Monday, February 27, 2006

Is the US building permanent military bases in Iraq?

Even though 80% of the Iraqi people, who you would think would know what kind of bases the US is building in their country, tell pollsters that they believe the US wants to build permanent bases and remain in their country indefinitely the American media never use the words "permanent", "bases" and "Iraq" in the same paragraph except when they are quoting Administration denials that the US has any desire for a long-time military presence in Iraq.

During a visit with US troops in Fallujah on Christmas Day, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said "at the moment there are no plans for permanent bases" in Iraq. "It is a subject that has not even been discussed with the Iraqi government."

Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmett, the Central Comand deputy commander for planning and strategy in Iraq said "We already have handed over significant chunks of territory to the Iraqis. Those are not simply plans to do so; they are being executed right now. It is not only our plan but our policy that we do not intend to have any permanent bases in Iraq."

Karen Hughes on The Charlie Rose Show:
CHARLIE ROSE: They think we are still there for the oil, or they think the United States want permanent bases. Does the United States want permanent bases in Iraq?
KAREN HUGHES: We want nothing more than to bring our men and women in uniform home. As soon as possible, but not before they finish the job.
CHARLIE ROSE: And do we not want to keep bases there?
KAREN HUGHES: No, we want to bring our people home as soon as possible.

If that were actually the case then you would think that any bases we created would either be very temporary, easily dismantled, or else the kind of installation that could be handed over to the Iraqis. But the US is spending billions to build very American, very permanent looking facilities.

Thomas Ricks of the Washington Post paid a visit to Balad Air Base, the largest American base in Iraq, 68 kilometers north of Baghdad:
The base is sizeable enough to have its own "neighborhoods", as well as a Subway, a Pizza Hut, a Popeye’s, a Starbucks, a 24-hour Burger King, two post exchanges where TVs, iPods and the like can be purchased, four mess halls, a hospital, a huge airstrip, 250 aircraft (helicopters and drones included) and a miniature golf course. Ricks reports that the 20,000 troops stationed at Balad live in "air-conditioned containers" that will in the future be wired "to bring the troops Internet, cable television and overseas telephone access."

Recently, Oliver Poole, a British reporter, visited another of the American "super-bases," the still-under-construction al-Asad Airbase ("Football and pizza point to US staying for the long haul.") He observes, of "the biggest Marine camp in western Anbar province," that "this stretch of desert increasingly resembles a slice of US suburbia." In addition to the requisite Subway and pizza outlets, there is a football field, a Hertz rent-a-car office, a swimming pool and a movie theater showing the latest flicks. Al-Asad is so large that it has two bus routes and red stop signs at all intersections.

There are at least 4 such "super-bases" being built in Iraq at the cost of billions of dollars.

As the midterm elections approach and the American public becomes increasingly nervous about Iraq you will see and hear politicians and television and newspaper pundits try to convince you that the US is starting to withdraw from Iraq and that the Iraqi chapter of our history is drawing to a close. I suggest that you not believe a word about any purported withdrawal and turning over to the Iraqi until you see pictures of the Pizza Huts and Burger Kings being converted into lamb kabob outlets and all those air-conditioned containers with the Internet hook-
ups being loaded onto ships.

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