NOT BREAKING: Monday, in a subdued ceremony in unusually warm weather, the US raised the flag on Bush's Folly on the Tigris, the 80-football field-sized new US Embassy in Iraq.
Huddling in a $700M bunker, behind the most sophisticated defenses the Pentagon can conceive, US Ambassador Ryan Crocker said the embassy was testimony to America's long-term friendship with Iraq. (BAGHDAD - AP).
Those sophisticated defenses apparently include sandbags. Flak jackets, helmets. But I digress. I don't really want to mention the use of de facto slave labor in building it either, nor the shoddy construction practices that will undoubtedly kill more US personnel in the years to come.
The inauguration was a Kabuki theatre of satire, I think, from the Iraqi side. Jalal Talabani is grateful for "the courageous decision by President Bush to liberate Iraq."
Al Jazeera at least manages to quote "Edward Peck, a former American diplomat in Iraq" who said in 2006: "What kind of embassy is it when everybody lives inside and it's blast-proof, and people are running around with helmets and crouching behind sandbags?"
More importantly, for everyday life in Iraq, and morale I suppose, Al Jazeera reports on who is now in charge in Iraq, whether US troops will be in any way bound by the rule of Law (answer: yes, maybe, but just try enforcing that), whether US forces can conduct operations unilaterally (no, but again, just try to enforce that), and that another suicide bomber managed to kill at least 38 people the day before, at a Shia shrine 6 km from the embassy. The AP says the US has left Saddam's Republican Palace which it has 'occuppied' since 2003 (interesting choice of words, and I suspect quite a sore point with Iraqis).
The award for funniest unattributed quote of the day:
One US official said the cost of running the new complex is expected to be so exorbitant that the US will be forced to rent out part of the space.
None of the articles mention that the Embassy is 'finished'. Because, well, as far as I can tell (from the construction cranes in the photos) it's not. But I assume it's more readily defensible than where US forces were, and I suppose that's reason enough to make the move. The articles merely state that the US 'raised the flag'.
John Negroponte also attended the ceremony, but no one is quoting him (I suppose someone could probably find a transcript). The NY Times only says "(b)oth (Crocker and Negroponte) used their remarks as an opportunity to reflect on the last six years."
No one is speculating on how long the US will be able to maintain Bush's Folly on the banks of the Tigris.