I mean really, I am starting a campaign to save the Green Zone. This haven, this oasis, of freedom (and McDonalds freedom fries) and democracy is threatened daily by the terror and violence ridden country that envelops it!
OK, but one a more serious note, does the US government realize it is doing exactly what Saddam did when he took over Iraq? Spend millions to build a bunch of palaces among the impoverished?
I know this may sounds radical to some, but the parallels between the US occupation of Iraq to colonialism and to the dictatorships that arose in the 1960s and 70s in some countries in the Middle East, like Iraq, are many.
Western governments and populations love to criticize African kleptocracts, dictatorial strongmen who drive fleets of Mercedes while their populations live in shacks, hungry and unemployed. The picture is inconceivable to most; how can a leader amass billion dollar fortunes, Charles Taylor, Mobutu Sese Seko, Saudi kings, while their populations are among the most impoverished of the world.
(See my background story on the rise of these dictatorships in the Middle East and Africa after Decolonization and Independence. If you are someone who thinks that these opressive systems arose '...because Africans and Arabs and Muslims and whomever just couldn't get their s--t together...' please read this background piece and open your mind to recomsideration. The reasons for the rise of these kleptocrats and dictators is so much more dynamic. Also please remember, explanations are not excuses, I seek to explain these events not by excusing them or apologizing for them, but by trying to understand why they happen so we might be able to contribute to preventing them in the future. It is not enough to say that there is something inherently prone to dictators and violence in the Arab culture, in Islamic culture, or in Middle Eastern or African cultures.)
Does this picture not apply in Iraq? A 740 million dollar building erected in the middle of the largest humanitarian disaster in the world caused by the builders of said structure. Erected in the middle of a country where few have running water, few have electricity, few have the ability to walk down the streets without fearing for their lives in a variety of ways. Erected in a country of such violence, pain, and sadness.
Maybe it would make Iraqis feel better to know that the embassy is having problems of its own?
I guess by putting the Embassy in the Green Zone they did the least they could by keeping it out of the direct line of sight from the average Iraq.
For details of life in the Green Zone, Rajiv Chandrasekaran's book Imperial Life in the Emerald City is a must. The lives of American soldiers and contractors inside the Green Zone is full of pools and McDonalds. Reading this book left one picture in my mind: That of Saddam and his sons on their (well one of their many probably) speedboats water skiing in Saddam's heyday. I remember seeing hat picture and not being able to imagine how a man could gas a few hundred thousand Kurds one day and water ski the next. I look at these Americans wondering how they live inside the Green Zone knowing what is going on just outside of it.
Just as disturbing was the testimony of former subcontrator Rory Mayberry, from the firm First Kuwaiti that built the embassy, in front of the House Oversight Committee (watch testimony here http://thinkprogress.org/2007/07/26/slave-labor-used-to-contruct-us-embassy-in-baghdad/) that the embassy was built by modern day slave labor. Asian workers were bused in by air (and not told they were going to Iraq) and forced to work long hours, without shoes in some cases, paid close to nothing, and housed in quarters like back in the day. Here is the report of another contractor who quit out of disgust. http://www.antiwar.com/ips/phinney.php?articleid=9919
This post could go on and on, but will stop here for now.