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Let's Talk About Permanent Bases in Iraq, Baby

March 18, 2006

Earlier this week, Your Montag wrote:

TAKE ACTION: House Vote on Iraq War Wednesday or Thursday (3/14/06)Rep Tom Allen (ME) will introduce an amendment to the Iraq war supplemental funding bill stating that no funds in that measure may be spent to build permanent U.S. bases in Iraq. — He might not be as fancy as Russ Feingold, but this could be very meaningful.

Earlier today Yesterday, Your Montag wrote:

House approves $91.9 bln for wars, Gulf Coast — Where were you, Tom Allen, with your amendment? [More later.]

I inquired about the whereabouts of Congressman Allen and his amendment because it was not mentioned in the Reuters article about the legislation, and because there was no vote listed for an “Allen amendment” in the congressional record. Upon further review, the amendment was in there but it was sponsored by Representative Barbara Lee of California. Tom Allen was among the several who debated in favor of the amendment.

Shorter Tom Allen:
Our sending of mixed signals about our intentions in Iraq helps fuel the insurgency and we should stop.

Those who argued against the establishment of permanent bases made largely the same argument, but Dennis Kucinich busted the sweetest move of them all:

Mr. KUCINICH. Mr. Chairman, in December 2004, I requested the Congressional Research Service to compile a report on military construction in both Iraq and Afghanistan. On April 11, 2005, I received the final report. Here is what it said: the Congressional Research Service found projects that suggest a longer term U.S. presence in Iraq. These included $214 million for the Balad Air Base and $49 million for the Taji military complex.

This is the first congressional report that identified specific locations in Iraq where the U.S. is possibly constructing a permanent military presence in Iraq. At the appropriate time, I will enter this in the RECORD.

Now I want to know, did anyone here vote to establish permanent bases in Iraq when they voted to invade that country? Did anyone here vote to send U.S. troops permanently to Iraq? Weren’t we going to war on the belief Iraq had weapons of mass destruction? Weren’t we going to war on the belief that Iraq was an imminent threat of a mushroom cloud the administration warned about? All that proved to be false. If the President had told you he wanted to spend over $300 billion and 2,300 American lives, plus tens of thousands of maimed service members to build new military bases, permanent deployment of U.S. troops in the Mesopotamian Valley, would anyone here have supported that? I don’t think so.

That is why this administration had to fabricate a pretense for the invasion, and that is why you have to support the Lee amendment today. Do not allow this ill-conceived war to lead to a permanent deployment of troops in Iraq. Bring them home. Close down those bases. [Congressional record p. H1108]

There was only token opposition, and the amendment passed in a voice vote. Of course, that only means— if the Senate passes it —money from this particular bill cannot be used to “enter into a basing rights agreement” with Iraq. Which, it seems to me, means two things:

  1. That as long as we don’t “enter into a basing rights agreement” with Iraq, the money could still be used to build infrastructure in Iraq that could one day be used in a permanent military establishment.
  2. If we wanted to “enter into a basing rights agreement” with Iraq in the future, then funds from other legislation could be used.

So, like the token opposition, the amendment itself is largely symbolic, but it’s a way to start the discussion on the record. It is an important discussion to have, too. And, wouldn’t it be better to have a good faith discussion about this in the public arena now, rather than wait until the White House propaganda squad decides it’s time to sell the idea of permanent bases to the American people and issues its talking points? Cue the press!

Aaaww, who am I kidding?

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4 Comments
  1. March 18, 2006 10:42 AM

    Right. So is this a panicked response to crisis, or a long-term plan in existence prior to invasion?

  2. March 18, 2006 2:04 PM

    I fear it’s a variation of the second one.

    Which is why I think it important for people to start talking it over.

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