It’s not easy writing about something about which I know very little, but I’m going to try anyway. (Hey, you, in the back. I heard that. It has too stopped me before.)
What I think I’m talking about are the fourteen permanent U.S. military bases currently under construction in Iraq. Yes, that Iraq, the country from which we will militarily withdraw just as soon as we get the word from the completely-free-of-U.S.-influence Iraqi government telling us to go. (Look for snow in Baghdad that day.)
Well, “go,” that is, except from the fourteen permanent U.S. military bases currently under construction there. But why quibble over semantics when we’re all occupiers and occupied -- I mean, friends -- here?
I’ve tried to learn more about these bases from my elected “representatives,” but, for some reason, it’s almost like no one in our government wants to talk about them. Weird, huh?
E-mails to both senators have gone unanswered. I expect that from the Republican, Dianne Feinstein (yes, I know her stationery says she’s a Dem, but anyone familiar with her politics knows the printer must’ve goofed), but it is strange I’ve not heard back from Barbara Boxer, especially since last year her campaign contacted me about seemingly every fund-raiser in the state, no matter how distant -- gigs with cute, down-home names like “Bowling for Barb in Bakersfield” (a scant 300 miles from my home). (I kid the good senator; she actually receives a Drolette Honorary Lifetime Pass from Truly Sharp Criticism for being the only solon with ovaries big enough to try to at least delay the final nail from being hammered into our republic’s coffin on January 6, 2005.)
My congressman, Democrat Robert “Don’t Ever Rock the Boat” Matsui, to whom I sent a similar query, has since died, which, given past experience, probably doesn’t affect my chances one way or the other of receiving a response from his office worth a damn.
I also e-mailed the Department of Defense (DoD). So far, Rummy is mum. No dummy, the bum.
So: What made me first suspect that certain administration insiders harbored deluded dreams of indefinitely installing, and then keeping, American military personnel in Iraq? Call it intuition. That, and the following item from the Project for the New American Century’s (PNAC) September 2000 report “Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources For a New Century”:
“Indeed, the United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in [Persian] Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein” (page 14).
I know that’s kind of vague, but, hey, if there’s one thing my mom taught me when I was growing up, it’s how to spot a thinly-veiled attempt to take over the world, just as I was always told the nasty Soviet Union was trying to do. Her warnings really weren’t so different, however, from the good counsel of any era’s responsible American mother (though a current savvy one would no doubt drop the last two letters from “U.S.S.R.”).
PNAC’s cracked attack-Iraq tack explains Dubya’s sudden out-of-left-field post-9/11 insistence that it sure would be swell to shell hell out of the fell Hussein, lest Saddam blanket the U.S. with n-bombs from Manhattan to San Francisco (the latter undoubtedly garnering a couple of “aye” votes in the War Room), or kill thousands of Americans by showering them with chemical and biological weapons delivered via Iraq’s vast collection of two, maybe three, plywood-and-baling-wire drones.
Since a five-minute Internet search would have divulged the real reason America’s nutcase neoconpoops craved invading a country that posed absolutely no threat to the U.S., i.e. to move troops out of one oil-laden country with ties to Al-Qaeda and 9/11 (our friend, Saudi Arabia) into another oil-laden country with no connections to Al-Qaeda and 9/11 (our enemy, Iraq), I thought it would be only a matter of time before a reporter somewhere who knew how to work a mouse would look on PNAC’s website and dutifully report to the American public the gross sham the Bushites were perpetrating.
Yet, here we are, years down the various-body-parts-strewn road, and there’s been barely a peep from the cowed sheep comprising the sorry American corporate media. Very little material has, uh, materialized regarding the bases.
The first article about them I remember reading was written by Christine Spolar of the Chicago Tribune in March 2004. She leads: “From the ashes of abandoned Iraqi army bases, U.S. military engineers are overseeing the building of an enhanced system of American bases designed to last for years.”
Later, she writes that “U.S. engineers are focusing on constructing 14 ‘enduring bases,’ long-term encampments for the thousands of American troops expected to serve in Iraq for at least two years” and “‘Is this a swap for the Saudi bases?’ asked Army Brig. Gen. Robert Pollman, chief engineer for base construction in Iraq. ‘I don't know....When we talk about enduring bases here, we're talking about the present operation, not in terms of America's global strategic base. But this makes sense. It makes a lot of logical sense.’”
It was quite a while before I heard the bases mentioned again, and, considering the setting, my jaw literally fell from my face when it happened. (Don’t you hate it when someone uses “literally” incorrectly? So do I. That’s why I would never do it. My jaw has since been successfully reattached, thank you.)
