Dahr Jamail / t r u t h o u t | Perspective – 2006-03-15 07:43:40
(March 14, 2006) — Why does the Bush Administration refuse to discuss withdrawing occupation forces from Iraq? Why is Halliburton, who landed the no-bid contracts to construct and maintain US military bases in Iraq, posting higher profits than ever before in its 86-year history?
Why do these bases in Iraq resemble self-contained cities as much as military outposts?
Why are we hearing such ludicrous and outrageous statements from the highest ranking military general in the United States, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Peter Pace, who when asked how things were going in Iraq on March 9th in an interview on “Meet the Press” said, “I’d say they’re going well. I wouldn’t put a great big smiley face on it, but I would say they’re going very, very well from everything you look at.”
I wonder if there is a training school, or at least talking point memos for these Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, because Pace’s predecessor, Gen. Richard Myers, told Senator John McCain last September that “In a sense, things are going well [in Iraq].”
General Pace also praised the Iraqi military, saying, “Now there are over 100 [Iraqi] battalions in the field.”
Wow! General Pace must have waved his magic wand and materialized all these 99 new Iraqi battalions that are diligently keeping things safe and secure in occupied Iraq. Because according to the top US general in Iraq, General George Casey, not long ago there was only one Iraqi battalion (about 500-600 soldiers) capable of fighting on its own in Iraq.
During a late-September 2005 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Casey acknowledged that the Pentagon estimate of three Iraqi battalions last June had shrunk to one in September. That is less than six months ago.
I thought it would be a good idea to find someone who is qualified to discuss how feasible it would be to train 99 Iraqi battalions in less than six months, as Pace now claims has occurred.
I decided that someone who was in the US Army for 26 years and who worked in eight conflict areas, starting in Vietnam and ending with Haiti, would be qualified. If he had served in two parachute infantry units, three Ranger units, two Special Forces Groups and in Delta Force that would be helpful as well. And just to make sure, if he taught tactics at the Jungle Operations Training Center in Panama and Military Science at the United States Military Academy at West Point, thus knowing a thing or two about training soldiers, that would be a bonus.
That person is Stan Goff.
“This is utter bullshit,” was Goff’s remark about the Pace claim of having 100 Iraqi battalions when I asked him to comment, “He must be counting the resistance among his forces.”
Goff adds, “That dip-shit [Pace] is saying he has 60,000 trained and disciplined people under arms … 65,000 with all the staffs … and almost 100,000 with the support units they would require. To train and oversee them would require thousands of American advisors. It must suck for a career Marine to be used so blatantly as a PR flak.”
Goff mentioned that Pace “and everyone else” knows that the Iraqi forces, “however many there are,” are heavily cross-infiltrated.
“He [Pace] is saying that the Bush administration is going to empower a pro-Iranian government with 100 ready battalions, when this administration was handed this particular government as the booby prize in exchange for Sistani pulling their cookies out of the fire during the joint rebellions in Najaf and Fallujah,” added Goff.
Further discrediting the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Goff said, “To train 99 [battalions] since last September is a claim only the average American might swallow. The right question to ask is, where are they? Where are they headquartered, and where are they in operation? Claiming operations security doesn’t count, unless they believe they can hide 100 units of 600 people each in Iraq … from other Iraqis … who are often related to them.”
He concludes, “These guys have become accustomed to saying any damn thing, then counting on ignorance and apathy at home – along with hundreds of Democrats who need spine transplants – to get away with it. You can quote me on any of that.”
There’s a good reason why Pace and others are busy spewing smoke – it’s to hide the fact that there are no plans to leave Iraq.
While we’re addressing propaganda, we mustn’t leave out our brilliant military strategist and warrior for protecting human rights, the illustrious Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
On March 8th, Rice delivered the opening remarks on the release of her Department’s “2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.”
The introduction to the report says: “In Iraq, 2005 was a year of major progress for democracy, democratic rights and freedom. There was a steady growth of NGOs and other civil society associations that promote human rights.”
