Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! CounterPunch is entirely supported by our readers. Your donations pay for our small staff, tiny office, writers, designers, techies, bandwidth and servers. We don’t owe anything to advertisers, foundations, one-percenters or political parties. You are our only safety net. Please make a tax-deductible donation today.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Iraq Embassy as Gilded Palace

by CHRISTOPHER BRAUCHLI

I was half right. In late May I wrote that September was going to be an exciting month in Iraq. I observed that that was the month in which funding for the war would end and the debate about the future of the war would begin. That has happened and the debate has not yet drawn to a close. I also said it was going to be exciting because that was the month in which the new United States Embassy in Iraq would be opened. I said it was not only exciting because it would soon be opening but because it was going to be the first major construction project in Iraq that had been completed on time and right on budget, an unusual occurrence in the United States but even more unusual in a place like Iraq. I also observed that unlike the rest of Iraq, this splendid edifice (as large as the Vatican with an ambassador’s residence of 16,000 square feet) would have its own water and power supply. That served to distinguish it from the rest of Iraq where many residents have electricity only 4 hours a day and only 32% of the population has access to potable water.

As columnists always are, it is a pleasure to read in subsequent reports that one’s earlier comments prove accurate. Thus, I was delighted to learn of the testimony of Major Gen. Charles Williams (Ret.), the Director of Overseas Building Operation (OBO) at the State Department before the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. On July 26, 2007, he tesitified that: “the project is on schedule and on budget. We are slated to complete the project in September of this year and personnel can begin to move into offices and residences shortly thereafter. As to project quality, OBO is proud of its employees’ and contractors’ work on this project. We have received numerous accolades as to the extremely high quality of construction. It is among the best that OBO has managed.” That was then. This is now. November. No one has moved in. No one knows when anyone will move in. It is $144 million over budget.

On October 9, Henry Waxman, Chair of the Committee sent a letter to Condoleezza Rice inquiring about the embassy project and describing some problems uncovered by inspectors from the State Department’s Fire Protection Division who inspected the project during the last two weeks in August. They observed that since fire service mains were deficient there was no reliable automatic fire sprinkler system coverage in any building on the compound. No fire alarm detection systems were ready for testing, “most buildings have a complete lack of fire stopping in fire rated walls and floors” as a result of which “a fire could spread very quickly from one area to another.” The report then has the fairly global condemnation that “[T]he entire installation is not acceptable.”

According to Mr. Waxman, the September 4, 2007 report does not simply disclose deficiencies in construction. It disclosed that OBO and First Kuwaiti General Trading and Contracting, the prime contractor on the job “had been aware of these problems for nearly a year. In October 2006, OBO received reports that First Kuwaiti ‘is installing underground fire protection service mains that are not of the correct material, which has already resulted in stress cracking. This condition is unacceptable and was discussed with the contractor.”

Mr. Waxman’s letter does not content itself with describing deficiencies in the construction. He describes some things about First Kuwaiti that would lead some to question why it got the job in the first place. Mr. Waxman observes that Pentagon auditors released a report “several months before the award of the contract that questioned more than $130 million that First Kuwaiti had billed for services provided to the U.S. military.” He also observed that the Justice Department had asserted in court papers that “the Managing partner of First Kuwaiti bribed officials to obtain subcontracts for First Kuwaiti.”

I am sure that if Mr. Williams happens to hear about any of this he will be sorely disappointed since it suggests that he was not only clueless about the state of the project two months earlier when testifying, but not troubled by the corruption of the contractor, describing it as a contractor that wanted to “get it right”. (He was not referring to the payment of bribes but completion of the project.)

In the real world Mr. Williams would be fired for incompetence, being so ignorant of the project about which he was reporting. That won’t happen.

Incompetence in the Bush administration may be an excuse but not an excuse for firing someone. Were it otherwise, the White House and countless executive offices would be unoccupied. Were it otherwise the embassy project might in fact be on budget and on schedule.

CHRISTOPHER BRAUCHLI is a lawyer in Boulder, Colorado. He can be reached at: Brauchli.56@post.harvard.edu.

 

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

Weekend Edition
September 30, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Henry Giroux
Thinking Dangerously in the Age of Normalized Ignorance
Stanley L. Cohen
Israel and Academic Freedom: a Closed Book
Paul Craig Roberts – Michael Hudson
Can Russia Learn From Brazil’s Fate? 
Andrew Levine
A Putrid Election: the Horserace as Farce
Mike Whitney
The Biggest Heist in Human History
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Sick Blue Line
Rob Urie
The Twilight of the Leisure Class
Vijay Prashad
In a Hall of Mirrors: Fear and Dislike at the Polls
Alexander Cockburn
The Man Who Built Clinton World
John Wight
Who Will Save Us From America?
Pepe Escobar
Afghanistan; It’s the Heroin, Stupid
W. T. Whitney
When Women’s Lives Don’t Matter
Julian Vigo
“Ooops, I Did It Again”: How the BBC Funnels Stories for Financial Gain
Howard Lisnoff
What was Missing From The Nation’s Interview with Bernie Sanders
Jeremy Brecher
Dakota Access Pipeline and the Future of American Labor
Binoy Kampmark
Pictures Left Incomplete: MH17 and the Joint Investigation Team
Andrew Kahn
Nader Gave Us Bush? Hillary Could Give Us Trump
Steve Horn
Obama Weakens Endangered Species Act
Dave Lindorff
US Propaganda Campaign to Demonize Russia in Full Gear over One-Sided Dutch/Aussie Report on Flight 17 Downing
John W. Whitehead
Uncomfortable Truths You Won’t Hear From the Presidential Candidates
Ramzy Baroud
Shimon Peres: Israel’s Nuclear Man
Brandon Jordan
The Battle for Mercosur
Murray Dobbin
A Globalization Wake-Up Call
Jesse Ventura
Corrupted Science: the DEA and Marijuana
Richard W. Behan
Installing a President by Force: Hillary Clinton and Our Moribund Democracy
Andrew Stewart
The Democratic Plot to Privatize Social Security
Daniel Borgstrom
On the Streets of Oakland, Expressing Solidarity with Charlotte
Marjorie Cohn
President Obama: ‘Patron’ of the Israeli Occupation
Norman Pollack
The “Self-Hating” Jew: A Critique
David Rosen
The Living Body & the Ecological Crisis
Joseph Natoli
Thoughtcrimes and Stupidspeak: Our Assault Against Words
Ron Jacobs
A Cycle of Death Underscored by Greed and a Lust for Power
stclair
Abu Mazen’s Balance Sheet
Kim Nicolini
Long Drive Home
Louisa Willcox
Tribes Make History with Signing of Grizzly Bear Treaty
Art Martin
The Matrix Around the Next Bend: Facebook, Augmented Reality and the Podification of the Populace
Andre Vltchek
Failures of the Western Left
Ishmael Reed
Millennialism or Extinctionism?
Frances Madeson
Why It’s Time to Create a Cabinet-Level Dept. of Native Affairs
Laura Finley
Presidential Debate Recommendations
José Negroni
Mass Firings on Broadway Lead Singers to Push Back
Leticia Cortez
Entering the Historical Dissonance Surrounding Desafinados
Robert J. Burrowes
Gandhi: ‘My Life is My Message’
Charles R. Larson
Queen Lear? Deborah Levy’s “Hot Milk”
David Yearsley
Bring on the Nibelungen: If Wagner Scored the Debates
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail
[i]
[i]
[i]
[i]