The mentioner: Senator John “You Bet Your Ass There Really Is Something To All That Skull-And-Bones Crap” Kerry (D-MA); the scene: last year’s first fake presidential debate (it can’t be a real one if our ballots don’t count -- and they don’t).
Per the senator: “And I think a critical component of success in Iraq is being able to convince the Iraqis and the Arab world that the United States doesn't have long-term designs on it. As I understand it, we're building some fourteen military bases there now, and some people say they've got a rather permanent concept to them.”
Gad! What a bombshell, I thought. What followed, though, was even more stunning: Instead of moderator Jim Lehrer pouncing on this like a real journalist would do in one of those museum animatronic dioramas that shows what real journalists used to look and act like before they became extinct, he instead asked Kerry a real softball question: “Senator, what do you think of real softballs?”
After the audience’s tittering finally subsided (despite appearances, a not-so-sophisticated bunch, that group), the moment was lost. The rest of the “debate” was consumed primarily by George W. Bush (who wouldn’t recognize a time clock if one was impaled squarely on his pointy [numb]skull) insisting no fewer than eleven times throughout his petulant performance that just whatever it is the hell he does sure is a lot of “hard work.”
Though Lehrer’s reputation as one of the few remaining legitimate journalists sadly disappeared that night faster than the truth upon a Republican’s arrival, I figured some reporter or columnist somewhere still would grab the reins offered by Kerry and ride with that big horse -- sort of like analogously hopping up on a tall, swift steed and galloping away, wild and unfettered, giddily feeling the wind blowing one’s hair back into a perma-coif not unlike the one adorning the senator’s head, not knowing the exact destination but nonetheless saying “the heck with that, partner” and doing it because, darn it, it’s simply the right thing to do.
Uh, my delirium soon passed when I came to and realized two things: a) half a tab will do just fine next time and b) I live in 21st century America, where the compromised and corporatized Fourth Estate merits the third degree for its second class treatment of the First Amendment.
Search the papers, Internet, and TV as I may, there was nary a whisper about the senator’s surprise slip. I don’t remember exactly what else was going on in the “news” at the time, but the media were obviously otherwise occupied, no doubt hot on the trail of, say, some married white socialite tragically shunned from East Hampton society after declaring she was bearing the love child of her seventeen year-old Puerto Rican pool boy, the actual conception of which was naturally all captured on video and available already online for the amazingly low price of only $19.95 (while supplies lasted).
Even alternative news outlet pickin’s have been slim, with, as far as I’m aware, only a handful of germane articles appearing here and there. Perhaps the most recent is from Joshua Hammer in Mother Jones (March/April 2005), in which he reports:
“Over the past year, the Pentagon has reportedly been building up to 14 ‘enduring’ bases across [Iraq] -- long-term encampments that could house as many as 100,000 troops indefinitely. John Pike, a military analyst who runs the research group GlobalSecurity.org, has identified a dozen of these bases, including three large facilities in and around Baghdad: the Green Zone, Camp Victory North, and Camp al-Rasheed, the site of Iraq’s former military airport. Also listed are Camp Cook, just north of Baghdad, a former Republican Guard ‘military city’ that has been converted into a giant U.S. camp; Balad Airbase, north of Baghdad; Camp Anaconda, a 15-square-mile facility near Balad that housed 17,000 soldiers as of May 2004 and was being expanded for an additional 3,000; and Camp Marez, next to Mosul Airport…”
Hammer writes later: “How long is ‘enduring’?…Retired Marine Corps General Anthony Zinni, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East from 1997 to 2000, recently predicted that American involvement in Iraq would last at least 10 more years. Retired Army Lt. General Jay Garner, the former interim administrator of reconstruction efforts in Iraq, told reporters in February 2004 that a U.S. military presence in Iraq should last ‘the next few decades.’ Even that, some analysts warn, could be an underestimate. ‘Half a century ago if anyone tried to convince you that we’d still have troops in Korea and Japan, you’d think they were crazy,’ says Pike…Suspicions also run deep both inside Pentagon circles and among analysts that the Department of Defense is pouring billions of dollars into the facilities in pursuit of a different agenda entirely: to turn Iraq into a permanent base of operations in the Middle East.”
Hammer also reminds us the lucky recipient of “at least $4.5 billion [going toward] construction and maintenance of U.S. bases” is, of course, “the giant defense contractor KBR (formerly Kellogg, Brown & Root)…” (KBR is a subsidiary of Halliburton; ‘nuff said.)
