On The Subject of Last Helicopters
Contractors are being flown out Iraq, according to the Washington Post, to remove them from the line of advance of ISIS. The al-Qaeda affiliate is well known for its practice of decapitating captives, a practice which prompted a warning from Ayman Zawahiri. According to the Economist, Zawahiri felt the habit of posting such atrocities on video was giving al-Qaeda a bad name.
Although precautionary preparations have been made, the US embassy in Baghdad itself has not been evacuated. "The State Department said in January that it had about 5,000 personnel working at the embassy and at consulates in Basra and Irbil, including 2,000 Americans. Embassy personnel are protected by some 200 Marine Corps security guards."
If the embassy is evacuated, it will leave what is perhaps one of the most lavish and expensive diplomatic facility in history in the hands of al-Qaeda. It contains what is probably a huge intelligence facility. "The 104-acre compound — already its biggest and most expensive in the world — currently houses 1,350 U.S. government employees in the heart of Baghdad’s International Zone and will increase its capacity because the U.S. is consolidating overall diplomatic property in Baghdad down by one-third. The most interesting upgrade is the construction of a data hall in an existing classified embassy annex building that will cost $20 to $35 million. It will require 'electrical/telecommunication system upgrades [and] extensive mechanical and plumbing systems,' according to a June 12 notice from the State Department."
The grandeur and magnificence of the Baghdad embassy has only been recently eclipsed in appointments by the new US embassy in London. The tendency of the Obama administration to build State Department palaces has been criticized.
The new embassy in London might have been meant to compensate for how badly American diplomacy has gone over the past decade or so, but spending hundreds of millions of dollars to make ourselves feel better is an expensive and ultimately useless exercise.
America will also be leaving behind a training effort "billed as the most ambitious American aid effort since the Marshall Plan — began in October and has already cost $500 million, including $343 million worth of construction projects around the country."
If the embassy is evacuated as al-Qaeda reaches Baghdad the optics will be atrocious. The very magnificence of the buildings will underscore the magnitude of the defeat. The sheer size of the palaces will make destruction no easy task. For these grand edifices, constructed at so much taxpayer cost must be reduced to total ash by America's own hand. The taxpayer pays for the matches.
As the US embassy in Saigon prepared to be overrun the incinerators were filled to overflowing with US dollars and classified documents. Liquor stores were smashed. In the event there was not even enough time to destroy everything. Yet by comparison the US Embassy in Saigon is hovel compared to the facility in Baghdad.
North Vietnamese troops as well as intelligence and army officials scoured the abandoned Embassy shortly after taking Saigon on the afternoon of April 30. Over the next several days, they apparently were able to piece together classified documents that had been shredded but not burnt and used these to track down South Vietnamese employees of the Central Intelligence Agency.
In the event Baghdad is overrun, one can only hope the rear guard uses enough C4 to leave not a stone upon a stone. And thermite where appropriate. Until it's gone. All gone.
But great though the loss of the buildings will be, the blow in terms of intelligence gathering capabilities, networks, facilities and dislocation will be monumental. No one knows how many translators, sub-agents and locals who have risked their lives for the US will be left twisting in the wind. It will be no easy task to thoroughly efface the work of years. Yet it will have to be done if al-Qaeda is not obtain the greatest intelligence windfall of its career. President Obama may find a way to screw that up too, for even to be properly defeated requires a competence he may lack.
Baghdad has not yet fallen. It may never fall. But prospect should make people sit up and wonder whether they understand the meaning of the word "defeat". It's not just a word or military phrase, but a condition of unutterable loss and subjection. It is humiliation distilled. It is total abjection.
President Obama grew up in a generation which cheered "defeats" as comically grainy events on black and white film which took place in far away places. Perhaps it had for them a quality of unreality. Some prank on The Man, a something happening to someone else. Let's see how they like it in HD.
Military age males being herded by ISIS to an unknown fate. Defeat is a b**ch.
Yet the loss in Iraq will be cheap at the price. It illustrates the ease with which the Obama administration can be surprised and reveals the utter hollowness of the men in the expensive suits. One day, perhaps soon, America may be challenged by an enemy which can truly hurt it -- the Big One -- and on that day Barack Hussein Obama is unlikely to fare any better than he has so far.
It's not this present catastrophe that should worry everyone, though it is serious enough. It's the what happens when Big One comes with the same in crew in charge that should give one pause.
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Article printed from Belmont Club: https://pjmedia.com/richardfernandez
URL to article: https://pjmedia.com/richardfernandez/2014/6/13/on-last-helicopters