Thursday, May 04, 2006

George W's Palace; no puzzle here

The self-serving Bush administration manages to indulge itself, even in the turmoil in Iraq. With all the tales of bungled reconstruction efforts in that country, one project manages to gloriously rise from the rubble: the US Embassy in Baghdad, known to the locals as "George W's Palace."
The question puzzles and enrages a city: how is it that the Americans cannot keep the electricity running in Baghdad for more than a couple of hours a day, yet still manage to build themselves the biggest embassy on Earth?

Irritation grows as residents deprived of air-conditioning and running water three years after the US-led invasion watch the massive US Embassy they call “George W’s palace” rising from the banks of the Tigris.

In the pavement cafés, people moan that the structure is bigger than anything Saddam Hussein built. They are not impressed by the architects’ claims that the diplomatic outpost will be visible from space and cover an area that is larger than the Vatican city and big enough to accommodate four Millennium Domes. They are more interested in knowing whether the US State Department paid for the prime real estate or simply took it.

While families in the capital suffer electricity cuts, queue all day to fuel their cars and wait for water pipes to be connected, the US mission due to open in June next year will have its own power and water plants to cater for a population the size of a small town.
The building effort, like so many others, has left locals again angry that mostly, if not only, foreign workers were employed in the construction of this monstrosity. Meanwhile, any number of other infrastructure projects meant to restore schools, hostipals and power plants are failing, behind schedule or have been left for dead after galling levels of incompetence and corruption drained contract funding dry.

The US Embassy project is a perfect metaphor, a small mirror on the larger reasons for the invasion of Iraq; the Bush administration did not invade Iraq to help Iraqis. They invaded Iraq to help themselves. And if the embassy project demonstrates anything, it is that the Bush administration and its plethora of well-heeled contractor friends are taking care of that task admirably.


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