This report is submitted to Congress by the State Department. I’ve often wondered if our politicians are just this ignorant, or simply horrifically misinformed like so many Americans. This report, perhaps, answers the latter.
My point is, if there is a concerted effort by high-ranking officials of the Bush administration to portray things in Iraq as going well, then why are there permanent bases being constructed in Iraq?
This media smokescreen from the likes of Pace, Rice and even “sharp-shooter” Cheney, who recently said things in Iraq are “improving steadily,” conveniently leads the American people toward believing there will eventually be a withdrawal of American soldiers.
But the problem with smokescreens is that pesky thing called “reality.”
And in Iraq, the reality is that people like Pace, Rice, Cheney and their ever-eloquent front man aren’t telling the American public about their true plans for Iraq.
One example that provides some insight into their agenda is the US “Embassy” which is under construction in the infamous “Green Zone.”
Washington’s $592-million-dollar Embassy in the ‘Green Zone’
As you read this, a controversial Kuwait-based construction firm is building a $592 million US embassy in Baghdad. When the dust settles, this compound will be the largest and most secure diplomatic compound in the world.
The headquarters, I mean “Embassy,” will be a self-sustaining cluster of 21 buildings reinforced 2.5 times the usual standards, with some walls to be as thick as 15 feet.
Plans are for over 1,000 US “government officials” to staff and reside there. Lucky for them, they will have access to the gym, swimming pool, barber and beauty shops, food court and commissary. There will also be a large-scale barracks for troops, a school, locker rooms, a warehouse, a vehicle maintenance garage, and six apartment buildings with a total of 619 one-bedroom units. And luckily for the “government officials,” their water, electricity and sewage treatment plants will all be independent from Baghdad’s city utilities. The total site will be two-thirds the area of the National Mall in Washington, DC.”
I wonder if any liberated Iraqis will have access to their swimming pool?
And unlike the Iraqi infrastructure, which is in total shambles and functioning below pre-invasion levels in nearly every area, the US “Embassy” is being constructed right on time. The US Senate Foreign Affairs Committee recently called this an “impressive” feat, considering the construction is taking place in one of the most violent and volatile spots on the planet.
Then there are the permanent military bases.
To give you an idea of what these look like in Iraq, let’s start with Camp Anaconda, near Balad. Occupying 15 square miles of Iraq, the base boasts two swimming pools (not the plastic inflatable type), a gym, mini-golf course and first-run movie theater.
The 20,000 soldiers who live at the Balad Air Base, less than 1,000 of whom ever leave the base, can inspect new iPod accessories in one of the two base exchanges, which have piles of the latest electronics and racks of CDs to choose from. One of the PX managers recently boasted that every day he was selling 15 televisions to soldiers.
At Camp Anaconda, located in al-Anbar province where resistance is fierce, the occupation forces live in air-conditioned units where plans are being drawn up to run internet, cable television and overseas telephone access to them.
The thousands of civilian contractors live at the base in a section called “KBR-land,” and there is a hospital where doctors carry out 400 surgeries every month on wounded troops.
Air Force officials on the base claim the runway there is one of the busiest in the world, where unmanned Predator drones take off carrying their Hellfire missiles, along with F-16’s, C-130’s, helicopters, and countless others, as the bases houses over 250 aircraft.
If troops aren’t up for the rather lavish dinners served by “Third Country Nationals” from India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh who work for slave wages, they can visit the Burger King, Pizza Hut, Popeye’s or Subway, then wash it down with a mocha from the Starbucks.
There are several other gigantic bases in Iraq besides camp Anaconda, such as Camp Victory near Baghdad Airport, which – according to a reporter for Mother Jones magazine – when complete will be twice the size of Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo. The Kosovo base is currently one of the largest overseas bases built since the war in Vietnam.
Camp Liberty is adjacent to Camp Victory – where soldiers even compete in their own triathlons. “The course, longer than 140 total miles, spanned several bases in the greater Camp Victory area in west Baghdad,” says a news article on a DOD web site.
