Ameriraq - The New
Colonial Frontier

By Terrell E. Arnold


 The United States is now building a striking diplomatic complex on the bank of the Tigris River in Baghdad.  It is more than a mere replacement for the traditionally modest US Embassy in that city. When finished, it will cost more than a billion dollars and consist of 104 acres of grounds, offices, living quarters, eating places, athletic clubs and community facilities. Reminiscent of 19th century "international settlements" such as in Shanghai, China, the new "Embassy" will be a completely self-contained enclave, the largest and most elaborate the United States will have anywhere in the world. The plot of ground reportedly was ceded to the United States for this purpose, although it is not clear whether the US paid for the site.  Under normal diplomatic protocols, that means the entire facility will be US territory, self-powered, self-watered, self-sanitized, surrounded by high walls and blast-deflecting berms, protected by American security personnel, and subject only to US laws. Only selected Iraqis will ever see the inside of it.
This diplomatic mission, when operating, could be the leading edge of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's "transformational diplomacy".  Her stated goal is to change the United States role in the world. As reported in the Washington Post, that means "not just accepting the world as it is, but trying to change it." 
Virtually every American government has had such an idea planted somewhere in its agenda.     But changing the world has never been the central goal of diplomacy. That egoistic motif is hard to resist, but the driving truth up to now has been that no government has had enough qualified people to seriously tackle transforming another society, let alone transformation of the whole outside world. 
 The central purpose of diplomacy perforce has been to conduct civil relations with other governments, regardless of who they are or represent, on matters of mutual interest.  Getting other governments and societies to accept American goals, objectives and political or economic systems and approaches is a different kettle of fish. The hardest part of transformational diplomacy is getting a government you like, even out of a successful process of meddling in somebody else's affairs.  The Hamas victory in Palestine virtually says it all. 
The model for this diplomacy is an Embassy that will be big enough in size and complex enough in staffing to meddle in all the internal affairs of Iraq as well as those of all surrounding regions. How does this immodest pending facility compare with US diplomatic missions in the major capitals of the world?  For comparison purposes, Iraq is a country of 437,072 square kilometers that contains roughly 25 million people. When last we had an Embassy in Iraq, before Gulf War I, the entire American staff did not exceed 25 or 30 people.
By comparison, in Brazil, a country of 8.5 million square kilometers, three major cities and a population of 188 million, the US has less than 70 key Americans and total American staff of less than 250 people in three major diplomatic and consular posts plus smaller ones.  Sao Paulo State, for example, consists of 247,898 square kilometers, containing 33 million people, with 18 million of them living in the City of Sao Paulo.  US Consulate General Sao Paulo has 35-40 people to conduct relations with the Brazilians and support the largest US business community in Latin America.  Closer to Iraq, in Egypt, the US has  250 or so people to conduct relations with the most important country of the region that consists of over 1 million square kilometers and 80 million people, and controls one of the world's main waterways, the Suez Canal. 
Why such an elaborate concept for the US Embassy in a country of 25 million people? According to initial reports nearly 700 official Americans plus their families will live in the new compound. Those people will represent a dozen or more US agencies, including State, Treasury, the FBI, Homeland Security, Interior, Energy, Defense, Transportation, Commerce, CIA, DEA, and Agriculture for starters. These organizations will not be limited to the conduct of ordinary bilateral relations.  State, for example, is now busily seeking recruits to help Iraq rebuild the infrastructure that largely has been destroyed by US/Coalition bombings and ground warfare. Agriculture, for example, could be charged with seeing that the Iraqis live up to part of L. Paul Bremer's final dictate to plant only US certified seed, meaning stop using local and traditional varieties of grain and other foodstuff.
Energy no doubt will plan to play a big hand in the development of Iraq's remaining undeveloped oil resources.  The new Constitution, jammed down Iraqi throats by Bremer on departure, requires that any new wells to be drilled will not be developed by Iraq but by outside (read American) oil companies. Whether Iraq will get an OPEC-like share of revenues from those wells is not clear, but the odds are against it if US companies develop the fields.  A weak and internally divided Iraqi government has little chance of negotiating a favorable deal on this, so the lion's share of any new Iraqi oil revenues is likely to go abroad.  
