If you build it, they will
Cheney sez: Welcome to Baghdad. Now get to work.
Shanghaied to build to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. Working on the construction site without safety equipment — or even shoes. The story of the alleged kidnapping of Filipino workers who thought they were going to Dubai but instead were flown to Baghdad to help build the $500 million embassy is stunning.
But it's likely to be all for naught. Congressman Henry Waxman should haul Don Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney before the House Oversight Committee to explain.
Waxman exposed the embassy scandal on July 26, but a full-fledged investigation of this particular Cheney regime scandal probably won't happen. And even if it does, the final result of our having built this super-expensive supermax embassy will be reminiscent of Saigon in 1975: civilians fleeing a U.S. embassy by helicopter.
In case you've forgotten about the little-publicized new embassy in Baghdad, it's already officially insane. As I noted in September 2004:
We're going to be spending $1 billion a year just to maintain our beautiful new embassy in Baghdad, and it's going to have a full-time psychiatrist for in-house counseling and drugs for our own people.
Great. Americans already had to have counseling just to work in the old embassy in Baghdad. Because the Green Zone gets bombed so often, the new one will be much more of a prison. Think of the shrink work that will entail. Just building it can cause one to freak out. Here's yesterday's story in the Times (U.K.):
An American civilian contractor has described scenes of panic and hysteria last year as Filipino construction workers were told that they were on a plane bound for Baghdad rather than Dubai.
Passengers jumped out of their seats screaming in protest until a gun-toting air steward ordered them to sit down, claimed Rory Mayberry, an emergency medical technician travelling on the same flight.
Mayberry said the men were "kidnapped" to build America's luxurious new embassy in Baghdad's green zone. He gave his account to a congressional committee investigating allegations of fraud at what will be America's largest diplomatic mission.
Mayberry's full statement, courtesy of the hard work of Waxman's House Oversight Committee, is riveting. Here's an excerpt:
As I found out later, these men thought they had signed up to work in Dubai hotels. One fellow I met told me in broken English that he was excited to start his new job as a telephone repair man. They had no idea they were being sent to do construction work on the U.S. Embassy.
Well, Mr. Chairman, when the airplane took off and the captain announced that we were headed for Baghdad, all you-know-what broke loose on that airplane. People started shouting. It wasn't until a security guy working for [contractor] First Kuwaiti waved an MP-5 in the air that people settled down. They realized they had no other choice but to go to Baghdad.
Let me spell it out clearly. I believe these men were kidnapped by First Kuwaiti to work on the U.S. Embassy. They had no passports
When the airplane touched down at Baghdad airport, they where loaded into buses and taken away. Later, I found that they were being smuggled into the Green Zone. They had no IDs, no passports, nothing. They were being smuggled in passed U.S. security forces. I had a trailer all to myself in the Green Zone. But they were packed 25 to 30 in a trailer, and every day they went
out to work on the construction of the embassy without the proper safety equipment.
How's that construction going? You need a telephoto lens (see the AP pic below).
You won't see photos of it on the websites of the White House or the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
But Martin Kemp of the Guardian (U.K.) wrote in May:
The new American Embassy in Baghdad scowls at the world with a neo-Stalinist frown. It occupies some 104 acres next to the Tigris, assigned to the USA by the nominal Iraqi government in 2004. A hideous modernist bunker, devoid even of the residual classical motifs favoured for totalitarian architecture, it speaks bleakly of the USA's position in the world. …
The new Baghdad embassy can hardly be dignified as "architecture". It is an insult to a city of great historic visual culture. Its walls are punctuated by soulless eyes. Its ears are deaf to the world. It is a monster.
Whoever will rule Iraq, or that part of Iraq, or that strip of land in Baghdead, will be able to use the embassy as a supermax because it already is one.