The embassy will cost nearly $4bn to operate [EPA]
After all, having seemingly moved much of the U.S. to Iraq, leaving was no small thing. When the U.S. military began stripping the 505 bases it had built there at the cost of unknown multibillions of taxpayer dollars, it sloughed off $580 million worth of no-longer-wanted equipment on the Iraqis. And yet it still managed to ship to Kuwait, other Persian Gulf garrisons, Afghanistan, and even small towns in the U.S. more than two million items ranging from Kevlar armored vests to port-a-potties. We’re talking about the equivalent of 20,000 truckloads of materiel.
Not surprisingly, given the society it comes from, the U.S. military fights a consumer-intensive style of war and so, in purely commercial terms, the leaving of Iraq was a withdrawal for the ages. Nor should we overlook the trophies the military took home with it, including a vast Pentagon database of thumbprints and retinal scans from approximately 10% of the Iraqi population. (A similar program is still underway in Afghanistan.)
When it came to “success,” Washington had a good deal more than that going for it. After all, it plans to maintain a Baghdad embassy so gigantic it puts the Saigon embassy of 1973 to shame. With a contingent of 16,000 to 18,000 people, including a force of perhaps 5,000 armed mercenaries (provided by private security contractors like Triple Canopy with its $1.5 billion State Department contract), the “mission” leaves any normal definition of “embassy” or “diplomacy” in the dust.
In 2012 alone, it is slated to spend $3.8 billion, a billion of that on a much criticized police-training program, only 12% of whose funds actually go to the Iraqi police. To be left behind in the “postwar era,” in other words, will be something new under the sun.