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A bold step for US good will in Iraq

Convert the huge US Embassy into a university.

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Here's a bold proposal for the next US president: Issue an order to convert the controversial US Embassy in Baghdad into a university for the Iraqi people. This powerful message from our new leader would convey to the Iraqi people in particular a new direction for US policy.

Reports suggest that US combat troops will be on their way out by 2011. But the larger question of what gets left behind remains unanswered. The negotiations between Iraq and the United States on the long-term presence of US combat troops haven't touched on the issue of the gigantic Green Zone and the US Embassy inside it. What we leave behind will have a lasting effect on Iraq, the Iraqi people, and the rest of the Muslim world.

Currently, the sprawling embassy reminds Iraqis of their occupation by an alien nation. It reminds them of the power and wealth of the United States while they live in squalid conditions, in part, as a result of this occupation.

Even after US troops leave Iraq, the embassy, in its current form, could remain a source of indignity to the Iraqi people. It could easily become the focus for all those who hate America for any reason and remain a target of violence.

Transforming it into a university, however, would be a striking symbol of American good will toward Iraq.

Why would the embassy make a fine university? It's outsized dimensions make it ideal for a university campus in a downtown urban area.

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