Total Withdrawal? Who are we kidding?

The most mammoth is the sprawling air base and logistics centre at Balad, north of Baghdad. As of last year, the U.S. had already poured close to a quarter of a billion dollars into that facility, and was planning tens of millions more, including a major road system and a 13-foot-high security fence that would stretch for 12.4 miles. In fact, thousands of troops stationed at Balad already spend their entire tour of duty within the base’s huge confines.


Balad was billed as Americas’ strategic air center for the entire region. Indeed, one original but unstated objective of the 2003 invasion was to make Iraq the U.S.’s new military platform in that part of the world. The huge U.S. troop presence in Saudi Arabia was becoming much too politically sensitive.


Another facility is the massive marine base of Al-Asad in Anbar province, where a visiting reporter was recently assured by U.S. soldiers that American troops would be rotating though for at least the next decade.


In other words, while American troop levels may be reduced at some point, tens of thousands American troops will almost certainly be remaining behind for years, hunkered down in their rambling new bases.


Ironically, after World War I, when the British established Iraq they also needed military bases, not just to dominate the immediate region but to help maintain their sway over Persia and India. The British were also determined to control Iraq’s potentially vast petroleum resources.


Eight five years later, in 2007, Iraqis can be forgiven if they think their country has come full circle. In fact, both Sunnis and Shiites are deeply suspicious of U.S. intentions.


It will become an ever more explosive issue. There is no way that the bases and the tens of thousands of troops that man them will not be targeted by anti-American forces of all stripes.


It is an issue that will also —quite understandably—be of key concern to Iran. Americans have always had trouble viewing the world through the eyes of others, but imagine if an unfriendly foreign power established four huge super bases in Mexico or Canada–a power that also had never ruled out using such bases for eventual military action against the U.S.


Surprisingly–or perhaps not surprisingly–the question of what the U.S. is really after in Iraq has never been frankly debated by the U.S. Congress.


Though U.S. legislators voted against appropriating funds for permanent bases in Iraq, the White House and Pentagon have ignored that prohibition by portraying the huge construction projects to be for temporary facilities tied to the on-going conflict.


It’s a fiction that has allowed Congress to get off the hook without really standing up to the administration. It’s similar to the way congress all along has allowed the White House to have its way in Iraq.

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About Barry Lando

Mr. Barry Lando is a Canadian native living in Paris, France. Lando spent 25 years an an award-winning investigative producer with 60 minutes and directed a documentary two years ago called, “The Trial of Saddam Hussein We’ll Never See.” It dealt with the hypocrisy of putting Saddam Hussein on trial without also dealing with the complicity of world leaders and businessmen in his crimes during his time in office in Iraq. Prior to that he was a correspondent for Time-Life in South America. He has also freelanced articles over the years for a large range of North American and European publications. He received a B.A. magna in history at Harvard University and an M.A. in political science from Columbia University. His new book is titled “Web of Deceit: The History of Foreign Complicity in Iraq from Churchill to Kennedy to George W. Bush.” Web of Deceit draws on a wide range of journalism and scholarship to present a complete picture of what really happened in Iraq under Saddam, detailing – for the first time – the complicity of the West in its full and alarming extent. It is being published by Other Press in the U.S. and Doubleday in Canada. He maintains his own blog at

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