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MARIN COUNTY'S NEWS MONTHLY - FREE PRESS
(415)868-1600 - (415)868-0502(fax) - P.O. Box 31, Bolinas, CA, 94924

January, 2007

 

Why "Permanent Bases" In Iraq?
By Karen Nakamura

The Quaker's Friends Committee on National Legislation, a source in the following article, asks: "If the US is ultimately leaving Iraq, why is the military building 'permanent bases?'" These "possible" bases, (the administration denies any plans to stay), are a huge source of contention in the Middle East as they are a blatant form of colonization.
Contrary to administration assertions, once the US military establishes itself in a foreign country, it tends to stay permanently. This is true in Okinawa, Japan, Germany, Guam, Kuwait, Bahrain, Cuba, Germany, Greenland, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom, Kuwait and Uzbekistan among others. And we pay heavily to keep them there.

Many question whether we need to establish one more presence in one more country. Therefore, former Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld was reticent about discussing them and undoubtedly, the administration will be unforthcoming while trying to sneak the bases into the conditions of withdrawal if it leaves Iraq and the Middle East.

For example, an April 2003 report in The New York Times said the US was "planning a long-term military relationship with the emerging government of Iraq, one that would grant the Pentagon access to military bases and project American influence into the heart of the unsettled region."

There are even critics who speculate that the administration has made a mess of Iraq so it has an excuse to stay.

After being told to leave Saudi Arabia by the Saudi government just before the Gulf War, the US has been trying to establish a permanent military presence in the Middle East. Besides it's huge bases and financial interests around the Persian Gulf, including Kuwait and Dubai, Iraq is a convenient avenue. According to a March 2004 article by Christine Spolar in the Chicago Tribune, Army Brig. Gen. Robert Pollman, chief engineer for base construction in Iraq, asked, "Is this a swap for the Saudi bases? 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."

And as reported Nov. 19, 2003, by the Jordanian al-Arab al-Yawm newspaper and merged here with the report from the Friends Committee published in 2005, the US government had plans for four to six mega-bases at Tallil, Al Asad, Balad and either Irbil or Qayyarah.

The following are also possible locations. The Green Zone; The most obvious is the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad, the former palace of Saddam Hussein that once housed the Coalition Provisional Authority. It still houses major US consulting companies and US embassy facilities. Plus, the Bush administration is sinking between $600 million and $1 billion into constructing the new US embassy said to be two-thirds the area of the National Mall in Washington, DC.

Chris Hughes, security correspondent for the British Daily Mirror, reported it is a cluster of 21 buildings, nearly self-sufficient and includes "a gym, swimming pool, barber and beauty shops, a food court and a commissary."

Water, electricity and sewage treatment plants are independent from Baghdad's city utilities. A high-tech complex, it is to have "15 ft. blast walls and ground-to-air missiles" for protection.

Camp Victory- Al Nasr (at the Baghdad Airport) is also frequently named as a super-base and could be merged into the Green Zone as a super-super-base. Currently, Al Nasr is an army base housing 14,000 troops. This base can't be given up if the US wants to get out in a hurry.

The next frequently named base is Camp Anaconda at Balad Airbase. It is reportedly the largest logistical base and said to spread over 15 square miles and accommodates 20,000. Camp Taji (Tallil) formerly an Iraqi Republican Guard "military city," is now a huge US base equipped with a Subway, Burger King and Pizza Hut.

Getting any more information was difficult. The vitally important Al-Asad Airbase is considered the biggest Marine camp and is in the violent Anbar province. In addition to the requisite pizza outlets, it has been reported by British reporter Oliver Poole to house "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 it is reported to cover 15-20 square miles, has two bus routes and, if not traffic lights, at least red stop signs at all intersections."

Post Freedom (Mosul) was one of Saddam's former palaces and currently houses the 101st Airborne Division. Adjacent to Post Freedom is Camp Marez located at the Mosul Airfield. A third, Al-Ghazlani Camp in the city of Mosul, may also be included in this super-base. Camp Fallujah; presumably at Al-Habbaniyah Airbase, a former RAF airbase near Fallujah, is another mystery. Its exact whereabouts is disputed but it's in another insurgent area. The US military is said to have basically razed the city of Fallujah to the ground in two huge assaults.

And talking about mysterious, Camp Renegade (Kirkuk) is strategically located near the Kirkuk oil fields, refinery and petrochemical plant. In 2005 it could house up to 1,664 airmen in 13 buildings. It connects to a secretive mission of permanent US forces reported to have moved into eastern and northeastern Iraq in the Hamrin mountain range that borders Iran and extends to Kirkuk. Not only does the base touch on most of Iraq, it is linked to Iraqi borders in all four directions, and so has strategic importance in stopping threats from neighbors or to launch invasions into Iran and Syria.

The Ali ibn Abi Taleb Airbase on the outskirts of Nasiriya, a provincial capital in the southeast on the Euphrates River has little or no information released on it but may very well be a super-base.

A modest number of these bases, including Camp Speicher in Tikrit, have been transferred to Iraqi military units. Speicher, according to Poole, was promptly stripped to the bone. The House and the Senate, thankfully, have not been looking the other way. For over six months, every appropriation bill has had language to the effect that no permanent bases are to be built. For instance, Rep. John Murtha in June placed this entry into HR 5631: "None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be obligated or expended by the United States government for a purpose as follows: (1) to establish any military installation or base for the purpose of providing for the permanent stationing of United Stats Armed Forces in Iraq. (2) To exercise United States control over any oil resource of Iraq." On October 17, 2006, President Bush signed HR 5631. However, Oliver Poole concluded, "There are at least four such 'super-bases' in Iraq, none of which have anything to do with 'withdrawal' from that country. Quite the contrary, these bases are being constructed as little American islands of eternal order in an anarchic sea. Whatever top administration officials and military commanders say-and they always deny that we seek 'permanent bases in Iraq' - facts-on-the-ground speak with another voice entirely. These bases practically scream "permanency."

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