May 1, 2005
The Wisdom Fund

Saddam Hussein's Palaces

Home to the U.S. Occupation Force in Iraq

by Enver Masud

The contrast between the occupier and the occupied couldn't be more vivid - one resides in palaces, the other often reside in bombed out homes or as refugees within their own country.

In Saddam Hussein's birthplace - Tikrit, Iraq, the U.S. occupation force has commandeered the former dictator's palaces to use as homes and offices for the occupation force.

Local government's requesting to use these palaces as schools, libraries, museums, hotels, etc., are being denied, and are angry at the Americans.

Of-course, the generals get the best rooms and lavish bathrooms (see slide show). The privates sleep on cots and use portable latrines.

The occupation force lives in air-conditioned comfort, enjoys $64 lunches with 22 flavors of ice cream - "better than those served at the University of California". The caterer, Kellog Brown & Root - a subsidiary of Halliburton (once run by Vice President Richard Cheney) - rakes in the taxpayer's dollars.

The occupation force has running water, electricity, and security - all of which were promised to the Iraqi people. All of which they mostly had under Saddam Hussein. All of which they have much less of under the U.S. occupation force.

The Iraqis, of course, resent this - except for the few who have made it into the inner circles of the occupation force.

Contracts are doled out to Iraqis in the inner circle - often these are the interpreters. They get to lord it over more qualified firms and individuals, thereby, alienating more Iraqis.

Outside their relatively secure enclaves the occupiers are targets of the Iraqi resistance. For Americans killed or maimed, their palace quarters, $60,000 in pay and allowances for the lowest private, and the promise of $90,000 in loans for education become small compensation for them and their families, but it is what draws them into the military.

Iraqis struggle just to feed their families, and live in fear of a knock on the door late at night which may be the beginning of their disappearance into the American gulags in Iraq, Jordan, Pakistan, Diego Garcia, Guantanamo, and elsewhere.

And it isn't just in Tikrit, this vivid contrast between the occupier and the occupied exists virtually all over Iraq.

Since there is no draft, the elites of America are largely untouched by the mounting human tragedy: roughly 1600 Americans dead, 180 members of the "coalition" dead, 100,000 Iraqis dead, and countless more maimed or wounded.

Absent the American elite's personal stake in the war, mainstream media debate - which the elite control - has become largely divorced from this unnecessary human tragedy.

India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, in a letter to his daughter, wrote about the British occupation of Iraq ("Iraq and the virtues of aerial bombing," June 7, 1933):

"The novel feature of the modern type of imperialism is its attempt to hide its terrorism and exploitation behind pious phrases about 'trusteeship' and the 'good of the masses' and 'the training of the backward peoples in self-government' and the like."

Nehru's letters to his daughter Indira Gandhi - who became India's prime minister in 1966 - were written from a British prison in India. Published as "Glimpses of World History", they should be required reading for the new imperialists occupying Iraq today.

As Yogi Berra might have said: "It's deja vu all over again."

Mark Fineman, "Palace Being Renovated for US Occupation," Los Angeles Times, May 9, 2003

Enver Masud, "Exploiting Iraq: $64 Lunch, $125,000 Truck Driver," The Wisdom Fund, January 29, 2004

Scott Johnson, "Lost in the Green Zone: As Iraqi frustration mounts over sovereignty, Americans have a place to dance and eat pizza," MSNBC, September 20

Michael Meacher, "America is Usurping the Democratic Will in Iraq," Independent, April 5, 2005

Bradley Graham, "Commanders Plan Eventual Consolidation of U.S. Bases in Iraq," Washington Post, May 22, 2005

"US Military Occupation Facilities,"

[ . . . biggest embassy on earth . . . cover an area larger than Vatican City. . . . only big US building project in Iraq that is on time and within budget.--Daniel McGrory, "Baghdad anger at Bush's undiplomatic palace," The Australian, May 4, 2006]

Rajiv Chandrasekaran, "Imperial Life in the Emerald City: Inside Iraq's Green Zone," Knopf (September 19, 2006)

[Rising from the dust of the city's Green Zone it is destined, at $592m (300m), to become the biggest and most expensive US embassy on earth when it opens in September.--Ed Pilkington, "America's fortress embassy," Guardian, May 21, 2007]

William Langewiesche, "The Mega-Bunker of Baghdad," Vanity Fair, November 2007

Howard LaFranchi, "Iraqis see red as U.S. opens world's biggest embassy," Christian Science Monitor, April 24, 2008

[For Washington, the driving motivation is to create a "zone of influence" around the new $700 million U.S. Embassy. The zone would serve as a kind of high-end buffer for the compound, whose price tag will reach about $1 billion after all the workers and offices are moved over the next year.--Bradley Brooks and Qassim Abdul-Zahra, "Green Zone dreams of wealth to come," Associated Press, May 5, 2008]

[Last year, on a visit to LSA Anaconda, the largest US base in Iraq, I was taken to one of its dining facilities that serves up to 1,000 people at a sitting. It was run by Houston-based KBR, the former subsidiary of Halliburton. Here's what KBR made available for an ordinary breakfast: baked bacon, creamed beef, pork sausage patties, turkey sausage links, plain omelets, scrambled eggs, hash browns, grits/oatmeal, buttermilk biscuits, French toast, waffles, assorted yogurts, muffins, doughnuts, and coffee cake.--Pratap Chatterjee and Tom Engelhardt, "The Military's Expanding Waistline," TomDispatch Monitor, February 20, 2009]

[The U.S. and its allies eventually built more than five hundred military bases in Afghanistan. Many of them had hot showers and Internet cafes. Soldiers who patrolled mud-walled villages without plumbing or electricity, in temperatures that rose to a hundred and thirty degrees, slept in air-conditioned tents so cold that they needed blankets.--Matthieu Aikins, "The Bidding War: How a young Afghan military contractor became spectacularly rich," The New Yorker, March 7, 2016]

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