The Macro Embassy As A Microcosm

The sprawling new American embassy complex in Baghdad will cost at least half a billion dollars to build, probably much more. It will be by far our largest foreign service installation in the world, practically a self-contained town with its own power, sanitation, dining and housing. The size reflects the security situation, of course, but it also reflects the strategic importance that war planners put on our presence in Iraq. It’s not an accident that our Iraq outpost sits conveniently between Syria and Iran.

Now if you expect invading Iraq to end badly then the embassy complex probably strikes you as hood ornament on a monstrously expensive lemon of a project. If you supported Iraq and think that this mission might still work the embassy project is much, much more important. Although not as critical as, say, resolving Kirkuk or settling the beefs between Sadr, the Sunni councils and the central government, at the very least the center of our presence in the country ought to be habitable.

One would expect Republicans to take it worse than anybody that managers of the embassy project handed the project to a firm that never did embassy work before, mismanaged the proceedings and then buried evidence of major safety issues. They won’t, of course. A central theme of modern Republicanism is that appearing to do something is more important than doing it well. The mentality isn’t limited to the embassy, of course. It pervades contracting throughout Iraq. When Stuart Bowen, the Inpector General responsible for Iraq, uncovered evidence that America’s contracting money was largely disappearing down a fraud hole the White House reponded by trying to sack him. If any right-wing voices complained about that I don’t remember hearing about it.

Take abstinence only education. Studies have variously showed that it either doesn’t work or causes more underage sex than doing nothing, yet ordering teens to cross their legs until marriage remains a central point of the White House’s education agenda. The disparity between goals and results has gotten so stark that some states have given up federal funds so that they can implement sex ed programs that work. Hurricane FEMA. Setting aside programs that are meant to contradict their official purpose, which include mine safety, climate science and environmental protection, more often than not programs which Republicans want to work still collapse from miserable implementation.

Sure, as a guy who shares almost none of their agenda I won’t be supporting modern Republicanism any time soon. The billion dollar question is why anybody would.






38 replies
  1. 1
    Jake says:

    Nitpick

    If you supported [the war in] Iraq and

    /Nitpick

    The billion dollar question is why anybody would.

    You answered your own question above:

    A central theme of modern Republicanism is that appearing to do something is more important than doing it well.

    Bread & Circuses, bitches! You don’t actually have to be a fighter pilot, you can just dress up like one. You don’t actually have to enlist in the military to protect America, you can sit at your keyboard and cheer for Chimpy McFlightsuit. Hell, you don’t even have to keep your hands out of another guy’s pants. You can just support legislation that would bar other guys from sticking their hands in there. Let’s hear it for style without substance!

  2. 2

    These people could fuck up a cast iron anvil with a rubber mallet.

  3. 3
    rachel says:

    I doubt this is going to help in the effort to persuade career foreign service officers to go to Iraq.

  4. 4
    Mike says:

    Money spent on social programs only encourages poor people to be poor. And the ungrateful bastard still vote Democratic. Money paid to contractors works much better.

  5. 5
    scarshapedstar says:

    The billion dollar question is why anybody would.

    Because the terrorists want to kill us all! 9/11. And wanting is as good as doing! 9/11. Yes, that’s right, we’re all as good as dead, because the 12th Imam is going to usher in the caliphate, unless we waterboard our own citizens. 9/11.

    Also, John Kerry, John Edwards, and Hillary Clinton are homosexuals, 9/11. And did you know that all kids are required to say the Pledge in spanish now? 9/11. It’s true, I read it in an email from my uncle. 9/11.

  6. 6
    Wilfred says:

    It’s not an Embassy, it’s a Government House, built to channel, monitor and coordinate the interests of the American Raj. Unable to find enough Homelanders willing (or too scared) to expat themselves for Empire it was necessary to reconstitute the Ba’ath civil service as functionaries.

  7. 7
    gypsy howell says:

    Well, if the real goal is to suck trillions of dollars out of the US Treasury — out of the hands of us lowly taxpayers — and hand it over to their corporate cronies, then by THAT measure, they’ve been really, really effective.

  8. 8

    Sure, as a guy who shares almost none of their agenda I won’t be supporting modern Republicanism any time soon. The billion dollar question is why anybody would.

    Because making those smarty-pants liberals eat shit on cable TV is the most important issue facing America today.

