Iraq: Permanent Iraq: Permanent
by Dahr Jamail
www.truthout.org, 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
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
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
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
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."
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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.