For many months, at least since President George W. Bush announced that we would “stand down” in Iraq as quickly as the Iraqis “stand up”, it has been a puzzle as to why we were building permanent military bases in Iraq if “standing down” meant, as most Americans assumed, getting out–withdrawing our troops.
The British occupied the newly-formed Iraqi nation from 1920 until at least 1948, a mere 28 years. Within a few years after their withdrawal, required by British public opinion, the Baathist party and Saddam Hussein took over and governed, often with our assistance (including during the Iraq-Iran war), until 2003.
If we are planning a long-term occupancy in Iraq, shouldn’t the American people be told? Our government is spending billions of our tax dollars building permanent bases that it will not publicly admit are being built. That is because our leaders do not want to confess that “standing down” merely means withdrawing to garrisons outside the troubled urban areas that we cannot seem ever to pacify.
Why not?, you may ask. Why not is because this was the French strategy in Indochina, the British strategy in Iraq and other possessions and occupancies, and a number of other colonial powers in a last-ditch effort to retain a foot hold in their possessions. In every case, they failed. The garrison, or fort if you will, simply became a big, fat, tempting target for insurgents who refuse to accept token relocation as a substitute for genuine withdrawal from the nation’s territory.
In a government envisioned by James Madison, the Congress, a branch of government equal to the executive, would be asking questions about our strategy of stealth. But this Congress is Madison’s worst nightmare–quiescent, passive, emasculated, rubber stamp, and totally abandoning its Constitutional duty of oversight of the executive. The current Congress resembles most the Duma in the Soviet era.
It is quite simple. An enterprising reporter (remember those?) or a member of the Republican majority in Congess simply asks this question: “Mr. President, are we, or are we not, building permanent military bases in Iraq, and, if so, why are we doing that if you are telling the truth about the U.S. withdrawing its troops?”
It is probably best if you do not hold your breath waiting for this question…or for the answer.
— Gary Hart