kissinger Fig Leaf Contingent (Vietnam 1970-72), I understand the nature of drawn-out rear-guard deployments designed to cover up another ignominious retreat by “the world’s greatest military,” leaving the bungling American architects of the disaster free of any accountability for their manifest malfeasance, venality, and crimes. Hence:

      Another Catastrophic Success

      With their tails tucked proudly ‘tween their legs
      Advancing towards the exit march the dregs
      Of empire, whose retreat this question begs:
      No promised omelet, just the broken eggs?

      Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright 2011

      03/24/13 9:24 PM | Comment Link

    • Michael Murry said...

      12

      Speaking of the U.S. slinking out of Iraq, it looks like high-level U.S. government officials still have to slink back into Iraq whenever they want to personally demand that Iraq do whatever America tells Iraq to do. Like thieves in the night, we come and go in the dark. How edifying:

      http://bigstory.ap.org/article/kerry-arrives-iraq-unannounced-visit

      03/24/13 10:03 PM | Comment Link

    • john brown said...

      13

      Peter, May I share with you the piece I wrote in 2004:

      “They’re Supersizing the Baghdad Embassy. Big Mistake,” Washington Post

      http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A40423-2004Jul10.html

      Best wishes, John

      03/25/13 7:01 AM | Comment Link

    • John Poole said...

      14

      I was told that once you did your time in Iraq , Afghanistan or even Pakistan your next post would be granted regardless of the suitability. So DS would have callow agents putting in a year in Iraq doing nothing of course and then choosing Finland and getting it even though they did not speak Finnish or had any interest in things Nordic. They just thought the babes would be a little freer with their love in Helsinki. I wonder if the embassy will serve such a purpose in a year- a proving ground for loyalty to empire.

      03/25/13 3:32 PM | Comment Link

    • pitchfork said...

      15

      Even a Deathstar is susceptible to Perineal Abcess’s, some self induced by virtue of not wiping it’s collective ass. Massive injections of currency notwithstanding, the only immediate cure is lancing and draining, which in the case of Empire, would entail the total populace engaging in rejection of the 16th Amendment. While not foolproof, it would starve further spread of the disease to the Universe until such time the political body is thoroughly disinfected with War Crimes tribunals and anti-military biotics. Of course, once the abcess cavity has collapsed, healing requires the financial lancing remain open for drainage, which upon healing, results in scar tissue, which in the Iraq region, will be of massive Embassy scale.

      03/25/13 4:56 PM | Comment Link

    • pitchfork said...

      16

      ps, metaphorically speaking isn’t my best suit, but I think you get my drift.

      03/25/13 5:01 PM | Comment Link

    • vanya said...

      17

      I don’t understand this group. My friends and I would never work for the government because we understand the lies at its very foundation. This group of commenters is nothing but a bunch of hypocrites who worked for the government fully knowing its lies. Now you draw your pensions after careers serving lies. Shameful. Not even a bunch of “has-beens”, just a sad groups of “never-weres.” Let’s hope my generation is as cowardly as you all are and we have our revolution.

      03/25/13 11:03 PM | Comment Link

    • Michael Murry said...

      18

      vanya begins by saying… “I don’t understand this group.”

      The comments which follow confirm the truth of this observation.

      vanya concludes by praying: “Let’s hope my generation is as cowardly as you all are and we have our revolution.”

      Now anyone who would hope for cowardice in order to make a revolution clearly does not understand the first thing about revolution or the intestinal fortitude required of the revolutionaries who would make it.

      I have no quarrel with those who proceed upon the assumption that “all governments lie,” as I. F. Stone put it long ago; but I would like to know the age and gender of those who claim to speak for entire generations while criticizing whole other groups of people whose individual life experiences they do not in the least share or understand.

      03/26/13 3:48 AM | Comment Link

    • Lafcadio said...

      19

      PVB: I’m hearing that Charlene Lamb, formerly the incompetent at the heart of the Benghazi fiasco, is headed to Brussels (?) as DS representative to NATO.

      WTF?

      Also, Maura Harty had her first speaking engagement at the Department yesterday, where she lectured on “leadership.”

      03/26/13 10:06 AM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      20

      So Lamb wasn’t sacrificed? Rand Paul is really getting mad-cow now.

      03/26/13 12:04 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      21

      How stupid do they think we are? Oh, right. Americans can take a quantum of solace that they are not the dumbest people on earth. The Italians are:

      http://worldnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/03/26/17468473-italy-court-amanda-knox-to-be-retried-for-meredith-kercher-murder?lite

      03/26/13 12:08 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      22

      This just in – we are the dumbest people on the earth.

      The Alabama fan who poisoned the iconic Toomer’s Corner oak trees at rival Auburn has been sentenced to three years in prison.

      USA, USA, USA

      03/26/13 12:50 PM | Comment Link

    • Kyzl Orda said...

      23

      Dear Uncle Vanya,

      You poignantly write:

      “Let’s hope my generation is as cowardly as you all are and we have our revolution.”

