Holy American Empire

Sometimes, a little Google-research uncovers increasingly more disturbing facts. This morning, it all started with an article from the Baltimore Sun, posted on AlterNet: Building an Embassy Fit for an Empire, about the US building the largest embassy in the world, a massive complex covering 104 acres (the size of about 80 football fields) and costing nearly $1 billion — in the heart of Baghdad, of all places. The US State Department awarded the contract for the work to a controversial Kuwait-based construction firm — First Kuwaiti General Trading & Contracting (FKTC), “…accused of exploiting employees and coercing low-paid laborers to work in war-torn Iraq against their will”. The Washington Post calls the project “The Baghdad Drain”, and asks: How Much Embassy Is Too Much?

One of the comments to the AlterNet article points out that the monster in Iraq isn’t the only giant US embassy being built, and mentions construction in Sierra Leone where the monumental building project is in stark contrast to the abject poverty of the surrounding area. I should have just stopped there, but I was curious and did a search about “new US embassies” which led me to a government site for the Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations. It is part of the US Department of State, was launched under new leadership in March of 2001, and “has embarked upon an overseas construction program on a scale unprecedented in its history”. There’s a link to a page with Project Information which lists some 50 construction projects for embassy compounds and related programs, many of them in poor countries like Mali, Belize, Nepal, etc.

This made me curious about US army bases in foreign countries, a phenomenon that always puzzled me. I liken it to somebody entering my house and moving in, claiming that it’s for my own security, but not giving me much choice in the matter. Well, I found a Military Installation Guide with an overseas section which lists about 80 bases, 27 of them in Germany, for some reason. Others are in the Netherlands, Iceland, Puerto Rico, Bahrain, South Korea, Japan, Turkey, etc…

One in particular caught my attention, because I had never heard of the country: Diego Garcia. According to the military organization that maintains the website, Diego Garcia is an island south of the tip of India, belongs to the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT), and its main source of income came from copra oil and coconut plantation. Until 1971, that is — “[T]he plantation years ended with the arrival of the U.S. military construction”. Wikipedia is more specific about this euphemism for the end of the plantation years: the native population known as Ilois was forcefully removed first to the Seychelles and then to Mauritius in order to make room for what is now the largest US army base on foreign territory.

The tragic history of the islanders who were first tricked and intimidated into leaving their home, and then loaded on to ships like cattle, can be read here. In all fairness, the article holds the British government equally responsible for what is happening to these people who want to return to where they were born and ask for compensation for their losses.

I think it is better to be informed and to know about what’s going on, even when it’s depressive and unsettling. But I’m not sure… Maybe it doesn’t make any difference…

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About artnexus

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4 Responses to Holy American Empire

  1. Pingback: How the empire builds its castles « on the wall

  2. wildiris says:

    I find this alarming. Thanks for the links.

  3. artnexus says:

    Thanks for the link; this is so utterly despicable… Big question — why did the State Department award the contract to FKTC, by all accounts an inexperienced company and not the lowest bidder for the job. Are they really investigating labor trafficking and inhumane working conditions, with the intention to improve the situation? I highly doubt it; I bet some guys make huge amounts of money and will do whatever they can to keep this going.

  4. My latest update the US embassy site found that low-wage migrant workers at the US embassy project in Baghdad were being smuggled into Iraq from Kuwait despite labor bans. I am told by sources that only after this story appeared, were passports returned to workers. Taking away passports is considered an major indication of labor trafficking. This is now under investigation both by the Justice and State Departments and the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.

    Here’s a link to one version of that story:

    http://www.counterpunch.org/phinney10242006.html

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