With all my other rants on Iraq, the hubris of this is incredible. Look at your new US embassy.
Baghdad is a city of ruins - of burnt-out homes, of shops wrecked by suicide bombs, of the crumbling shells of Saddam-era palaces and ministries destroyed by smart bombs in the US invasion of 2003.
There is one notable exception. It is probably the only big new building project in the capital in the past four years. It is the new US Embassy on the west bank of the Tigris which the contractors will transfer to the US Government officially today.
I'm sure that the fine people of Baghdad won't mind.
This is the largest US Embassy built – roughly the size of Vatican City – and at $600 million (£300 million) the most expensive. At a time when millions of Baghdadis outside the green zone receive only a couple of hours of water and electricity daily, Iraqis observe that this project has been completed on time, on budget, and is entirely self-sufficient with its own fresh water supply, electricity plant, sewage treatment facility, maintenance shops and warehouses.
“People are very angry,” said one young Iraqi. “It’s for the Americans, not for the Iraqis.”
There are two office blocks that will house 1,000 staff, six apartment blocks containing 619 one-bedroom units, spacious residences for the Ambassador and his deputy, a school, shopping centre and food court; a swimming pool, tennis and basketball courts; a gymnasium, cinema, beauty salon and social club.
The neo-cons seem to believe that we can somehow turn Iraq into a pro-American democracy, a modern day colony state.
The embassy was built with imported labour. This year a congressional committee heard charges that First Kuwaiti General Trading & Contracting told a planeload of Filipino construction workers that they were flying to Dubai to build hotels and did not admit that they were heading for Baghdad until they had taken off, forcing them, in effect, to work there.
Critics also portray the new compound as a symbol of American isolation and occupation, and a sign of how little confidence the US has in Iraq’s future. Jane Loeffler, an expert on the architecture of embassies, writes in the latest edition of Foreign Policy magazine: “Encircled by blast walls and cut off from the rest of Baghdad, it stands out like the crusader castles that once dominated the Middle East.”
Embassies were traditionally designed to promote interaction with their host communities, she says, but not this one. “Although US diplomats will technically be ‘in Iraq’ they may as well be in Washington.
“Although the US Government regularly proclaims confidence in Iraq’s democratic future, the US has designed an embassy that conveys no confidence in Iraqis and little hope for their future. Instead, the US has built a fortress capable of sustaining a massive, long-term presence in the face of continued violence.”
Have we done anything right in Iraq? This sends a simple signal to the Iraqi people: "we're staying". It is the absolute worst message we could possibly send.