      There is no doubt some in your generation are MORE cowardly and those of us waiting for a real revolution or sincere reforms, well, it must have taken a wrong turn because it is late getting here. If you have intimate connections with the revolution, please tell it to hurry up; it’s not polite to keep people waiting. Hopefully it is not the Rumsfeld kind of revolution; messy freedoms seem to only deepen the pockets of those who ‘spark’ the changes and maybe change a few walnut shells about.

      How can a revolution, or just as vital, reforms, ever occur if a person criticizes those people who had integrity and backbone to raise legitimate concerns about something going seriously wrong? Do you prefer people just keep quiet about what needs to be fixed or either go along with what’s going wrong? How is keeping quiet going to bring about change?

      May I remind you of some similar example? People had knowledge IN the former Soviet Union the situation worsened before the collapse. Just before the former USSR collapsed, there were bank panics and monies disappeared from these banks, so most most people could not draw down their savings. Banks then collapsed and people were impoverished; some were lucky they had bread and tea for a year to subsist on. People knew something seriously wrong was taking place, no one really acted in a proper way to remedy the situation. Soon after the system collapsed. People did not have the ‘net then like today, this is true. But there were newspapers and tv yes? People could organize, yes?

      Some of us don’t want things to collapse to this point, so please humour us when people talk about matters our somewhat-official-media does not always address or is not privy to, not having connections to what is really going on deeper down in the system. You cannot expect a revolution or reforms to happen when people dont know the source of what is needing change??

      Meanwhile, motivate your generation and keep in mind reform should be as widespread as possible, not just affect the pockets of a limited few.

      03/26/13 1:11 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      24

      The view from Uncle Vanya’s Glass House:

      Dear Vanya,

      As a member of that “career pension” class you speak of, assuming you are a taxpayer of the dumbest country on earth, I want to thank you as you fill out your federal tax return. Sleep well knowing your taxes help to pay for that Baghdad white elephant too.

      I’ll be brief. The issue here is not whether Uncle Vanya is right that we are hypocrites for working for the dumbest country on earth – we are.

      [winks at PVB]

      But you can’t hold US responsible for the behavior of a few, sick twisted Dicks. For if you do, then shouldn’t we blame the whole government? And if the whole government is guilty, then isn’t this an indictment of every American in general? I put it to you, Uncle Vanya – isn’t this an indictment of our entire American society? Well, you can do whatever you want to us, but we’re not going to sit here and listen to you badmouth the United States of America. Gentlemen!

      [Leads the WMW posters out, all humming the Star-Spangled Banner]

      PS – By my calculation, my service to this dumb-ass country saved it over a trillion dollars by eliminating a real terrorist organization – not some guys LOST in the desert. So I think I deserve a raise.

      03/26/13 1:53 PM | Comment Link

    • meloveconsullongtime said...

      25

      “Vanya” is a Russian nickname for Ivan. Of course it could be a pseudonym, however some of the idiosyncracies and minor errors in his comment are consistent with those typical of university-educated Russian youths writing in English. In his case the style is more revealing than the slight errors.

      Similarly situated Chinese youths are paid half of one RMB per comment they write on blogs of perceived interest to their country’s propagandists. They’re nicknamed “Fifty-Centers”, although .50 RMB is around one US Dime per comment. I don’t know the going rate in Russia, although presumably there’s a sliding scale depending on how many murders one’s relatives have committed.

      03/26/13 2:05 PM | Comment Link

    • meloveconsullongtime said...

      26

      Further re my above assessment of “Vanya”, here’s why he does not sound at all like an American youth (of ANY level of education, not Ivy League, not state U, not working class, no class of American youth at all) yet DOES sound like a Russian youth although I’m less certain about that than about his being non-American:

      “I don’t understand this group. My friends and I would never work for the government because we understand the lies at its very foundation.”

      Despite their almost universal habits of group-think, American youths of today almost never refer to “my friends and I” as any kind of ideological grouping. Furthermore they almost never refer to ANY group as, well, a “group”.

      “This group of commenters is nothing but a bunch of hypocrites who worked for the government fully knowing its lies. Now you draw your pensions after careers serving lies.”

      The rhetorical legacy of Marxist-Leninism endures in Russian education to this day. “Hypocrisy”, “false consciousness”, etc.

      “Shameful.”

      Very untypical for American youths to use that word. Even less typical for American “revolutionary” youths to use it.

      “Not even a bunch of…”

      Omission of the personal pronoun “You’re” is not typical of Americans, who DO often omit the pronoun “I”, but seldom omit “You” especially when being accusatory. S/he’s trying to sound American but has not been sufficiently trained.

      “…just a sad groups of “never-weres.”

      Typically Russian error in confusing the final plural “never weres” with the singular form of “A sad group”. The Russian langauge does not have definited or indefinite articles, thus Russians writing in English usually make such mistakes.

      “…and we have our revolution.”

      A typically Russian mistake in tense. And none of his mistakes are typically American ones.

      So I’d guess around a 60 percent chance that Vanya is Russian, but I’m 99 percent certain he’s not American.

      03/26/13 2:33 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      27

      If true, PVB should write a Russian translation of his blog – can’t hurt the book sales. It should be titled “HorrorShow.”