Mr. Bush refuses to set a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq because he doesn’t intend to withdraw. He doesn’t intend to because he’s following a larger plan for the US in the Middle East.
Less than two weeks after the fall of Baghdad on April 9, 2003, US military officials announced the intention to maintain at least four large bases in Iraq that could be used in the future.
These are located near Baghdad International Airport (where the triathlon was), Tallil (near Nasiriyah, in the south), one in the Kurdish north at either Irbil or Qayyarah (they are only 50 kilometers apart) and one in western al-Anbar province at Al-Asad. Of course, let’s not forget the aforementioned Camp Anaconda in Balad.
More recently, on May 22 of last year, US military commanders announced that they would consolidate troops into four large air bases. It was announced at this time that while buildings were being made of concrete instead of the usual metal trailers and tin-sheathed buildings, military officers working on the plan “said the consolidation plan was not meant to establish a permanent US military presence in Iraq.”
The US has at least four of these massive bases in Iraq. Billions of dollars have been spent in their construction, and they are in about the same locations where they were mentioned they would be by military planners back before Mr. Bush declared that major combat operations were over in Iraq.
It appears as though “mission accomplished” in Iraq was not necessarily referring to guarding the Ministry of Oil and occupying the country indefinitely (or finding WMDs, disrupting al-Qaeda, or liberating Iraqis, blah-blah-blah), but to having a military beach-head in the heart of the Middle East.
Note that while US officials don’t dare say the word “permanent” when referring to military bases in Iraq, they will say “permanent access.” An article entitled “Pentagon Expects Long-Term Access to Four Key Bases in Iraq,” which was a front-page story in the New York Times on April 19, 2003, reads: “There will probably never be an announcement of permanent stationing of troops. Not permanent basing, but permanent access is all that is required, officials say.”
Why the Permanent Bases?
Why all of this? Why these obviously permanent bases? Why the beach-head? A quick glance at US government military strategy documents is even more revealing.
“Our forces will be strong enough to dissuade potential adversaries from pursuing a military build-up in hopes of surpassing, or equaling, the power of the United States,” reads the 2002 National Security Strategy.
To accomplish this, the US will “require bases and stations within and beyond Western Europe and Northeast Asia.”
Another interesting document is “Joint Vision 2020” from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, whose “vision” is “Dedicated individuals and innovative organizations transforming the joint force of the 21st Century to achieve full spectrum dominance [bold type theirs]: persuasive in peace, decisive in war, preeminent in any form of conflict [italics theirs].”
US policymakers have replaced the Cold War with the Long War for Global Empire and Unchallenged Military Hegemony. This is the lens through which we must view Iraq to better understand why there are permanent US bases there.
In the Quadrennial Defense Review Report released on February 6, 2006, there is a stated ambition to fight “multiple, overlapping wars” and to “ensure that all major and emerging powers are integrated as constructive actors and stakeholders into the international system.” The report goes on to say that the US will “also seek to ensure that no foreign power can dictate terms of regional or global security. It will attempt to dissuade any military competitor from developing disruptive or other capabilities that could enable regional hegemony or hostile action against the United States or other friendly countries, and it will seek to deter aggression or coercion. Should deterrence fail, the United States would deny a hostile power its strategic and operational objectives.”
In sum, what is the purpose of permanent US military garrisons in Iraq and the implicit goals of these government documents?
Dahr Jamail is an independent journalist who spent over 8 months reporting from occupied Iraq. He presented evidence of US war crimes in Iraq at the International Commission of Inquiry on Crimes against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration in New York City this January. He writes regularly for TruthOut.org, Inter Press Service, Asia Times, TomDispatch, and maintains his own website dahrjamailiraq.com.
US Vows No Permanent Bases in Iraq
( March 11, 2006) — US ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad said that his country did not want permanent military bases in Iraq and that he was willing to talk to Iran about the war-torn country’s future.
