Two Bucks

For tonight, at least, I declare the notion of currency is overrated. John, my brother, points out a good Nicholas von Hoffman piece in The Nation on the new United States “embassy” in Baghdad. Another development in plain sight but somehow virtually invisible from these shores:

“Among the many secrets the American government cannot keep, one of its biggest (104 acres) and most expensive ($592 million) is the American Embassy being built in Baghdad. Surrounded by fifteen-foot-thick walls, almost as large as the Vatican on a scale comparable to the Mall of America, to which it seems to have a certain spiritual affinity, this is no simple object to hide.

“So you think the Bush Administration is planning on leaving Iraq? Read on. …”

Yes, read on: Here. By the way, that $592 million price tag — which I’m sure we’ll be able to multiply by two or three or four by the time all is said and done — is two bucks a head for each and every American.

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6 Replies to “Two Bucks”

  1. Yes, there is some purple prose in there…that last line especially. That said, I had no idea that this complex was being constructed in Iraq. To me, the article speaks to the mendacity of the whole enterprise in that country. Americans scramble over one another to get their kids into “decent” schools, health insurance is becoming all but unattainable just to mention a couple of small issues with which we have to contend. And our government has 300 billion borrowed dollars to throw at a pretty doubtful endeavor in the middle east. How long can that go on before we start to see this effect the economy; people’s willingness to believe the fluff coming out of DC; and citizens here saying enough is enough? One place where you can currently see this happening is in Connecticut (birthplace of two Bush presidents). Senator Lieberman is in deep shite up there and the reason for this is because he just doesn’t seem to understand that people are getting severely ticked off about the conduct and cost of the war.

  2. On the plus side, 8000 new jobs! : )
    Yep, things have been thrown topsy-turvy over the past couple of years–this whole terrorism thing is a real bummer to be sure. It used to be that people used to make schools good, instead of hoping that the school itself would be the cure to their childrens’ lack of interest or their unwillingness to take a strong hand in their child’s education. Health insurance isn’t something that we’ve had as an option for very long, so I don’t know why we’re so addicted to it. I guess that whole fear of death thing has us all quaking pretty bad.
    Anyway, if you want your money back, I’ll send you a check for $2, and consider it money well spent. I personally think it’s great that we’re showing our commitment to Iraq by building a strong edifice for future work there.
    By the way, I’ve worked with Iraqi contractors, and it’s no easy thing.

  3. Well, we are not going to agree on a whole lot here. There is one story though I occasionally think about when I listen to people arguing about the war in Iraq. It comes from this book about the early NASA space program called The Right Stuff. It’s a good and entertaining read and at any rate, there is a part in there where the astronaut corps is being paraded around the country, promoting the manned space program. When they(Gus Grissom, Alan Shepard, John Glenn, begin to gripe about the indignity being put on display–not unlike a circus attraction, having to meet and greet the public–they are told by this NASA public affairs guy that these are the people who pay the taxes and without them there are no bucks for the space program–and then they are all out of a job. Basically, “no bucks, no Buck Rogers”. And I reckon about the same thing can be said of the war in Iraq and probably the rest of the GWOT. To paraphrase, “no Daddy Warbucks, no war”–on terror or anything else. This whole endeavor costs a great deal of borrowed money. Our leaders have done a poor job of spelling out just what this masterpiece is finally supposed look like. In the meantime, the cost just keeps going up. And nobody wants talk about exactly who is going to pay the final tab. That goes for Democrats as well as the Republicans. The brahmans and nabobs can argue all they want but the simple arithmetic of economics are such that some day we’ll run out of money to do this war. I suppose this can be solved by raising taxes, cutting other federal programs or devaluing the currency via inflation and pay today’s debts with “cheaper” dollars…twenty or thirty years from now. All of that is unpallatable to the pols, not to mention citizens. I any case, we all can argue the merits of the war until Elvis comes back to Graceland; never seeing eye to eye on any of it. But eventually the economics of thing will sort themselves out and force something more decisive upon us. The money will deal with us.
    Which brings me back to the issue of mendacity. We got into Iraq on a series of half-truthes and, perhaps, outright lies. Now the country finds itself sidled up to a very expensive tar baby. My question is, who is going to pay for all that? And is it worth the cost? From a checkbook POV, I reckon, that’s a fair question.

  4. There’s all kinds of lies that are waiting a reckoning, jb. It’s our bad luck to be living in an age where we’re aware of them. I mean, we’re still not healed–at least I’m not–from the Trojan War, a war of aggression waged as retribution for a family member’s loss, women treated as chattel by a krypto-fascist oligarchy, which resulted in the invasion and slaughter of a whole people. I don’t know what we can do.
    On the plus side, regarding this whole embassy thing, from one standpoint, is that if our involvement in Iraq dwindles to the 8000 embassy staff, and a pair of Brigades in Kuwait, ready to answer the call of our new and fledgling ally–all in all about 15 to 20 thousand people–won’t that be a great reduction?
    I think, all in all, the Iraqis themselves have the biggest voice in this, and they’re pretty busy getting on with the revenge thing right now.
    I have to agree, though, in the final analysis. That’s a lot of money. We may end up having to just take the oil after all.

  5. John:
    Sorry to hear you’re still smarting from the Trojan War. You can go to therapy for that or — the course I recommend — go buy the Christopher Logue interpretations of some of the central Iliad episodes. I’m sure you’d get off on them.
    Of course, part of what Homer and the Greeks were singing about in that tale of sex, lust, retribution, pique, valor, guile, et cetera, was the folly of the enterprise, for all concerned, at the end of the day. And — my reading only — those who committed the greatest folly and suffered the most for their pains and the pain they had inflicted on others — were the warriors themselves. No parade for the conquering Agamemnon or for the man of twists and turns, Odysseus. Turns out they were just the playthings of the gods and goddesses (always good to have Athena in your corner, though).

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