The new United States Embassy. One of the only projects
in Iraq being completed within budget and on time.
Picture Credit:Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images
Since 2003, the US has been building long-term military bases in Iraq and a mammoth embassy complex in Baghdad. Although Washington refuses to acknowledge that the bases are permanent, the billions of dollars spent on these projects suggest that the US sees Iraq as a client state. While most Iraqis have no access to basic necessities, the bases are provided with their own water and electricity, restaurants, swimming pools and movie theaters. The huge US embassy covers an area larger than Vatican City and Iraqis see it as an "arrogant" enterprise that aims to show US "superiority." But as much as US officials in Iraq seek to cocoon themselves from the violence, the "heavy fortified" Green Zone, which houses the embassy complex, has come under an increasing number of deadly attacks. The US Congress opposes the base project and has rejected the spending of funds for this purpose, even while construction continues.
The United States has been building several very large, expensive and long-lasting military bases in Iraq as well as an enormous new embassy complex in Baghdad . These construction projects are very controversial. Iraqis overwhelmingly oppose the bases, as numerous opinion polls have shown, and the US Congress has also rejected spending of funds on "permanent" bases in Iraq . The bases and the exceptionally large embassy are widely seen as symbols that the US plans to wield enormous military and political influence in Iraq for many years to come.
283 Bases, 170,000 Pieces of Equipment, 140,000 Troops, and an Army of Mercenaries: The Logistical Nightmare in Iraq (March 30, 2009)
The US will be the only military power left in Iraq as its last three remaining partners, Australia, Romania and the UK, have agreed to withdraw troops by July 2009. The author notes that the US claims its continued operations in Iraq are for "reconstruction" purposes. But the US fails to provide safe water infrastructure, which according to a World Bank estimate would cost USD$14.4 billion. Instead the US invests in 283 military bases, 170,000 pieces of equipment, 140,000 troops and a total of USD$17.2 billion for stability reconstruction. (AlterNet)
The US has completed and opened its largest and most expensive embassy in the world in Baghdad. Costing US$592 million, the facility is capable of completely sustaining itself, equipped with its own water well and power generator. Despite comments from the Bush administration that no permanent bases would remain in Iraq, the magnitude and financial cost of this facility suggest otherwise. (Christian Science Monitor)
The US spends billions of dollars not only to build but also to upgrade its bases in Iraq, including adding fast food franchises and cinemas to the premises. According to this article, these US military bases will outlast the Bush administration and function as a key garrison in the Middle East for generations to come. Still, the media has left the story of these permanent bases widely untold and a staggering percentage of US citizens remain oblivious to what their tax dollars pay for in an occupied Iraq. (TomDispatch)
The US and the Iraqi government will sign a secret agreement to create a "permanent occupation" of Iraq, regardless of the result of the November 2008 US Presidential election. Under the bilateral pact, US troops would occupy over 50 permanent bases in Iraq, conduct military operations without consulting the Iraqi government, control Iraqi airspace, and enjoy immunity from Iraqi law. Although the Iraqi government has asked to delay the signing of the deal, President Bush hopes to secure Iraqi compliance before a potential change of administration in 2008. (Independent)
The Bush administration expands facilities at Camp Delta and the Al Kut Air Base, which lie 140 miles southeast of Baghdad and just 35 miles from the Iranian border. Costing around US$10 million, the updated "strategic overwatch" base will include a gym, dining facility, post office and food court. However, these military expansions should come as no surprise: "the camp's location near the Iranian border means the US military officers have had their eye on Camp Delta and the Al Kut Air Base for some time." (Washington Post)
According to this Christian Science Monitor article, the US embassy, a complex of 21 buildings on 104 acres, will open in May 2008. Surpassing the limitations for cost and completion, the US embassy exceeded the budget allotted for construction by US$140 million. A symbol of corruption, the magnitude of the world's largest embassy is "a reflection of the size of the designs [the occupying forces] have for Iraq and the Middle East."
