Monday, May 5, 2008

A Green Zone Of Hotels And Amusement Parks: Six Plagues Over Baghdad

By Manifesto Joe

There is a place, right next door to hell, that stays under regular mortar and rocket fire, and there's no working sewer system. My wife has a first cousin who was a contract worker in the Baghdad Green Zone for a year, and she's been doing the PTSD thousand-yard stare much of the time since she returned.

But developers envision condos, luxury hotels, amusement parks and high-end shopping there -- and in the not-so-distant future. And the Pentagon is with them, all the way and more.

Welcome to the Green Zone of Western dreams. It's an air-conditioned yuppie paradise rising from sun-baked rubble. Starbucks, Macy's, Neiman-Marcus, Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, a Ruth's Chris Steakhouse, an Audi dealership, and a few of those ice bars that are so popular now in oil-rich Arab cities (no booze in Muslimland, of course).

It's everything that a well-paid Halliburton type could ask for, except that the beer, wine and martini gin would come from smuggling or the black market.

Sound crazy? Well, lunacy has been sold more than once within the past seven or so years. It's a real plan, and here are some details, as reported by The Associated Press:

For Washington, the driving motivation is to create a "zone of influence" around the new $700 million U.S. Embassy to serve as a kind of high-end buffer for the compound, whose total price tag will reach about $1 billion after all the workers and offices are relocated over the next year.

"When you have $1 billion hanging out there and 1,000 employees lying around, you kind of want to know who your neighbors are. You want to influence what happens in your neighborhood over time," said Navy Capt. Thomas Karnowski, who led the team that created the development plan.

Karnowski said a deal already has been completed for Marriott International Inc. to build a hotel in the Green Zone. He also said a possible $1 billion investment could come from MBI International, a conglomerate that focuses on hotels and resorts and is led by Saudi Sheikh Mohamed Bin Issa Al Jaber.

For the moment, however, it's mortars and rockets — not investment money — pouring into the Green Zone, which includes the U.S. and British embassies, key Iraqi government offices and other international compounds. Militants have escalated their shelling of the enclave since Iraqi forces began a crackdown on Shiite militias in late March.

But developers are clearly looking many years ahead and gambling that Baghdad could one day join the list of former war zones such as Sarajevo and Beirut that have rebounded and earned big paydays for early investors.

If it wasn't official before, I think it is now: One can dredge up, just about any place, anytime, wealthy vermin who are more than willing to capitalize on the organic rot of human misery, like maggots feeding on compost. It's so predictable.

And, our government is more than willing to encourage this, but not because of any economic concern for the Iraqi on the street. It's so that they can surround that new U.S. Embassy, the one that is supposed to top out bigger than the Vatican, with lots of swell commerce and housing so that perhaps the neighborhood guerrillas will think twice before shelling it.

Just when I think I've seen and heard it all, damn, I haven't. But wait, there's more:

Last week, a Los Angeles-based holding company for equity firms, C3, confirmed it was starting a $500 million project to build an amusement park on the outskirts of the Green Zone in an area encompassing the Baghdad Zoo. The first phase, a skateboard park, is scheduled to open this summer.

The investors' gamble is that by the time they get Six Plagues Over Baghdad completely open, conditions will have quieted considerably. It's just a matter of time, and staying the course.

Yeah. Like, where have we heard that one before?

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.


dr sardonicus said...

They ain't kidding nobody any more. We ain't ever fucking leaving.

Marc McDonald said...

"We" is an interesting pronoun. I find myself using it from time to time, just out of habit, in describing the actions of the Bush Crime Family, including this fiasco of a war in Iraq.

But frankly, this was never really about "we," the American people. It's about Dick Cheney's billionaire buddies on the board at Halliburton. It's about Bush and his daddy's rich friends. It's about the chickenhawks and liars at the Project for the New American Century. It's about the profiteering corporations that have made out like bandits with various fat war-related contracts.

But it's really not about "we" the American people. Sure, the Rush Limbaugh crowd may believe that's the case. But they're deluded, as always.

Manifesto Joe said...

Hi, Marc: I think the doctor uses "we" in the old-fashioned editorial sense. It doesn't mean that "we" the opposition are directly complicit. But I think you probably know about that old convention, as your bio shows a newspaper background.

Tanker said...

First off i have to say interesting stuff, some points i have to agree with you on, and some points i just have to call you out on. i do agree, US Embassy and wasting all that money, not so smart, hell, save the money and buy me a house. as for the skate park around the Baghdad Zoo? Well i have to laugh because i just cant see that happening. In fact i know it would be a damn stupid thing because i drive by that place everyday and you know what? The neighborhood just isnt friendly enough for it quite yet. But dont get me wrong quite a few of them actually are pretty friendly, i know, my area of operations is just across the street. So yes i believe you have some very valid points there. But as for the invalid and the nonsensical, dont want to be a dick but, your wife's cousin has PTSD thousand yard stare from mortar and rocket attacks on the green zone? Those things rarely land anywhere you can see 'em. I've had one land 7 meters from my humvee first day out and i just cant see that having that effect. And the hotels and shops in the Green Zone? Well if you could see it, you'd understand why it's indeed very plausable: the place is huge, i've been there quite a few times, and there are some hotels already there, and not just little rinky dinky buildings, im talken about full sized babies, ones you'd see back in the states. And the shops? Please oh please god let them open any store over here i would literally kiss every employee in Wal-Mart if they opened one here. No ones realizes the grip that AAFES (the military equivalent of K-Mart) has on people pocket books over here. Good Luck finding anything you need there. But, hope you take my opinion at face value, good article though, i will read more of yours.

Manifesto Joe said...

Tanker, I appreciate the fact that you are there, seeing it from your own perspective.

But, my wife has seen what can happen to one given person who has spent a year in the Green Zone. Her cousin may not be representative, but we got the definite impression it's not a nice place to visit.

As for the frequency of attacks, well, we hear varied accounts over here. Here's a link that offers not only stats, but also what appear to be firsthand reports:

Click here.

Marc McDonald said...

Hi Tanker, are you aware of the group Iraq Veterans Against the War? This group has over 1,000 members (and it's only one of several veterans' groups opposed to the Iraq War).
I'd like your opinion on something: why do you suppose these guys are against the war?