“We want Iraq to stand on its own feet, we have no goal of establishing permanent bases here,” he said in an interview with Iraq’s Ash-Sharqiya television, according to a transcript obtained by AFP.
“Our goal is a working, a workable government, so that we can leave Iraq and let Iraqis handle all their circumstance themselves. That’s our goal, and were very serious about this, we mean it,” he said.
The ambassador said he was willing to speak with Iran about Iraq’s future, stressing however that the US would not let its concerns over Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons’ drive influence its policies in Iraq.
“I have offered to the Iranians that we are willing to talk with them about our differences with regard to Iraq,” he said.
“Iran says that the United States wants to promote sectarianism here,” he said. “I have talked to you about nothing but unity and the effort by others who are enemies of Iraq to promote sectarianism and division.”
US officials have maintained that Iran is undermining Iraqi reconstruction, influencing its politics and even actively supporting the insurgency there.
While Khalilzad admitted differences between Washington and Tehran, he vowed they would not affect Iraq policy — provided Iran behaved likewise.
“The United States has many differences with Iran and Iran has differences with the United States,” he said.
“We have not tried to import our differences with Iran here in Iraq and to impose our differences on Iraq-Iran relations … and we don’t want Iran to export into Iraq its differences with us, we will react very negatively to that.”
Khalilzad also admitted that Washington had made mistakes since the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, but did not elaborate on what they were.
“We certainly have made some mistakes ourselves … We did make mistakes. But we have learned from mistakes and tried to adjust, that’s our style, to sort of keep on going, adjust as the circumstances warrant.”
Copyright © 2006 Agence France Presse
Abizaid Says US May Want to Keep Bases in Iraq
Vicki Allen / Reuters
WASHINGTON (Mar 15, 2006) — The United States may want to keep a long-term military presence in Iraq to bolster moderates against extremists in the region and protect the flow of oil, the Army general overseeing US military operations in Iraq said on Tuesday.
While the Bush administration has downplayed prospects for permanent US bases in Iraq, Gen. John Abizaid told a House of Representatives subcommittee he could not rule that out.
Abizaid said that policy would be worked out with a unified, national Iraqi government if and when that is established, “and it would be premature for me to predict.”
Many Democrats have pressed President George W. Bush to firmly state that the United States does not intend to seek permanent military bases in Iraq, a step they said would help stem the violence there.
Abizaid also told the Appropriations subcommittee on military quality of life that while an Iraqi civil war was possible, “I think it’s a long way from where we are now to civil war.”
Echoing Bush’s statement on Monday on the outlook for reducing US forces in Iraq, Abizaid said if Iraqis can form a unified government, “I think there’s every reason to believe … that we’ll be able to bring the size of the force down much more so by December of ’06.”
Abizaid cited the need to fight al Qaeda and other extremists groups and “the need to be able to deter ambitions of an expansionistic Iran” as potential reasons to keep some level of troops in the region in the long term.
But he said it would be far less than the 200,000 currently deployed in the region, including 132,000 in Iraq.
“Clearly our long-term vision for a military presence in the region requires a robust counter-terrorist capability,” Abizaid said. “No doubt there is a need for some presence in the region over time primarily to help people help themselves through this period of extremists versus moderates.”
Abizaid also said the United States and its allies have a vital interest in the oil-rich region.
“Ultimately it comes down to the free flow of goods and resources on which the prosperity of our own nation and everybody else in the world depend,” he said.
Rep. David Price, a North Carolina Democrat, questioned “what kind of signal that sends to the American people and to the Iraqis and the region … if somehow there is ambiguity on our ultimate designs in terms of a military presence in Iraq.”
Rep. Jane Harman of California, top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, in a letter to Bush last week said his “continuing failure to clarify U.S. intentions provides an excuse for certain Iraqis to avoid compromise and jeopardizes our ability to succeed in Iraq.”
© Reuters 2006. All Rights Reserved.
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