Monday, May 05, 2008

Five Star Hotel Only $50 A Night. Flak Jacket Included

We're coming to you today from the Department of Ponies and Fairy Dust here in the marbled halls of IM Central. The DoPFD in partnership with the president's council on economic resurgence wants you to know that even though gas prices are spiking, housing is in the tank, jobs are scarcer than lips on a snake and even if you get one, your wages are a joke; even with all that, your president has a plan to make you independently wealthy. All you have to do is become a contractor first.

Try to imagine luxury hotels, a shopping center and even condos in the heart of Baghdad. That's all part of a five-year development "dream list" — or what some dub Bush listening to the voices in his head again— to transform the U.S.-protected Green Zone from a walled fortress into a walled fortress that is the centerpiece for Baghdad's future. The $5 billion plan has the backing of the Pentagon since it's not their money and apparently the interest of some deep pockets in the world of international crime, the lead military liaison for the project told the Associated Press. "This is like full employment for contractors," the liaison said. "As soon as we build it, the jihadis will blow it up, and even if they don't, it'll be so poorly built we'll have to come in and tear it down anyway."

For Washington, the driving motivation is to create a "moat of cash" around the new $700 million U.S. Embassy to serve as a kind of alternate target area for the compound, whose total price tag will reach about $1 billion after all the workers and offices are relocated over the next year. "Well, that's metaphorical," said Navy Captain Thomas Karnowski, who led the team that created the development plan after a weekend of hashish and peyote. "It's not like we're going to dig a hole and fill it with actual dollars, although that was discussed at one point."

"When you have $1 billion hanging out there and 1,000 employees lying around, you kind of want to know who your neighbors are," Karnowski said. "Especially when most of those neighbors want to see you dead."

For the moment, however, it's mortars and rockets pouring into the Green Zone. Militants have escalated their shelling of the enclave since Iraqi forces began a crackdown on Shiite militias in late March. "Look at the bright said," Karnowski said. "Every building they blow up is one less we have to tear down for the amusement park."

"There is no sewer system, no working power system. Everything here is done on generators. No road system repair work. There are no city services other than the minimal amount we provide to get by," Karnowski said. "Of course the same can be said for most of the rest of the country, but we figure if we can make this happen the Iraqis will can come and hang out at our mall when their hovels get to hot in the summer. It's part of our hearts and minds campaign."

Security is nowhere near the level needed for major development projects. Then there is the question of whether the Iraqi government even wants U.S. involvement in developing the center of their capital. "Oh yeah. We really want the Americans to build their own little gated community right in the center of our capital city while the rest of us get by on three hours of electricity a day," said one Iraqi official who asked not to be identified.

Iraqis also complain that the Americans — because they control security in the Green Zone — essentially hold a veto over the investors. Karnowski acknowledged that American officials would vet potential investors because of a "vested interest in making sure most of this money goes back into patriotic corporations like Halliburton. We'll hire some Iraqis though, don't worry."

Karnowski is aware the Green Zone plan is viewed as unrealistic by many, primarily people with IQ's higher than sand fleas. "If you talk to people at the State Department, they still believe a hotel isn't going up. But it is a done deal," Karnowski said of the Marriott project.

Elizabeth Caminiti, a Marriott spokeswoman, declined to comment, but instead pointed her index finger at her temple and twirled it around.

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