  9. 9
    Robert Johnston says:

    It’s not an Embassy, it’s a Government House, built to channel, monitor and coordinate the interests of the American Raj.

    It’s worse than that. If it’s not leveled by the next President then it’s almost certainly the first castle for the next strongman who takes over Iraq. It’s a gift to Saddam’s effective heir.

  10. 10
    maxbaer (not the original) says:

    It’s only a matter of time until they run out of money to pay the contractors throw down the rathole. Then the whole project, a la wiretapping, becomes a monument to hubris.

  11. 11
    John S. says:

    The billion dollar question is why anybody would.

    Because Democrats are worse!

    SATSQ

  12. 12
    Me says:

    My beef with Republicanism is geared more towards the “Praetorian Guard” than the “Emperor” himself. The Emperor came into Washington DC with a moral message that the behavior in the executive branch will be altered. That never materialized because the Guard, those with cronyism tendencies, has only looked out for themselves and not the nation as a whole.

    I don’t like certain aspects of what people do or believe, but they are Americans nonetheless. They should be listened to before a decision is made. Instead, the mantra seems to be ‘help those that can help you’, in addition to ‘spin to make a new reality’.

    How can a young man who didn’t graduate from Texas A&M University be the PAO person for NASA? This idiot is then telling people with multiple college degrees and vast amounts of experience to what is ‘truth’? The idiot got a plush job for something he was not experienced to do, but got it nonetheless because he was on the Bush-Cheney election team.

    Similar problems existed with the CPA. With the help of a ‘loyal gatekeeper (the husband of NRO’s Kate O’Bierne’s (sp?)), only ‘loyal’ Republicans with no experience to rebuild a country were given jobs. These kids with no experience then were pulling GS-15 and SES pay. I still steam over having the rug pulled from underneath me by little snot-nosed punks who acted like lords of the manor, but never had the balls to leave the Green Zone to see what the **** they were doing with the pie-in-the-sky plans.

    As a person who took the oath to protect the Constitution, how does a federal employee take the similar oath to only be set aside by taking an oath directly for the POTUS? I am speaking of that blonde-haired chick that graduated from a Christian fundamentalist law school in Virginia and got caught up with the US Attorney’s purge scandal. She actually had the gumption to tell the US Senate that she took an oath to the POTUS! WTF! But then the VP Office tries to alter the Constitution by saying it is a legislative position and not a part of the executive branch; so why should we expect that much more of the people ‘doing’ the work when the bosses are proponents of these kinds of ideas in the first place.

    The really sad thing about this whole affair is how two-faced the Republicans have been made out to be in these last seven years. Had Clinton acted in this fashion, these same people would have been running around screaming on how out of control he was. Oh, wait a minute, they did do that. Torture, spying, cannot help the downtrodden (SCHIP and Katrina afterwards), military adventures, and so on. All hail the Praetorian Guard — lets elect the new Bush to keep the same people behind the scenes in power.

  13. 13
    sparky says:

    1. repeatedly proclaim government is the problem
    2. hand out government money to your incompetent cronies
    3. screw with working government agencies to make them dysfunctional
    4. proclaim that the private sector can do everything better
    5. give more money to cronies
    6. leave a ruin for someone else to clean up
    7. out of office, say “see! i told you government was the problem” after someone else proposes a tax raise to clean up the mess

    seems like a rather brilliant plan, if you assume that the American public (a) can be bamboozled part of the time and (b) has a collective memory of 30 seconds. so far it seems to be working perfectly.

  14. 14
    STEVEinSC says:

    It’s not an accident that our Iraq outpost sits conveniently between Syria and Iran.

    Well it has long been evident that Iraq was just destined to be the host for a permanent US military presence in the middle east. The rest of the bullshit was just the “bodyguard of lies” and window dressing.

    A central theme of modern Republicanism is that appearing to do something is more important than doing it well.

    E.g. Bush’s current visit to the middle east to give the appearance of engagement, with empty predictions and self-serving comments about a Palestinian state.

  15. 15
    Redhand says:

    She actually had the gumption to tell the US Senate that she took an oath to the POTUS! WTF! But then the VP Office tries to alter the Constitution by saying it is a legislative position and not a part of the executive branch; so why should we expect that much more of the people ‘doing’ the work when the bosses are proponents of these kinds of ideas in the first place.

