Krak des Americaines
From 1099 to 1271, a strategic hilltop on the route between Antioch and Beirut was the site of the most powerful symbol of the Christian west's intention to stay put in the Holy Land for good. Krak des Chavaliers, now a world heritage site, remains a most impressive construction. Encircled by a massive curtain wall, it had its own water source and capacious cellars and storerooms that could feed a garrison of 1,000 against a long seige. As an overt symbol of power it still has few equals in the world.
Contractors are putting the final touches to the Krak des Americaines in Baghdad. A massive fortified embassy compound, covering about a hundred acres, encircled by a massive concrete curtain wall and watchtowers, complete with its own water supply, power plant and storage for enough food to keep the 1,000 beseiged occupants going until relief forces can reach them. The cost, estimated at $600m, is a drop in the bucket of the US's spend on Iraq. It is the most visible symbol of the US's intention to stay in Iraq for so long as oil supplies lie under those blood-saturated soils.
Perhaps tourists in some future peaceful age will come here to gawp at the six-foot thick reinforced concrete castle walls, the marines barracks and the ambassador's study, and wonder at the triumph of hope over experience that led its builders to imagine that it would be permanent.