Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The US embassy in Baghdad is 'certified'

The State Department on Monday certified the new $740 million U.S. Embassy in Baghdad as ready to open, more than six months behind schedule.
Richard Shinnick, the department's buildings chief, said problems with the mammoth, 27-building complex's fire-safety systems have been fixed, and the embassy compound will now be turned over to U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker.
Undersecretary of State Patrick Kennedy signed the formal certificate of occupancy Monday, Shinnick said in an interview. Diplomats will begin moving into the compound next month.
[. . .]
Shinnick's predecessor promised Congress last July that the embassy would be complete in September 2007.
But the project has been plagued by allegations of shoddy workmanship by the main contractor, First Kuwaiti General Trading and Contracting Co., and unproven charges of labor abuses. First Kuwaiti has denied any wrongdoing and says it stands by the quality of its work.
Embassy contracts have been the subject of a Justice Department investigation. The status of that probe is unclear.

The above is from Warren P. Stroblel's "New U.S. Embassy in Baghdad ready -- six months late" (McClatchy Newspapers) and AP quotes US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker declaring, "We worry a lot less about formal safety certifications and a lot more about ensuring people have a place to sleep where rockets couldn't get at them." If the compound's fire safety rules and regulations have been ignored, a rocket attack could result in a number of deaths. Possibly no one thought to point that out to Crocker.

Crocker's sounding the typical line from the current administration which has repeatedly dismissed rules and regulations (and that's public safety as well as market safety) developed over the years (for good reason) as "red tape" that needs to be cut through. He, and the administration, better hope the shoddy facility doesn't face a real test because their well documented disdain for safety means any loss of life will be blamed solely on them. Condi may yet again rush out with one of her "No one could have guessed" statements, but the reality is that the Green Zone has been under mortar and rocket attacks for years.

If something does happen, for instance deaths at the compound as a result of 'corners cut,' it will not go away easily. If they did on the cheap and something goes wrong, look for it to be a story for not just years but decades and decades and, if you doubt that, check out the front page of the New York Times this morning where you will find William J. Broad's "Hard-Pressed Titanic Builder Skimped on Rivets, Book says" which opens with:

Researches have discovered that the builder of the Titanic struggled for years to obtain enough good rivets and riveters and ultimately settled on faulty materials that doomed the ship which sank 96 years ago Tuesday.

With all the money spent on that compound/base, you better believe any deaths resulting from 'cut corners' will be a story that doesn't go away in a few days, a few months or a few years.

Meanwhile CNN reports on some of the violence in Iraq today including a Diyala Province car bombing that "a medical source" tells CNN claimed the lives of at least 34 and (citing Col Ragheb al-Omeiri) "also wounded dozens of people."

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