The U.S. Embassy in Iraq, completed several weeks ago, is the largest, most lavish American embassy anywhere in the world. This shining oasis takes up 104 acres, almost as much space as all of the Vatican City in Rome.
It has two major office buildings, more than 600 apartments, a swimming pool, gyms, a movie theater, a food court, a banquet hall, a beauty salon, its own electrical plant and water system, air conditioning, a car-repair shop and even a night club. This sprawling complex, surrounded by 15 foot walls and guarded by U.S. Marines, will have 8,000 people working in it.
Like every U.S. construction effort in Iraq, the embassy went over schedule and over budget. Built by an affiliate of Halliburton, this complex is by far the largest embassy in the world. More than 3,500 architects, engineers and laborers spent nearly $600 million on the compound.
Because of security reasons, hardly any of the workers were Iraqis. The jobs went instead to Kuwaitis and other Arabs who had to be trucked in from abroad and housed in special barracks at great expense. However, this didn't buy the U.S. the security that we wanted because one of the construction companies put designs for the embassy on its Web site. Although the pages were quickly yanked off, they are still circulating on the Internet. So the embassy is probably not all that safe.
Since this embassy overlooks the chambers housing the Iraq government in Baghdad, it will be viewed by the people as a fortress of occupation and a reminder of who really holds the reins of power in their country.