Future Uncertain For Vast US Embassy In Baghdad

12/29/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Shelley's lines about a long-forgotten ruler's monument to himself come unavoidably to mind the first time one visits the new U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

The vast, fortified complex is sterile and austere, not the open door ambiance for which Americans like to be known. Congressional funding didn't cover landscaping, so where gardens and grass should be, there's only dirt. In Iraq's hot, dry climate, it turns to dust, which blows into the eyes of anyone walking through the compound. At night, when sodium lamps illuminate the red brick construction, it has an eerie feel, like a scene out of a sci-fi movie

The compound exudes power, but also fear. It was built during the heaviest phase of fighting for an immense sum - $740 million dollars - with specs set by pessimists who assumed mortars would be fired at it for years. The cafeteria has massive bulletproof glass doors, an indoor gym is visible behind bulletproof glass as is an indoor swimming pool, and there are housing and offices for 1,000.

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