U.S. embassy ‘built with coerced labor.’

Construction of the colossus U.S. embassy in Baghdad continues, projected to eventually cost $592 million. IraqSlogger reports today that American officials have reported “instances of appalling living conditions, abuse, and coerced labor” among the foreign construction workers:

During a telephone interview last weekend, [a high-level project manager] said the laborers “had their backs to the wall,” and had been living 20 to a trailer. Protests over First Kuwaiti’s bad food, abusive treatment from managers and unsafe working conditions were routine among many of the 2,700 workers during much of 2005 and 2006. […]

[Former Army emergency medical technician Rory Mayberry] says he found the most basic of medical needs missing and that clinics lacked hot water, disinfectant and hand washing stations. Mayberry also claims that workers’ medical records in total disarray or nonexistent, beds were dirty and the support staff was poorly trained. Prescription pain killers were being handed out “like a candy store … and then people were sent back to work,” to operate heavy equipment or climb scaffolding, he adds.

In 2006, the State Department’s inspector general flew to Baghdad for what he describes as a “brief” review. “Nothing came to our attention,” he wrote in a memo.