In Iraq, US is digging in for the long haul
By Linda S. Heard
Online Journal Contributing Writer
May 8, 2008, 00:10
It doesn�t look as though Americans in Iraq are going
anywhere anytime soon. Officially Iraq�s sovereignty was handed back to its
rightful owners years ago, which means the occupiers remain in the country at
the invitation of the Iraqi government. Okay try not to laugh!
Fact is the occupying power is digging in for the long haul
and there is little the Iraqi leadership can do about it even if it wanted to.
When challenged about their supersized, super fortified embassy sprouting on
prime land -- which one must assume was sequestered rather than gifted by Iraq
-- and their mushrooming permanent military bases, the Americans cite the
postwar German/Japan models.
In other words, they are saying the victor has a perfect
right to hang around the necks of the vanquished in perpetuity.
In this case, I don�t blame Arab governments for refusing to
send their diplomatic personnel into the jaws of danger merely to hobnob with
Iraqi officials for the purposes of affording them legitimacy when, as we know,
the real decision-making takes place in Washington.
It could be that the Pentagon�s new plan to transform the
so-called Green Zone into a walled-off oasis of 21st century Western luxury is,
in part, an attempt to lure reluctant ambassadors into lending credibility to
the game with their mere presence and encourage their own diplomats to put
their lives on the line.
According to the Associated Press, the US has a $5 billion,
�five-year development �dream list� to create a zone of influence around the
new $700 million embassy to serve as a kind of high-end buffer for the
compound." In fact, it is now likely to cost more than $1.3 billion as we
know from an emergency supplemental funding request delivered by President Bush
to Congress in 2006.
The article quotes US Navy Capt. Thomas Karnowski, whose
team conceived the plan, as explaining, �When you have $1 billion hanging out
there and 1,000 employees lying around, you kind of want to know who your
neighbors are. You want to influence what happens in your neighborhood over
Unfortunately, we still don�t know the purpose of such a
gigantic embassy, dubbed �Fortress America,� that will house 1,000 permanent staff,
a 3,000-strong security contingent and a substantial Marine detachment over 104
acres. To give this context, it is six times bigger than the UN headquarters in
But we do know that it will contain its own power station,
water and sewage treatment facilities, school, office buildings, apartment
blocks, clubhouse, swimming pools and a cinema.
So how did the US take possession of 104 acres back of prime
real estate smack in the center of the capital? Surely, the Iraqi government
lodged its objections. Certainly the British would be up in arms if, say, the
French decided Hyde Park would be a suitable site for its diplomatic mission
and it�s doubtful the Egyptians would acquiesce to any extension of the US
Embassy that would demolish their historical upmarket Garden City district.
Yet, according to reports, an interim Iraqi government
actually transferred these 104 acres to the US in 2004 lock, stock and barrel.
This is scandalous. No government would willingly sign away their people�s
assets, let alone to an enemy responsible for the deaths of hundreds of
thousands of its innocent citizens. This is just another indication that the
Iraqi leadership is not in charge.
Returning to the Green Zone, Capt. Karnowski envisages
shopping malls, luxury condos, state-of-the-art hospitals, an amusement park
and five-star hotels featuring in the blueprint.
The Marriott is already signed up, he says, although
Marriott International is reluctant to confirm or deny this claim.
Are we, therefore, to construe that the Green Zone is slated
to become a sort of embassy extension where Americans, elite Iraqis and
visiting dignitaries can pretend they�re in Manhattan, at least when they are
not actively ducking rockets and mortars?
It�s surely bad enough that the Americans effectively
destroyed Iraqi culture during the 2003 invasion when they stood back as
museums were looted and libraries ransacked. Are they now going to be allowed
to superimpose their own �culture� onto Iraq�s very heart?
Moreover, there is something horribly elitist about this
plan. What about the rest of Baghdad that is still suffering from power
outrages and still resembles a war zone in parts?
Rather than construct multistoried malls for the benefit of
diplomats and generals, the US should be working to restore the power/water
treatment plants and reequip the hospitals it destroyed.
Take a good look at the ugly face of 21st century
imperialism, folks, for this is surely it. Whether they�ve got 5,000 troops in
country or 150,000, the Americans have moved into Iraq and they�ll stay there
as long as they can.
S. Heard is a British specialist writer on Middle East affairs. She welcomes
feedback and can be contacted by email at email@example.com.
Copyright © 1998-2007 Online Journal
Email Online Journal Editor