According to this Guardian article, the Bush administration continues to block inquiries into the construction of the world's largest US embassy in Baghdad, previously scheduled for completion in mid-2007. Despite verifying the building as "substantially complete," the Oversight Committee in the House of Representatives found that the embassy suffers from basic flaws in its water, kitchen and fire alarm systems. Furthermore, two US State Department employees involved in the US embassy assignment are now under investigation for criminal conduct.
Congress wants an absolute guarantee that US "permanent military bases are not being planned or constructed in Iraq." The signing of the Declaration of Principles by President Bush and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, however, proves that the US intends to secure economic and military benefits through a continuing presence in Iraq. Congressman Bill Delahunt questioned the validity of the Declaration of Principles in a series of hearings and remains skeptical of the document's constitutional validity, since it bypassed legislative approval. (TruthOut)
Iraqi members of Parliament demanded a public referendum and a vote over a "long-term cooperation and friendship agreement with the US" in hopes of preventing the development of permanent US military bases in Iraq. Seeking to attain independence for Iraq, the MPs further called for the government to turn down any requests for permanent bases. The Iraqi MPs face opposition not only from the Bush administration, but also from the pro-US factions within the government, which claim that the new agreement would help Iraq "regain its independence and sovereignty." (Mideast Wire)
The Bush administration and media emphasize the success and short-term nature of the surge strategy in Iraq. But an increase in suicide attacks, US casualties and deaths of cooperative Sunni leaders reflect an obvious failure. The Balad air-base remains the largest US military base in the world and one of the many permanent construction sites in Iraq, proving the US does not seek a temporary presence. Despite emphasizing self-governance and democracy in Iraq, the actions of the Bush administration reflect a separate goal: "the establishment of a fully-fledged American colony in the heart of the Arab and Islamic world." (openDemocracy)
The US Navy is constructing a military installation on one of two Iraqi petroleum-export platforms in the Persian Gulf. The Khwar Al Amaya oil terminal and the Al Basra oil terminal have the potential to load almost 2.4 percent of the world's daily oil needs. Commentators suggest the construction signals US intentions to establish long term bases in the region, with particular interest in protecting Iraq's oil industry. Some commentators suggest the installation will also allow the US to monitor Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps who are stationed near Khwar Al Amaya. (Wall Street Journal)
The US is planning a number of measures to stop the alleged flow of Iranian arms to Shiite militants in Iraq. The Pentagon will construct a base near the Iraqi-Iranian border, build fortified checkpoints on the highways from Iran to Baghdad and install X-ray machines and explosive detectors at the Iraq-Iran border crossing. Iran denies US allegations that it is supplying weapons to Shiite militants. However, Washington continues to maintain that Iran is interfering in Iraq. This has led to talk of a possible military strike against Iran. (Wall Street Journal)
The US House of Representatives passed a bill prohibiting "permanent bases" in Iraq. The bill represents symbolic opposition to the war, but does little to prevent the Bush administration from establishing long-term bases in the country. The bill only prevents the establishment of "permanent" bases, allowing the Pentagon to continue building long-term bases on the grounds that they are only "temporary." The bill does nothing to alter the perception in Iraq that even with a withdrawal of troops the US plans to stay in the country indefinitely. (Inter Press Service)
Some US planners warn that, "despite its brash scale and nearly $600-million cost," the massive US embassy complex under construction in Baghdad "may not be safe enough." A UN report states that in the last four months, more than 85 rocket and mortar strikes killed at least 16 people in the "heavily fortified" Green Zone. But even as the security situation deteriorates, construction of the complex progresses ahead of a September 2007 deadline for completion. (Los Angeles Times)
This Al Hayat piece succinctly reports that since the troop surge began in February 2007, the heavily fortified US embassy complex in the Green Zone has come under an increasing number of deadly attacks. Plans to step up security in the Green Zone - once considered an impenetrable "oasis" from the war - attest to the escalating violence in Iraq and to the massive failure of the surge strategy.
Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, mainstream media outlets reported very little on the multi-billion dollar construction of US military bases and the massive embassy in Baghdad, essentially ignoring evidence of a permanent US presence in the country. But recently, the media have begun to portray this long-term plan - the "Korea model" - as "breaking news." Describing US military interventions in other countries as "the American way of Empire," this TomDispatch article, however, argues that the Bush administration has long held such imperial ambitions.
Federal prosecutors working for the US Department of Justice are investigating allegations that the Kuwaiti contracting company in charge of building the US embassy in Baghdad has used forced laborers from Asia and West Africa. "The inquiry threatens to take the shine off one of the few US projects in Iraq that is being completed on time and within budget," notes the Telegraph.
The Bush administration is publicly proposing implementing a Korean model in Iraq, meaning that there would be a US presence on Iraqi soil for years to come. Both President George W. Bush and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates have made reference to Vietnam, claiming that US failure stemmed from a hasty withdrawal from the country. A motley of critics, including Donald L. Kerrick, a retired military general and Leslie Gelb, the former president of the Council of Foreign Relations, argue that Iraq and Korea are two very different countries. (New York Times)
This Washington Post article reveals that US officials and private contractors are trying to create an environment inside the Green Zone that closely resembles the US. Green Zone residents have access to fresh and processed US food, including Baskin Robbins ice cream, which is supplied by the KBR private contractor. The US government claims that security is the reason for importing all the food and outsourcing all the services, instead of consuming Iraqi products and stimulating the Iraqi economy. However, this has raised US expenditures in the Green Zone and according to Senate staffers, operating costs are now around US$1.2 billion a year.
One Building That's Been Built on Time and on Budget in Iraq: America's Fortress Embassy (May 21, 2007)
While the US has made little progress on most of the reconstruction projects in Iraq, the building of the Baghdad embassy complex is on schedule and will likely be finished by September 2007. The mammoth embassy will be the biggest and most expensive on earth and will accommodate 615 staff behind bomb-proof walls. However, the construction site has already suffered attacks from insurgents as it is seen by many Iraqis as a symbol of the occupation. According to Iraqi experts, the embassy "will become an enormous, heavily targeted white elephant." (Guardian)
This Washington Post article reveals that while Iraqis face innumerable hazards in Baghdad and have no access to basic necessities, the US military live in a completely different reality. Inside the Green Zone, the troops spend most of their free time shopping in the new military malls, which sell fancy imported products like motorcycles, jewelry and plasma televisions. Further, the Bush administration constructed food courts with foreign restaurants like Burger King in an attempt to recreate life in the US. However, this alienates US soldiers from the local reality and deepens the gap between them and Iraqis.
This Washington Post article points out that the US is building a huge embassy complex in Baghdad and that the US mission in Iraq is one of the largest foreign missions the US State Department has ever operated, with a staff of 1,000 employees. Some former State Department officials claim the mega-embassy is hindering reconstruction efforts. This huge complex is counterproductive as it has become a key target for violence. Further, many Iraqis see it as an arrogant enterprise, which aims to show US "superiority."
While most of Iraqis struggle to survive in chaotic Baghdad, US military personnel and private contractors living in the city face a completely different reality. Isolated within the borders of the Green Zone, they live in luxurious villas and have access to modern facilities, such as restaurants, movie theaters, bars, clubs, a swimming-pool and gymnasiums. The Coalition Provisional Authority tried to construct an "American way of life" inside the Green Zone, importing US products and outsourcing services to US companies like Halliburton. This has further distanced US staff from the local reality and deepened the differences between them and Iraqis. (Guardian)
This Al Hayat piece analyzes Iraqi President Jalal Talabani's recent calls for more permanent US military bases in Iraq. Critics of Talabani claim that his statements deliberately aim to undermine Iraqi sovereignty and divide Iraq's government. Iraqi MPs say the demands are an attempt to worsen the security situation and therefore prolong US presence in their country. As the author points out, the Iraqi president has no authority over the establishment of permanent US military bases, and that Iraq's elected parliament should decide on such matters, as mandated in the Iraqi constitution.
