Today’s Lesson in Semantics: “Presence” vs. “Occupation”

embassyThe mainstream media has certainly shown itself once again to be incapable of following multiple stories simultaneously. Yes, the situation in Gaza is front-page news, as is (or should be, anyway) the events in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And of course we’re getting ready to inaugurate a new President, and today a new Congress is being sworn in. (Except for a certain “Roland Burris,” that is.)

But still. Is it too much to ask that mention be made of a multi-million dollar occupation compound, otherwise known as the new U.S. Embassy, was opened in Baghdad yesterday? At least the Christian Science Monitor was paying attention:

US opens world’s largest foreign mission in Iraq

The $592 million, 104-acre compound that was dedicated in Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone on Monday is meant to symbolize a long-term commitment to Iraq

Hmm. You say “commitment,” I say “occupation.” Let’s call the whole thing off.

An “embassy compound” might sound uninviting, especially considering that the US Embassy just moved to its new location from Saddam Hussein’s Republican Palace. But the design is anything but. It’s made up of beige buildings constructed of stone and draped with giant sunscreens, giving it the appearance of a college campus in the American southwest rather than making it feel like a military installation.

That’s nice. What conference will they play in — the Big East?

And although it was supposed to cost us taxpayers just $592 million, the New York Times reports the cost was a little bit higher: “The Congressional Research Service said the final cost was $736 million…”

The spin of the Bush Administration, of course, is that this is a wonderful time to be in Baghdad. Unfortunately, as the Times also reports:

But while the celebrators reflected on what they called the accomplishments of the past six years and the challenges ahead, a wave of bombs went off across Baghdad, leaving at least six dead and dozens wounded. The bombs came a day after a suicide attack killed more than 40 people at a Shiite shrine in central Baghdad…

Though its construction also was troubled by long delays, structural problems and allegations of abusive labor practices, the embassy, a campus of adobe-colored buildings on 104 acres, has a far more functional appearance than the lavish palace. Surrounded by concrete walls topped with razor wires, the compound is less than a mile from the Republican Palace in the Green Zone, which was handed over to Iraqi control on Jan. 1 as part of the security agreement.

What a dreary description compared with the one from the happy shiny people over at the Voice of America:

U.S. Marines raised the American flag in the embassy courtyard as the U.S. national anthem was played.

The new embassy cost more than $600 million to build, and will house more than 1,000 employees. The facility has its own water supply, electricity generating plant and sewage treatment facility.

On January 1, the U.S. transferred control of Baghdad’s Green Zone to the Iraqi army – the first step of a new security deal that calls for U.S. forces to withdraw from the country by 2011.

And one might ask why “The facility has its own water supply, electricity generating plant and sewage treatment facility.” Well, of course, because those things don’t exist in today’s Baghdad, thanks to … the U.S.!

I believe the irony alert system has officially exploded.

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