    The oath business reminds me of the Wehrmacht being required to take an oath directly to Adolph rather than the German State.

    As for the VP Office’s not being part of the executive branch, it is perhaps the most breathtaking example in the whole seven years of Cheney’s utter contempt for the rule of law in this country. The guy is an out-and-out criminal.

  16. 16
    Robert Johnston says:

    As for the VP Office’s not being part of the executive branch, it is perhaps the most breathtaking example in the whole seven years of Cheney’s utter contempt for the rule of law in this country. The guy is an out-and-out criminal.

    Lot’s of people are criminals. What distinguishes Cheney and forms the basis for his utter contemp of law is his complete sociopathy. The vast majority of criminals have lines they will not cross or know that their actions are wrong. Cheney, on the other hand, really does believe that anything he does is morally correct simply because he’s the one doing it. Cheney simply does not believe that harm to others is a basis for moral consideration.

  17. 17
    Jake says:

    What distinguishes Cheney and forms the basis for his utter contemp[t] of law is his complete sociopathy ^and ability to change the law to make his actions “legal”.

    Fixed.

    I often think Ghooliani is Dick + an attention whore.

  18. 18
    Davis X. Machina says:

    ….I won’t be supporting modern Republicanism any time soon. The billion dollar question is why anybody would.
    So that at Jesus’ name every knee shall bendSo that we get to keep our gunsSo that liberals, women and coloreds know, and keep, their placeSo that Adam and Steve stay in the closet where they belongSo that foreigners see our might and trembleSo that no one different from me gets any of my money, except in the form of ordnaceSo that all change stops, now!

    If you have any hard questions let me know…

  19. 19
    Davis X. Machina says:

    Hmn… the bulleted list tags worked fine in preview.

  20. 20
    RSA says:

    The sprawling new American embassy complex in Baghdad will cost at least half a billion dollars to build, probably much more.

    Hey, an embassy that’s going to have to last for the million years that we’re in Iraq takes a lot of money to build. And really, that’s only $500 a year in the long run, right?

  21. 21
    Robert Johnston says:

    Hey, an embassy that’s going to have to last for the million years that we’re in Iraq takes a lot of money to build. And really, that’s only $500 a year in the long run, right?

    Well, if you take that as a $500,000,000 loan at a 5% fixed rate over 1,000,000 years, the interest really kills you. So, it’s more like a hair over $25,000,000/year.

  22. 22
    myiq2xu says:

    Maybe the Embassy is Cheney’s “secret undisclosed location.”

    He wants a safe “no-extradition” location to reside in after he leaves office.

    And he wants to be the new Caliph of Baghdad.

  23. 23
    RSA says:

    Well, if you take that as a $500,000,000 loan at a 5% fixed rate over 1,000,000 years, the interest really kills you. So, it’s more like a hair over $25,000,000/year.

    Maybe we could find a loan company that would give us an adjustable rate. . .

  24. 24
    Tillman Fan says:

    I don’t want to defend the Republican Party, which I hope disappears as an entity within the next decade. But it’s only fair to point out that Republicans aren’t the only politicians who continue to use the same tactics despite strong evidence that the tactics don’t achieve the intended goals. Take, for example, the Democrats’ continued insistence upon increasing school funding to poor districts, when I haven’t seen any proof that putting more money into a school results in any measurable quality improvement.

  25. 25
    Raenelle says:

    We already know who would. Scrooges who care only about their tax cuts and sweet-heart deals now; religious escapists from the actual here and now; authoritarian war-mongers; and racists. That’s the Republican party, and they don’t give a fig about any of the issues you mentioned.

  26. 26
    Elvis Elvisberg says:

    appearing to do something is more important than doing it well.

    I was thinking about that this morning. During WWII, there was a Senate committee dedicated to ferreting out waste and abuse in war spending. The Bush administration, by contrast, treats oversight as de facto support for al Qaeda. The difference is that the Roosevelt administration actually cared about winning a war, rather than having a war to use as rhetorical support for doing whatever else he felt like doing, and as a reason to call themselves a “war administration.”

    If it’s not leveled by the next President then it’s almost certainly the first castle for the next strongman who takes over Iraq. It’s a gift to Saddam’s effective heir.

    It’s like a modern day US embassy in Tehran.

    And yeah, Tillman Fan, increasing education funding is comparable to waging unnecessary wars incompetently.

    (I see your point, but don’t know enough about education policy to comment on it. Still, the fact that increased funding doesn’t guarantee success doesn’t mean that funding should be cut; maybe it should be increased and spent more intelligently).

  27. 27
    D. Mason says:

    You people really are talking about this as if it were a Republican only problem. I’ve been watching the debates and keeping up with the primaries. I haven’t heard one Democrat mention a word about ending our imperialistic policies (of which this is a part) around the globe.

    I’ve also been paying attention over the past few years. Aside from saber rattling directed at Iran, I have seen the Democrats vote right along with the Republicans to keep marching forward with Iraq occupation. Every opportunity they’ve had to counter this nonsense has been passed on, even while paying lip service to withdrawl.

  28. 28

    During WWII, there was a Senate committee dedicated to ferreting out waste and abuse in war spending.

    Harry Truman was chairman of the committee. Do we have a modern day Truman? Let’s hope so.

    Still, the fact that increased funding doesn’t guarantee success doesn’t mean that funding should be cut; maybe it should be increased and spent more intelligently

    Agreed. Mark Miller has this article in the new issue of Atlantic Monthly that contains an interesting proposal about how to completely revamp the education system here in the U.S. I highly recommend it. Agree with the proposal, or not, it’s an interesting read.

  29. 29
    Innocent Bystander says:

    Mike Says:

    Money spent on social programs only encourages poor people to be poor. And the ungrateful bastard still vote Democratic. Money paid to contractors works much better.

    Isn’t this quaint…Ronald Reagan-era talking points. Given the Trillion dollar social programs targeted at the top 2% over the past 7 years, it just doesn’t have the same zip that it used to. Lets hope whoever wins the Republican nomination makes this a centerpiece of their campaign.

  30. 30

    The current Congress makes the mistake of treating the Administration as if they are reasonable people. They are not. Aggressive oversight is required for this bunch of criminals.

    If Richard Nixon and the former Cheerleader were my two choices for President I would vote for Nixon.

    Imagine the pro-Nixon bumper sticker:

    VOTE FOR THE CROOK. IT’S IMPORTANT!

  31. 31
    Redhand says:

    Maybe the Embassy is Cheney’s “secret undisclosed location.”

    The first moment I heard reference to Cheney’s being in a “secret undisclosed location” post 9/11 (as a means of reasuring us poor pesants?) all I could think of was the Fuhrer Bunker cum War Room in “Dr. Strangelove.”

  32. 32
    ThymeZone says:

    Pork is easier to hide when you ship it overseas.

    The modern GOP is all about the pork. The rich people who subsidized the party for so long knew that they’d get their dividends from George Bush. This is a guy who kisses, and whose father, also a president, kisses the hands of Saudi Royals.

    Why would any American, much less a president, kiss the hand of a Saudi Royal?

    If you don’t know the answer to that, then you don’t know what has been going on here the last 8 years, and why the rich guys put up GWB to be president.

    Knowing all that, WRT to the embassy …. what did you expect? More and better pork, with less accountability.

    Nothing to see here, move along.

  33. 33
    Tsulagi says:

    American embassy complex in Baghdad will cost at least half a billion dollars to build, probably MUCH MORE.

    Put the “much more” in caps, bold it, underline it, and if you got it, blinking graphics.

    When Stuart Bowen, the Inpector General responsible for Iraq, uncovered evidence that America’s contracting money was largely disappearing down a fraud hole the White House reponded by trying to sack him.

    When a top procurement official, Bunny Greenhouse, questioned rubberstamping multi-year no-bid contracts prepared by contractors, her once stellar performance reviews tanked and she was moved out of that slot. She just didn’t see the wisdom of select contractors having their own office space in the Pentagon happily writing their own contracts and then signing them without review.

    When the also ignorant Leahy voiced similar reservations to Cheney on the Senate floor, that prompted the “Fuck Yourself” from our Co-Decider. Ah, the sweet smell of the Party of Bush government at work. Sort of like an Iowa pig lot.

  34. 34
    ThymeZone says:

    Put the “much more” in caps, bold it, underline it, and if you got it, blinking graphics.

