Look at the size of this thing! Twenty-one buildings on 104 acres, six times larger than the United Nations compound in New York.
Construction of the U.S. embassy in Iraq, set to open in September, is projected to cost $592 million, with a staff of 1,000 people and operating costs totaling $1.2 billion a year. It will be a 104-acre complex, which is the size of approximately 80 football fields.
One thousand employees! That’s quite a commitment. Wouldn’t it be swell if as many as a dozen of them understood Arabic?
Of the 1,000 U.S. employees at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, only 10 have a working knowledge of Arabic, according to the State Department.
That is still a slight improvement from last year when, according to the Iraq Study Group, six people in the embassy spoke Arabic.
I went to the U.S. embassy in Iraq’s web page and clicked on FAQ. The page is blank, as you can see if click here yourself: http://iraq.usembassy.gov/iraq/faqs.html. Funny, because I bet people have a lot of questions about it.
Here are some more facts picked up around the ‘Net:
From last April (2006):
“We are confident the embassy will be completed according to schedule (by June 2007) and on budget,” said Justin Higgins, a State Department spokesman.
It will have its own water wells, electricity plant and wastewater-treatment facility, “systems to allow 100 percent independence from city utilities,” says the report, the most authoritative open source on the embassy plans.
The residence of the U.S. ambassador to Iraq will be 16,000 square feet. The deputy chief of mission in Iraq will have a “cozy cottage” measuring 9,500 square feet.
It’s good to be the king!
Toby Dodge, an expert on Iraq at Queen Mary, University of London, has just come back from a month spent in Iraq, largely in the Green Zone. He thinks the Americans are unlikely to pull out of Iraq fully until the end of the next presidency at the earliest, and so the new embassy will serve its purpose for several years to come.
“A fortress-style embassy, with a huge staff, will remain in Baghdad until helicopters come to airlift the last man and woman from the roof,” he said, adding his own advice to the architects of the building: “Include a large roof.”
There is one added irony – the embassy is one of the few major projects the administration has undertaken in Iraq that is on schedule and within budget.
Mention the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad to Lawrence Eagleburger and he explodes.
“I defy anyone to tell me how you can use that many people. It is nuts . . . it’s insane and it’s counterproductive . . . and it won’t work,” says the Republican former secretary of state and member of the Iraq Study Group. “I’ve been around the State Department long enough to know you can’t run an outfit like that.”
The teeming embassy masks a desperate need for civilians to aid the reconstruction effort. To lure more, federal employees are offered 70 percent more than their base salaries for Iraq service, plus overtime, or special premiums for working long hours, according to the Office of Personnel Management. It is possible for senior employees to earn more than the secretary of state, who makes $186,600 a year. Kashkett said 1,700 diplomats have stepped up for Iraq service since 2003 — about 20 percent of those eligible to go. The State Department has discussed drafting personnel.
The blunt view, from Eagleburger: “We’re throwing people and money at something without estimating what the culture demands. It’s hubris.”
Those last two quotes are from the WaPo article http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/03/01/AR2007030101497.html