As it becomes clearer and clearer that the actual plans are for an occupation of Iraq with at least 100,000 troops for a decade or more, William Langewiesche takes a look at the massive US embassy being built as the central imperial palace in Baghdad. Money quote:

The construction has proceeded within budget and on time. For the State Department, this is a matter of pride. The prime contractor is First Kuwaiti General Trading & Contracting, which for security reasons was not allowed to employ Iraqi laborers, and instead imported more than a thousand workers from such countries as Bangladesh and Nepal. The importation of Third World laborers is a standard practice in Iraq, where the huge problem of local unemployment is trumped by American fears of the local population, and where it is not unusual, for instance, to find U.S. troops being served in chow halls by Sri Lankans wearing white shirts and bow ties.

First Kuwaiti has been accused of holding its workers in captivity by keeping their passports in a safe, as if otherwise they could have blithely exited the Green Zone, caught a ride to the airport, passed through the successive airport checkpoints, overcome the urgent crowds at the airline counters, purchased a ticket, bribed the police to ignore the country's myriad exit requirements (including a recent H.I.V. test), and hopped a flight for Dubai. Whatever the specific allegations, which First Kuwaiti denies, in the larger context of Iraq the accusation is absurd. It is Iraq that holds people captive. Indeed, the U.S government itself is a prisoner, and all the more tightly held because it engineered the prison where it resides. The Green Zone was built by the inmates themselves. The new embassy results from their desire to get their confinement just right.

The gilded cage of empire. Get used to it.

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