      03/26/13 3:04 PM | Comment Link

    • pitchfork said...

      28

      Dear Uncle Vanya

      How you are today? Fine I am, but not so fine with mine governmental. I’m seem to be disillusion with process vote. Did you Presidental vote? You did if, which election was it you choose? I choosed noon of they. All are crupt. All they lie. So I choose vote to never more any. Might some comsider me un-patric, but so what new else is it? Well, I work have now. Run late work at office govermental. I no, I no, hippocrat am I . Becaus just like to eat, never and hope for unemploy to scared when I old. So, you please hate me note. I’m still relative and hate politcle liers. But pay me lots to not pay tension to they’re own hippocrissy. Running now. Later talk you too with lot’s love of you. Be happy good all.

      your relative hippycrattycle

      03/26/13 5:07 PM | Comment Link

    • pitchfork said...

      29

      Hey, all you hippocrats, don’t you get tired of your retirement mony? I say fook it. Send it back. That’ll teach em, wright? Then be you more no hippo crat.And btw, all your commenting about DoS fail ain’t helping either. I mean, it keeps me distracting from real DoS thef..er..videos. Funny they are. I like funny. You funny too. But truth isn’t big deal it used to bee. Besides, I get mine all from Obuma DoS Ministry of Truth. Kool doublespeak aid. Special from Memory Hole. Make me proud to be..er..what am I?..oh yea.. Citizentax payer. Never confuse with Citzentax denigher. Got to quiet be though, my Smartphone is listening. So is my refredgorator. Sit in dark so SmartTV don see me righting. Well, I close now. Hurry must to MOT confession meet. I think they no I look at mine dick and cry from know sex.
      Torture for dollars make me cry too. My neighrob might turm ne in for righting anti-DoS stuff though. yOu bee carfull too. Know telling whom watch you. Special varga.

      03/26/13 5:34 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      30

      Why you so tough on Vanya, Pitch? There are lots of friendly Russian women on the Web who would love to get their hands on my BIG … government pension.

      03/26/13 5:43 PM | Comment Link

    • pitchfork said...

      31

      er…special citizentax payer vanya. me bad citizentax denigh.

      03/26/13 5:44 PM | Comment Link

    • pitchfork said...

      32

      @Rich

      BWHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! big notwithstanding..leaving time for other BIG benifit too. 🙂

      03/26/13 5:46 PM | Comment Link

    • pitchfork said...

      33

      Dear Uncle/Aunt vanya,

      pleese forgive bad attitude. Sorry pleese. I know have manners. Welcome to DoS Fail site. Feel free to get to know pensions. Might available be good four you be hear. Special BIG ones. Make hippocrat feel good 2 ..4 you. hahahaha. Special if u have big tits ..er..if u aunt. hahahaha. Joking all side, u make special effort to show up hear, and make hippocrat pension feel bad. Bah! They no. They sea. They careful to note make any waves 2 big. Might be bad for whistleblowr not. Take pension waway. Not good feeling for pension person who worked hard and old is too much. So pleeese be nice 2 pension. It make you feel happy 2, hippocrat yourself nowithstanding.

      03/26/13 6:01 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      34

      Not we get too far from topic of day, but those pinheads at State are still living in the past where the truth is a pain in the ass:

      http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2013/03/26/186955/keystone-public-comments-wont.html

      03/26/13 8:20 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...

      35

      Vanya should appreciate our dark humor. To be a Bore-is-bad-enough. Hey, watch me pull a WMD out of Cheney’s ass.

      03/29/13 12:37 PM | Comment Link

    • Cynthia Allaire said...

      36

      I remember hearing much of the US embassy in Iraq was built by laborers who’d had their passport confiscated and were regularly cheated of their wages. They were housed in truck trailers and supplied with little if any safety equipment.

      03/30/13 12:37 PM | Comment Link

    • wemeantwell said...

      37

      Indeed Cynthia. The Baghdad Embassy was built mostly by a Kuwaiti contracting firm, who treated its third world workers poorly. The U.S. absolved itself of responsibility, citing the contractor.

      FYI, the US Capitol building in Washington was built with pre-civil war slave labor.

      03/30/13 1:54 PM | Comment Link

    • Cynthia Allaire said...

      38

      Thanks for your reply, Wemeantwell – Peter Van Buren. I was aware that slave labor built buildings in Washington DC in addition to the Capitol and White House, and that the slave owners rented out the slaves for the purpose with many of the slaves being skilled craftsmen. Thanks very much for blowing the whistle on the State Department’s malfeasance and duplicity.

      03/31/13 9:52 PM | Comment Link

    • 2003 Invasion of Iraq – The ‘commemorative’ round-up | Roderick's Journal said...

      39

      […] In the meantime, from author and former US State Department employee Peter Van Buren: the World’s. Largest. Embassy. Ever. will soon stand largely empty. […]

      04/8/13 9:46 AM | Comment Link

    • Tim said...

      40

      The embassy has to empty…..otherwise they wouldn’t be able to move the “new” UN headquarters there!

      05/11/13 11:08 AM | Comment Link

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