    I’m thinking it might be the bulletproof Sleep Number Beds.

  35. 35
    Cain says:

    The difference is that the Roosevelt administration actually cared about winning a war, rather than having a war to use as rhetorical support for doing whatever else he felt like doing, and as a reason to call themselves a “war administration.”

    They had to. Not fighting it would have left the U.S. isolated against a europe under Hitler’s control and the Japanese. They had no time to fuck around and use it as some kind of political tactic to stay in power.

    Fast forward to the Iraq war, there was never any danger of Iraq doing anything to the U.S. This was a war of choice and convenience just like Vietnam. Except we got a preznit that things he can expand the front to 3 countries instead of one. Jesus, just thinking about how we want to war on 3 countries and then cut taxes to save our economy. The mind boggles.

    Oh well. Sometimes we have to hit rock bottom to make people realize what the hell you’ve lost and work back up to a community and learn from the experience.

    cain

  36. 36

    […]  Tim F. at Balloon Juice goes off on the significance of the Baghdad embassy debacle and general GOP mismanagement. Balloon Juice One would expect Republicans to take it worse than anybody that managers of the embassy project handed the project to a firm that never did embassy work before, mismanaged the proceedings and then buried evidence of major safety issues. They won’t, of course. A central theme of modern Republicanism is that appearing to do something is more important than doing it well. The mentality isn’t limited to the embassy, of course. It pervades contracting throughout Iraq. When Stuart Bowen, the Inpector General responsible for Iraq, uncovered evidence that America’s contracting money was largely disappearing down a fraud hole the White House reponded by trying to sack him. If any right-wing voices complained about that I don’t remember hearing about it. […]

  37. 37

    […] Tim F. over at the well-trafficked Balloon-Juice blog adds another level (and a lot more audience) to the argument I was trying to make in this post. (Whatever else may be said about the two posts — mine has much sexier illustration.) I said that Huckabee’s embrace of abstinence was both evidence of the triumph of unexamined assumptions (faith — in this case in the obvious utility of telling kids not to have sex, no matter what the data say) and of a nasty kind of corruption, in that abstinence programs may not help teenagers, but they sure enrich a certain crowd of GOP religion hucksters. […]

  38. 38

    […] When it comes to new construction our contracted help can’t serve their own country any better than they do for the Iraqis. he massive, self-contained embassy complex meant to overlook Baghdad like a shadow government (almost eerily like one) has degenerated into an overdue money pit, unsafe to inhabit and built at least in part with slave labor. Having shown little respect for Iraqis or the Americans it won’t shock to find out that the firms routinely screw their employees out of retirement and health care, or else just rape them. […]

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] When it comes to new construction our contracted help can’t serve their own country any better than they do for the Iraqis. he massive, self-contained embassy complex meant to overlook Baghdad like a shadow government (almost eerily like one) has degenerated into an overdue money pit, unsafe to inhabit and built at least in part with slave labor. Having shown little respect for Iraqis or the Americans it won’t shock to find out that the firms routinely screw their employees out of retirement and health care, or else just rape them. […]

  2. […] Tim F. over at the well-trafficked Balloon-Juice blog adds another level (and a lot more audience) to the argument I was trying to make in this post. (Whatever else may be said about the two posts — mine has much sexier illustration.) I said that Huckabee’s embrace of abstinence was both evidence of the triumph of unexamined assumptions (faith — in this case in the obvious utility of telling kids not to have sex, no matter what the data say) and of a nasty kind of corruption, in that abstinence programs may not help teenagers, but they sure enrich a certain crowd of GOP religion hucksters. […]

  3. […]  Tim F. at Balloon Juice goes off on the significance of the Baghdad embassy debacle and general GOP mismanagement. Balloon Juice One would expect Republicans to take it worse than anybody that managers of the embassy project handed the project to a firm that never did embassy work before, mismanaged the proceedings and then buried evidence of major safety issues. They won’t, of course. A central theme of modern Republicanism is that appearing to do something is more important than doing it well. The mentality isn’t limited to the embassy, of course. It pervades contracting throughout Iraq. When Stuart Bowen, the Inpector General responsible for Iraq, uncovered evidence that America’s contracting money was largely disappearing down a fraud hole the White House reponded by trying to sack him. If any right-wing voices complained about that I don’t remember hearing about it. […]

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