While construction begins on the new US$600 million US embassy in Baghdad, local residents await basic services such as electricity and running water which still do not function in their city. As Paul McGeough reveals, the inequalities in rebuilding Iraq are evident in the extravagance of the embassy building and the neglect of vital infrastructure for Baghdad's citizens. (Age)
This article from the Times, London reports that while Iraqis are deprived of electricity and running water, the US is building the biggest embassy of the world in Baghdad. This huge complex, which covers an area bigger than the Vatican City, will have an Olympic-size swimming pool, a state-of-the-art gymnasium, tennis courts, a cinema and restaurants and will cost US$592 million. The scale of the project suggests the US has long-term ambitions in Iraq and it is the actual ruling power in the country.
The US embassy complex in Baghdad will be the largest in the world when its construction is complete, totaling 21 buildings on 104 acres. Rivaling the Vatican City in size, the US embassy will host its own defense force, water supply, and electricity plant. The massive complex, which is being built in the Green Zone near Iraqi government buildings, presents a clear indication "of who actually exercises power" in Iraq. (Associated Press)
The US military has been constructing several large bases the size of small towns with restaurants, car dealerships, and traffic regulations. Despite building new barracks, runways, and air-traffic control systems, US officials have avoided the term "permanent bases" when discussing the status of these facilities. Whether the bases are "long-term," "enduring" or permanent, however, the US continues to pour concrete and spend millions of dollars on construction, leading many to believe the US has no intention of completely withdrawing from Iraq. (Associated Press)
US General John Abizaid announced that Washington may seek to maintain a long-term military presence in Iraq. Along with security concerns, Abizaid referenced Iraqi oil as a justification for permanent bases, noting that "the prosperity of [the US] and everybody else in the world depend[s]" on the "free flow of goods and resources" from Iraq. (Reuters)
Aside from token troop reductions, the US has not made any specific commitments to withdrawing from Iraq. Nonetheless, a complicit US media constantly talks about "hints" and "signs" of a US withdrawal. As this article from Tom Dispatch points out, the US media seems blind to the alarming signs of a permanent US occupation in Iraq, including ongoing construction of four highly sophisticated and expansive US military bases, complete with golf courses, football fields, movie theaters, and fast-food restaurant chains.
Senior UK Defense Ministry officials have indicated that the UK seeks to maintain a long-term presence in Iraq. Despite plans to begin withdrawing troops in 2006, Defense officials have acknowledged plans to relocate troops to a "non-urban location" in southern Iraq near Basra where British troops are stationed. According to one official, a "training facility" would be retained to house hundreds of British troops. (Scotsman)
The US occupation of Iraq has been compared to past US military campaigns in Vietnam and Japan. According to Sawsan Assaf of Baghdad University, South Korea provides a more appropriate parallel. As was the case in South Korea, Iraq has become politically and militarily dependent, allowing the US to operate and retain large military bases as part of its long-term geo-strategic interests, while advancing an "illusory" strategy of withdrawal. (Bitterlemons-international.org)
In both Baghdad and Washington, the meaning of withdrawal is "the elephant in the room." Most Iraqis, and a growing segment of the US public, want US forces to end the occupation and withdraw from Iraq. As Gordon Robison of Mideast Analysis points out, this discussion rarely addresses US plans to establish permanent bases, which the Bush administration refuses to rule out. In addition, President Jalal Talabani and the Kurdish faction have voiced support for permanent US bases, while their Shiite and Sunni counterparts strongly oppose Washington's furtive plans.
The establishment of permanent US bases in Iraq remains an ominous reality. Despite increasing calls for a US withdrawal from Iraq, President George Bush refuses to offer any sort of timetable or the guarantee that the US occupation will ever fully end. According to former US Senator Gary Hart, the "neoconservative magicians" have not run out of tricks, and they will continue to evade questions about permanent US bases in Iraq. (Huffington Post)