March 13, 2006
Tuesday 14 March 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
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
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
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 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,
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
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 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
In sum, what is the purpose of permanent US military garrisons in Iraq and
the implicit goals of these government documents?
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.