The base problem
Why US bases are not going to stay in
Extended presence of U.S. in Iraq looms large
$1 billion for construction of American military bases and no public plans
BALAD AIR BASE, Iraq - The concrete goes on forever, vanishing into the noonday glare, 2 million cubic feet of it, a mile-long slab that’s now the home of up to 120 U.S. helicopters, a “heli-park” as good as any back in the States.
At another giant base, al-Asad in Iraq’s western desert, the 17,000 troops and workers come and go in a kind of bustling American town, with a Burger King, Pizza Hut and a car dealership, stop signs, traffic regulations and young bikers clogging the roads.
At a third hub down south, Tallil, they’re planning a new mess hall, one that will seat 6,000 hungry airmen and soldiers for chow.
Story continues below ↓ advertisement
Are the Americans here to stay? Air Force mechanic Josh Remy is sure of it as he looks around Balad.
“I think we’ll be here forever,” the 19-year-old airman from Wilkes-Barre, Pa., told a visitor to his base.
The Iraqi people suspect the same. Strong majorities tell pollsters they’d like to see a timetable for U.S. troops to leave, but believe Washington plans to keep military bases in their country.
Future of U.S. in Iraq
The question of America’s future in Iraq looms larger as the U.S. military enters the fourth year of its war here, waged first to oust President Saddam Hussein, and now to crush an Iraqi insurgency.
Ibrahim al-Jaafari, interim prime minister, has said he opposes permanent foreign bases. A wide range of American opinion is against them as well. Such bases would be a “stupid” provocation, says Gen. Anthony Zinni, former U.S. Mideast commander and a critic of the original U.S. invasion.
But events, in explosive situations like Iraq’s, can turn “no” into “maybe” and even “yes.”
The Shiite Muslims, ascendant in Baghdad, might decide they need long-term U.S. protection against insurgent Sunni Muslims. Washington might take the political risks to gain a strategic edge — in its confrontation with next-door Iran, for example.
Only if they want to die in an uprising. This is a non-negotiable item in Iraqi politics. No legitimate government can tolerate permanent US bases on their soil. It was the cause of the 1920 rebellion, the 1941 alliance with the Nazis and the 1958 revolution. The Green zone is already a fortress. How long can that last. The "government" is already shutting down traffic for days at a time.
And the Iraqi government couldn't be closer to Iran if the mullahs helped Sadr piss every morning. The new Iraqi government will be using those bases to destroy Kurdistan while the Turks, Syrians and Iranians help. In other words, business as usual.
But if the US gets the idea of staying, the sound of 122mm shells will fill the air every day. The guns and shells are still in depots.
posted by Steve @ 10:16:00 AM