The Eighth Wonder of The World

There is no calamity greater than lavish desires.
- Lau Tzu, The way of Lau Tzu

September promises to be an exciting month in Iraq. That is the month in which funding for the war in Iraq runs out and the debate about the future of the war will resume. But that is only the second most exciting thing about Iraq that will be happening in September. The first most exciting thing is that the new United States Embassy in Iraq will be opened. That is exciting because the embassy is the only Iraq construction project sponsored by Mr. Bush that will open on time and budget. It will not only fill a need but will be a constant reminder to the 4 million Iraqi orphans and hundreds of thousands of dead and wounded Iraqis of what Mr. Bush did for them. It is too bad that it will probably be too dangerous for Mr. Bush to attend the opening but he will certainly be there in spirit, as will the spirits of the 3455 dead service personnel who will be able to see one of the things for which they died.

This is no ordinary embassy. This will be the Mother of All Embassies. It is the biggest embassy in the whole world. It is as big as the Vatican. The embassy sits on 104 acres right in the middle of Baghdad. The completed embassy will cost $592 million. It will accommodate 1000 workers. The ambassador's residence is 16,000 square feet and the deputy ambassador's residence is 9000 square feet in size. Those will be wonderful places in which to entertain all the visiting dignitaries who will be coming to marvel at what Mr. Bush accomplished in Iraq.

Visitors there will not have to worry about things ordinary Iraqis worry about such as bombings or unpredictable electricity and lack of potable water. The embassy is completely self-sufficient. Its walls are blast proof. It has its own water and power supply. Although having its own water and power might seem unnecessary, in fact at present many Baghdad residents have only 4 hours a day of electricity and only 32 percent of the Iraqi population has access to clean drinking water. That is good enough for Iraqis but not for American citizens who are giving of their time and effort to help the Iraqis regain that which the Americans helped them lose.

Not only will the embassy be a constant reminder to Iraqis of what a good friend the United States has been to that country. It will also show them that when the chips are down the United States can get something built on time and within budget. It will be good for the Iraqis to see that since that hasn't been the case with other construction projects undertaken by the United States in Iraq.

Mr. Bush set aside $243 million to build 151 primary health care centers that were to provide top quality medical care to the thousands of Iraqis needing it, many as a result of the United States sponsored war. The good news was that the entire sum of $243 million allocated for the project was spent. The bad news was that only 20 of the clinics were built (if the contractor is to be believed) and only 6 were built (if the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is to be believed). According to the Corps, of the 6 that were completed, additional work was needed on some of those in order to make them functional. There are many explanations as to what went wrong but the important thing is that something went wrong and acknowledging that is more important than affixing blame.

This was not the only example of construction gone awry. $72 million was spent building a police college in Baghdad. It was closed because sewage leaked from the ceiling. $75 million was spent to construct pipelines across the Tigris River in order to transport oil from the oil fields to the points of distribution. When all the money had been spent, not one pipeline had made it across the river.

In February 2007, government auditors who had investigated the reconstruction work told Congress $10 billion had been wasted in Iraq and little was being done to correct the problem. These auditors were, of course, Cassandras. They could just have easily have focused on the triumph of completing the Embassy on time. They could have pointed out that it will not only be American dignitaries who visit the embassy. Important Iraqis will also be invited. Although medical clinics would be nice, a nice embassy is even more important. The sick and wounded lacking places to go for treatment won't understand that nor will Iraqis who lack reliable electricity and potable water. Mr. Bush understands that since he knows that everything he does in Iraq is done for the good of the Iraqi people even if his good works cause them untold suffering.

Christopher Brauchli
For political commentary see my web page

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