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U.S. Embassy Building will Rival the Vatican

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The new U.S. Embassy currently being built will leave a legacy in Iraq of exploitation and extravagance long after American soldiers are gone.

Critics refer to the new U.S. embassy in Baghdad, scheduled for completion in June, as the only building in Iraq being completed on time. Iraqis call it “George W.’s Palace.” Some critics are saying the embassy will rival the Vatican. While electricity for Iraqis runs only a few hours a day, the embassy construction site is “floodlighted by night,” as a June 2006 Chicago Tribune piece succinctly put it.

The construction cost for the embassy is about $600 million. According to a Senate report, the 104 acre campus will include six apartment buildings, two office buildings, residences for the ambassador and his deputy, a gym, pool, club, beauty salon, food court, vehicle-repair center, warehouse, and an emergency exit.

The company building the embassy is the First Kuwaiti General Trading and Contracting Company (FKTC). The company has never built a U.S. embassy before. The website CorpWatch.org reported that some U.S. contractors who competed for the embassy contract expressed “bewilderment over why the U.S. State Department gave the work to First Kuwaiti General Trading & Contracting.”

The contractors complained that some of the “competing contractors” had more experience, and “at least one award-winning company offered to perform all but the most classified work for $60 million to $70 million less than FKTC.”

One contractor said, “It was political.” Another remarked, ““It's stunning what First Kuwaiti has been able to get from the State Department.”

CorpWatch.org also reported that FKTC has “hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. contracts in Iraq, pushing the company well past the $1 billion mark.” The company claims it holds construction and supply contracts for military camps with the U.S. Army totaling $800 million. FKTC has a contract under Halliburton worth over $300 million to “perform military logistics for the occupation forces in Iraq,” according to CorpWatch.org.

FKTC has 900 Asian workers, largely from the Philippines and India, building the embassy. The Chicago Tribune ran a story in 2005 alleging the company engages in human trafficking. The Inter-Press Service News Agency (IPS) reported that the U.S. State Department and the Pentagon were investigating FKTC for “labor trafficking and worker abuse” in 2005.

According to the IPS story the company coerced Asian workers to “take jobs in battle-torn Iraq once they had been lured to Kuwait with safer offers.”

 

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Gina-Marie Cheeseman is a freelance writer with a passion for social justice. She grew up on a vineyard ranch in the San Joaquin Valley of California watching farmworkers toil in the searing sun. Her desire for social justice fermented along with (more...)
 
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