After months of delays, allegations of fraud, and labor disputes, the gigantic new US embassy in Iraq finally opened on January 5, 2009. The mammoth structure covers 104 acres — the size of 80 football fields — and has been called “a monster of a modern fortress”, “the US castle of Babylon” and “the imperial mother ship dropping into Baghdad”. Surrounded by concrete walls topped with razor wires, the embassy is in many ways symbolic of the US misadventure in Iraq.

Yet again, the US has spent an excessive amount of money — completely disproportionate to our diplomatic needs in the rest of the world. The new Baghdad embassy cost $732 million to construct , and it will cost the US taxpayers $1.2 billion per year to operate. It will house a full-time staff of 1200 Americans plus two thousand or more contractors. This is the biggest and most expensive US embassy in the world. (The second largest US embassy is now being built in Beijing, China, for a cost of $434 million –and it is considerably smaller than the one in Baghdad).

A ceremony to celebrate the opening of the new US embassy was held the day after a suicide bomber killed 40 people at a Shia shrine just 4 miles north of the embassy’s walls.

“Adding up the damages” by Bob Herbert

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With President Bush leaving office next week, there is a natural tendency in the media to soften some of the criticism directed toward his policies.  But many of the Bush era decisions, including the decisions to invade Iraq,  to finance the entire war by borrowing, and to  shortchange  veterans when they returned — were serious mistakes that merit continued  attention.   Bob Herbert of the New York Times recently wrote an excellent column making this point.

Does anyone know where George W. Bush is?

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Readers shared their thoughts on this article.

You don’t hear much from him anymore. The last image most of us remember is of the president ducking a pair of size 10s that were hurled at him in Baghdad.

We’re still at war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Israel is thrashing the Palestinians in Gaza. And the U.S. economy is about as vibrant as the 0-16 Detroit Lions.

But hardly a peep have we heard from George, the 43rd.

When Mr. Bush officially takes his leave in three weeks (in reality, he checked out long ago), most Americans will be content to sigh good riddance. I disagree. I don’t think he should be allowed to slip quietly out of town. There should be a great hue and cry — a loud, collective angry howl, demonstrations with signs and bullhorns and fiery speeches — over the damage he’s done to this country.