Pretty damning stuff. But, because I believe in corroboration, I decided to go straight to the source: I called the White House. The following is my best recollection of the conversation (if you’d like a verbatim rendition, I’m sure there’s a tape of the call lying around D.C. somewhere; check with Homeland Security first):
Me: “May I speak with the president, please?”
Operator: “He’s out of the country right now.” This was good news, ‘cause it sounded like if I left my number, he’d call me once he got back. I was heartened.
“May I speak with George W. Bush, then, please?”
There was a pause. “The president is out of the country right now.”
“But isn’t that Dick Cheney? Everyone knows he’s really the president, right?”
This time, the pause wasn’t followed by a response.
I immediately changed course since Mom, in addition to warning me about the Russkies, taught me to quit while I was behind.
“Maybe you can help me, then. I’m looking for information about the fourteen permanent U.S. military bases being constructed in Iraq.”
He gave me a DoD link (www.defenselink.mil). I thanked him, and, immediately upon hanging up, thought: “Dang! I forgot to leave my number so the president, whoever he is, can call me back.”
I accessed the link but held out little hope I’d learn anything. I snooped around and espied a U.S. Army study entitled “CJTF-7 ALLOCATION OF THE JOINT LAND ATTACK CRUISE MISSILE ELEVATED NETTED SENSOR.” (Don’t all those capital letters just make you want to go out and kick some TERRORIST ASS??)
I found the report’s synopsis most interesting:
“This study determines which of thirteen enduring bases in Iraq should receive the JLENS.” (JLENS. Sounds, by design, more like designer eyewear from Jennifer Lopez than what it’s undoubtedly designed to do: kill more people more efficiently.) Naturally, I couldn’t access the study itself, and, instead of fourteen bases, DoD has pegged the number at a baker’s dozen (perhaps we’re being charged for fourteen but “only” thirteen are actually being built; love that KBR), but it’s close enough for government dirty work.
So there it is: confirmation from none other than the Pentagon itself that the U.S. intends to stay in Iraq for a mighty long time, no matter how nicely (or not) we’re asked to leave; no matter the myriad phony reasons given for attacking that benighted land; no matter how many times Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld and Rice and the rest of the murderous fascists who destroy and kill everything they touch cynically swear that our benevolent, peace-loving country’s sole desire is to instill democracy there while it is simultaneously and systematically being eviscerated here; no matter the hell what, actually. Here is proof positive of PNAC’s pinheaded plan, yet it’s too much for the whoreporate media to bother asking about, let alone investigate.
This would normally be where I would conclude the column as neatly and cleverly as possible and then suggest some sort of measure to counter the latest insanity emanating from the White House. However, I’ve a confession: It’s tough shaking the feeling these days that the highest purpose served by any commentary is simply to (hope to) add to the historical record. This seems to be the routine: I get pissed, I report, you read, you get pissed, and then … we do it again. In the meantime, the administration’s utter dismantling of anything truly American continues unabated. (How ‘bout them national ID cards, huh?) My reservoir of trusty helpful hints for fixing our besieged country is pretty dry.
I do have one suggestion, though: Take full advantage now of the Second Amendment (the only one, oddly, that America’s controlling fascists favor), and arm yourself -- heavily -- if you haven’t done so already. Learn all you can about firearms to prepare for the real possibility of a future firestorm in this country. I am not alone in thinking it will get very ugly here fairly soon; after all, for starters, one can’t prop up an insanely unsustainable lifestyle by borrowing over $1 billion a day without adverse consequences, ‘cause, when I was doing it, it wasn’t long before my dealers -- er, creditors -- were at the door.
If the country does indeed blow up, I assume it will look more like a civil war than a revolution given the millions of already well-armed Americans squarely behind the squareheads in charge, but labels matter not when someone is trying to kill you. We should all be prepared. Stock up on essentials, like ammunition, water, and Chee-tos.
For those who have a knee-jerk bias toward possessing weapons, for heaven’s sake, get over it. How can you say you support the Constitution if you cherry-pick your amendments? On a far more practical level, how do you expect to defend yourself against someone who has you in their sights: throw scads of really well-formulated arguments against them?
Because that sure has worked great so far.
Just what, exactly, do these concluding paragraphs have to do with permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq? Nothing -- and everything.
Mark Drolette is a political satirist/commentator who lives in Sacramento, California. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Copyright © 2005 Mark Drolette. All rights reserved.
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