Building an Embassy Fit for an
by Adil E. Shamoo, The Baltimore
www.alternet.org, March 22, 2007
The United States is building a massive
embassy complex in the heart of Baghdad that is already becoming
a symbol of America's imperial ambitions in the Middle East.
The headline reads: "Thousands of
angry Iraqis pillage billion-dollar U.S. Embassy in Baghdad."
The article details the ransacking of the grandiose American Embassy
by Iraqi mobs.
This is the story I expect to read one
day within the next decade.
In the 1950s, when I was in high school
in Baghdad, my friends and I admired the technological advances
of America and the West. But we resented the colonial tendencies
of the West (especially, at the time, those of the British). Many
demonstrations were held in front of the British and American
embassies. The Iraqis are a proud people, and they resented foreigners
meddling in their affairs. And the British were, in reality, running
the country through a puppet regime.
You may call it false pride; you may call
it a preoccupation with dignity; or you may simply call it an
honest concern about sovereignty. In any case, this is what the
culture of the region dictates.
So, with this in mind, why has Washington
never taken the cultural context of the Iraqis into consideration?
Instead, Congress has appropriated nearly $1 billion to build
the largest embassy in the world. A significant portion of that
money is for security infrastructure. This future "fortress"
is housed in Saddam Hussein's former palace -- providing more
bad symbolism to the Iraqis.
Why are we building such a mammoth embassy
in the heart of Baghdad? The embassy complex is on 104 acres,
with 21 buildings and facilities. It will eventually house a U.S.
staff of 5,000. According to a recent report in the Washington
Post, it has more than twice the staff and 20 times the budget
of our Beijing embassy. The embassy will surpass all others in
terms of size and staffing.
One would think that we would be more
clever than that in camouflaging our occupation. Are we to believe
that Iraqis will not take notice of this massive complex in the
heart of Baghdad?
We will be attempting to legitimize our
presence with a "negotiated" agreement with the government
of Iraq. If that happens, the people of Iraq will know that their
elected government no longer is representing them but rather has
become another puppet government. More Iraqis will become radicalized
and join foes of the government.
American forces left Saudi Arabia in order
to reduce hostilities toward us and to prevent further recruitment
by groups opposing the United States and the Saudi royal family.
Why would our officials think that the same will not happen in
The Roman Empire, which (depending on
your definition) lasted from 1,000 to 1,500 years, was the longest-lasting
empire in history. Empires are destined to decline. Despite our
intentions to stay in Iraq for a long time, Iraqis will not allow
their country to be an extension of the American empire.
Adil E. Shamoo, born and raised in Baghdad,
is a professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
He is a contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus.