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Special Reports Last Updated: Dec 6th, 2006 - 01:12:46

Bring the civilians home now!
By Nicolas J S Davies
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Dec 6, 2006, 01:10

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The United States is now locked in a debate over when and how to bring its troops home from Iraq. However, these military forces are only the tip of the spear that the U.S. government has plunged into the heart of the Arab world. The political debate has failed to address the disposition of the principal instrument for the lasting imposition of American interests on the government of Iraq: the largest �embassy� in the diplomatic history of the world, now rising over the banks of the Tigris.

In sharp contrast with the Orwellian �reconstruction� of Iraq, which is still destroying what is left of the infrastructure of the country, work on the new U.S. Embassy in Baghdad is on a 24-hour schedule, racing towards completion in mid-2007. The cost has been reported at anywhere from $592 million to over a billion dollars, and this does not include the value of the 104-acre piece of prime Baghdad real estate that it occupies. That was a generous gift from the not-so-sovereign government of Iraq!

To put this in perspective, this complex is 10 times the size of the second largest U.S. Embassy in the world in Beijing. It is about the same size as the Vatican and six times that of the United Nations Headquarters in New York. It incorporates 21 structures, including two main office buildings, six apartment buildings and its own water supply, power plant and sewage treatment facility.

This is not to mention the recreation center, gym, swimming pool, beauty parlor and American Club that are needed to induce State Department employees and other Americans to go and work in a hostile country. And, in case you�re worried about the danger to a relative who might be lured to go and work there, it is heavily guarded and surrounded by 15-foot thick blast walls. Should security conditions continue to deteriorate, as seems likely, the U.S. Air Force can deal with any problems outside the walls of the fortress with only minimal risk to embassy personnel on the inside.

The reason you haven�t seen any pictures of this eighth wonder of the world is that you�re not allowed to. Requests for access by journalists or permission to take photographs have been uniformly refused, and detailed questions to the State Department about the embassy have gone unanswered. American construction supervisors for the Kuwaiti main contractor have reported that the 2,500 construction workers from India, Pakistan and the Philippines are treated very badly, including atrocious working and living conditions, beatings for poor performance and persistent complaints that they are �treated like animals.�

The Associated Press reported in April 2006 that this headquarters for the American enterprise in Iraq will have a staff of about 5,500, compared with about 3,000 State Department employees currently working at the Republican Palace. Exactly who these people are and what they do, and why it takes so many of them, is not clear. In November 2003, Congress appears to have funneled an additional $1 billion per year to the C.I.A. (hidden in an Air Force classified program) for a massive expansion of secret operations in Iraq, and it is a reasonable guess that the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad now includes the largest C.I.A. station in the world.

Steven Casteel, senior advisor to the Interior Ministry, and James Steele, counselor for Iraqi Security Forces to former Ambassador John Negroponte, have been linked to the establishment and training of Special Police Commando/Badr Brigade death squads and the orgy of �sectarian violence� tearing apart Sunni and Shiite communities in Baghdad. (See my article, �What is the U.S. Role in Iraq�s Dirty War?�)

The more central role of the embassy is obviously the influence that its army of U.S. advisors and counselors brings to bear on the Iraqi puppet government. If Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his colleagues are the puppets and U.S. policymakers are the masters, the embassy personnel are the strings by which day-to-day control is exercised. Many of the recent political crises in Iraq have been triggered by resentment of the dominant U.S. role in the affairs of the nominally sovereign government, including the current suspension of participation in the government by eight Sadrist and Sunni cabinet ministers and the withdrawal of the Fadhila (Justice) Party from the United Iraqi Alliance in May 2006.

Responding to the AP�s questions about the embassy, a State Department spokesman would only say, �It�s somewhat self-evident that there�s going to be a fairly sizable commitment to Iraq by the U.S. government in all forms for several years.� A statement from the International Crisis Group was more direct: �The presence of a massive U.S. Embassy -- by far the largest in the world -- co-located in the Green Zone with the Iraqi government is seen by Iraqis as an indication of who actually exercises power in their country.�

The question whether this headquarters of the American enterprise in Iraq should be supported by 70,000, 150,000 or 200,000 troops around the country, or none, is not nearly as significant as the question of its own existence and massive scale. It is not a reduction in the number of troops that will end the American neo-colonial project in Iraq, but only the reduction of the size and staff of the U.S. Embassy to what is required to maintain normal diplomatic relations with an important, independent Middle Eastern country.

So, for Americans taking part in protests against the war, perhaps the most important message we can send to the U.S. government is not just �Bring the troops home!,� but also, �Bring the civilians home . . . now!�

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