Iraqis have not been asked to lead much, if any, of the American-sponsored enterprises.  Ever since the occupation began, Iraqis have complained that US and Middle Eastern contractors have been brought in to do work the Iraqis could do and, in their own interest, should do.  The new US Embassy itself is being built by a Kuwaiti prime contractor with Kuwaiti and mainly Asian labor, the alleged reason being to avoid having Iraqis know too much about how the compound is designed and protected--the obvious assumption being that outsiders either will not remember or will not blab.
The more striking, and from the Iraqi perspective more offensive assumption behind not using Iraqis to work on the new Embassy is that the Iraqi people will always be so opposed to the Americans that any Iraqi knowledge of how the new Embassy is put together could be dangerous to American health. Thus, a "we-they" psychology that now drives the US and Coalition force behavior in Iraq is being designed into the future layout of the American presence. A colony of American officials and families inside a totally protected compound will only reinforce such psychology.  With this as format, the future of US/Iraqi relations looks bleak indeed.
The next big question mark concerns Defense.  No doubt, DOD will have a large Defense Attaché cadre in the new Embassy, but the bigger issue concerns military bases.  Early on after the invasion it was reported that Defense was building four permanent bases in Iraq, and that still seems to be the magic number.  With complete candor, the US team in Iraq could admit that instead of rebuilding the Iraqi infrastructure destroyed mainly by aerial bombardment, the US is putting the energy and the money into those four bases and the new Embassy. Little work in the meantime has been done to restore basic infrastructure such as power, water and sanitation systems.  Softly enough to escape notice, Bush has recently backhandedly admitted plans for bases by asking Congress for funding--over and above the annual budget, the costs of war-fighting, and the new Embassy construction.  This may look like mafia bookkeeping to some, because money originally appropriated to rebuild Iraq appears to have been devoted to American bases and operations.
One of those bases was reported early in 2003 to have been planned for the site of ancient Babylon.  The site was actually occupied, but archaeologists complained about the damage to this site caused by paving over parts of it with asphalt, using artifact laden materials from the site to fill sandbags, contaminating the site with sand and gravel from outside, as well as bulldozing other areas.  However, in light of massive objections from the archaeological community, the US handed the site back to Iraq in early 2004.
Each of four proposed bases, with two mile runways and associated operations, maintenance, living and recreational facilities, a miniature of hometown USA--each a military counterpart of the Embassy in size, or larger-- will mean that Iraq will host by far the largest official American presence outside the United States.  But the missions of those bases will be Middle East regional, starting with four large US military facilities looking down the throat of Iran.  Iraq, de facto, will become the center of a new American empire.  Supplying those bases and maintaining their in-place as well as enroute support networks will become the most demanding operational missions of the US military.
Getting to that point requires that the US-led Coalition squelch the Iraqi insurgency.  Few, if any resources will be free for other missions until that is accomplished. Keeping the Iraqi insurgency from reigniting at some future point becomes a vital priority.  The first key to success on that is avoiding the emergence of any charismatic new leadership.  In turn, the key is to eliminate or frighten into exile any well-educated and well-motivated individuals who might assume future leadership positions.  That also is the key to assuring that the matter of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction never arises again.  Reported assassinations of scores of Iraqi academics and intellectuals indicate that the process of dumbing down Iraq is well under way.
What will emerge from this process, if all goes as apparently planned, is a docile Iraqi population under an innocuous Iraqi leadership that does the bidding of its American sponsors.  That, in fact, is the only profile of a future Iraqi society that is compatible with an American presence on the scale contemplated by the giant new Embassy and four sprawling military bases. The predictable future model is an Iraq subservient to American dictates:  Ameriraq.
The writer is the author of the recently published work, A World Less Safe, now available on Amazon, and he is a regular columnist on  He is a retired Senior Foreign Service Officer of the US Department of State whose immediate pre-retirement positions were as Deputy Director of the State Office of Counterterrorism, and as Chairman of the Department of International Studies of the National War College.  He will welcome comment at




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