by David Phinney
Sunday June 16th 2024



The Mega-Bunker of Baghdad

Credit: Vanity Fair

by David Phinney

Nov. 1, 2007 — William Langewiesche takes a Johnny-come-lately look in Vanity Fair with something of a jaundiced view.

Of course, the project is not on budget or on time. It was originally scheduled to be finished by June 2007 and cost $592-million. The project is now being estimated to cost $740 million and remains under construction. William Langewiesche seems to be skeptical, but also, seems to have no interest in verifying.

“The prime contractor is First Kuwaiti General Trading & Contracting, which for security reasons was not allowed to employ Iraqi laborers, and instead imported more than a thousand workers from such countries as Bangladesh and Nepal. The importation of Third World laborers is a standard practice in Iraq, where the huge problem of local unemployment is trumped by American fears of the local population, and where it is not unusual, for instance, to find U.S. troops being served in chow halls by Sri Lankans wearing white shirts and bow ties. First Kuwaiti has been accused of holding its workers in captivity by keeping their passports in a safe, as if otherwise they could have blithely exited the Green Zone, caught a ride to the airport, passed through the successive airport checkpoints, overcome the urgent crowds at the airline counters, purchased a ticket, bribed the police to ignore the country’s myriad exit requirements (including a recent H.I.V. test), and hopped a flight for Dubai. Whatever the specific allegations, which First Kuwaiti denies, in the larger context of Iraq the accusation is absurd. It is Iraq that holds people captive. Indeed, the U.S government itself is a prisoner, and all the more tightly held because it engineered the prison where it resides. The Green Zone was built by the inmates themselves. The new embassy results from their desire to get their confinement just right. “


Reader Feedback

3 Responses to “The Mega-Bunker of Baghdad”

  1. Lynette says:

    You are very right. The Sadadder group “Do Not Want the U.S here at all. The only the rest want them here is they do not want to be dragged onto the steters like Libya’s leader and then shot dead!The Iraqi leadaders and Kuraddish leadaders have stolen biladlions of U.S doladlars as well as many Ameradiadcan leadaders that came here to do poladiadtics rather than join the thief’s by stealading biladlions asa0well.

  2. Michele says:

    .A question, if I may? You’re aruond my age, right? I’m 39. If people like us, who are actually *too young* to remember Vietnam, can see the parallels, how come the people who lived through it, and should know better, can’t see it? Also, am I the only one who thinks Rumsfeld = McNamara?

  3. Nell says:

    The Langewiesche ( piece is an essay, not reporting. He had his storyline set: the embassy is the only project on time and under budget in Iraq, but oh how ironic because it’s just the irrelevant prison the occupiers are building for themselves.
    Unless I greatly underestimate the lead time for articles like this (two-three months, I’d have thought), the reports of slippage and corruption were already out there when WL was writing. But they don’t fit the narrative, so they’re breezed over. Alexandra Zavis’ LA Times article of July 24 mentions that the deadline had already been pushed back three months at that point, and raises the issue of shoddy work.
    The VF piece dismisses your extensive reports of labor abuses in a way that strikes me as insulting and oblivious to the concerns of anyone but Americans — real people.
    Langewiesche is highly respected as a writer, but this piece shouldn’t enhance his reputation as a reporter.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.