In a report published in April, Kevin Zeese of Democracy Rising described the gigantic capital investments currently being made by the U.S. national security state in Iraq, with almost no discussion in the mainstream media, and making a mockery out of the recent Senate vote approving an amendment barring permanent bases there. -- The U.S. Embassy Compound in Baghdad, for example, is "ten times the size of the typical U.S. embassy, the size of 80 football fields, six times larger than the U.N., the size of Vatican City." -- The nature of the bases described euphemistically in official U.S. discourse: they are "enduring bases" or "contingency operating bases." -- The desire for such bases, fourteen of which are said to be under construction in Iraq, is thought by many to be one of the principal causes of the Iraq war. -- About $1 billion has been spent on them so far, Zeese reports. -- "Long-lasting military bases in Iraq will be an expensive budget item even if the U.S. decides to reduce its forces to 50,000, less than half the current troop level. The annual cost would run between $5 billion to $7 billion a year, estimates Gordon Adams, director of Security Policy Studies at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. -- A list of the bases from the Global Security web site follows Zeese's article. -- A piece in Newsweek in April said that four of the installations would be "superbases," and described Balad Air Base in some detail. -- According to Newsweek there is zero contemplation in the U.S. government of withdrawal from Iraq: "Officials in both the executive branch and Congress say they are unaware of any serious planning, or even talk inside the national-security bureaucracy, about a full withdrawal." -- Discourse on the subject is a fine example of a 21st-century neo-Orwellian vesion of Newspeak. A CENTCOM spokesman put it this way: "A key planning factor in our basing strategy is that there will be no bases in Iraq following Operation Iraqi Freedom. What we have in Iraq are 'contingency bases,' intended to support our operations in Iraq on a temporary basis until OIF is complete." -- Sean Cockerham of the News Tribune (Tacoma, WA) recently described the "big role" that personnel from McChord Air Base play at Balad, 42 miles north of Baghdad. -- But the McChord C-17s, "the same ones that fly over homes in Tacoma every day, are sitting ducks when on the ground in Iraq," and never spend more than one or two hours on the ground in Iraq. -- "McChord C-17 crews also bring in a lot of the cargo to the base, which is the main logistical hub for all of Iraq," Cockerham reported. -- "[M]issions . . . can run 20 hours or more. . . . Balad is a bustling place of more than 20,000 U.S troops and covering 15 square miles, with the kind of hard-stand construction that leads some to say the U.S. could be in Iraq a long time. Some of the nicer buildings, and the mosque, are left from the days when it was the Iraqi air force academy. Theres even a graveyard of old Iraqi MiG fighter jets now covered in 'Kilroy was here' kind of graffiti. -- The wider base is also known as Logistical Support Area Anaconda. You might recognize the name because this is where some 4,000 men and women from the Washington National Guard spent a year in 2004 and 2005. -- Right outside the wire marking the perimeter of the base, Iraqi shepherds tend their flocks. The terrain doesnt feel as alien as other parts of the Middle East. Its hot and dry, but there are trees and flowering bushes. -- Night at Balad, though, feels surreal with the sandbags, intense bright lights, the omnipresent helicopter noise and soldiers everywhere with body armor and assault rifles." ...
By Kevin Zeese
** Unless the Iraqis Force the United States Out, The Evidence Shows the U.S. Isn't Leaving **
April 21, 2006
[PHOTO of U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, under construction.]
The message is clear. Indeed, it's gigantic for all Iraqi's, for the entire world to see. A 100-acre compound -- ten times the size of the typical U.S. embassy, the size of 80 football fields, six times larger than the U.N., the size of Vatican City. The U.S. Embassy Compound, in the middle of Baghdad -- the center for U.S. domination of the Middle East and its resources.
The compound towers above the Tigris River like a modern fortress. It will have its own sources of power and water and sit in the heart of Baghdad. If there is any thought that the U.S. is planning on leaving Iraq, the new embassy should make it clear 'We're saying!'
The growing skyline of the U.S. embassy in Baghdad is only the most recent indication that the U.S. has no intention of leaving. President Bush has already told us we're their until the end of his tenure. More important than words, building "permanent" military bases in Iraq re-enforces the message of the huge embassy.
The DoD does not like to use the word 'permanent' even for our bases in Germany and Korea. Euphemisms like "enduring bases" or "contingency operating bases" are used. They're less likely than 'permanent' to cause further anti-American unrest in Iraq.
Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy chief of operations for the coalition in Iraq, told the Chicago Tribune in March 2004: "This is a blueprint for how we could operate in the Middle East." Zoltan Grossman, a geographer at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash., told the Christian Science Monitor that since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 the U.S. has established a string of 35 new bases between Poland and Pakistan, not including the Iraqi bases. He maintains the U.S. is establishing a "sphere of influence" in that region. The Monitor also reports that Joseph Gerson, author of The Sun Never Sets: Confronting the Network of Foreign U.S. Military Bases [South End Press, 1991], says the war and bases aim at maintaining U.S. control over the Middle East with its massive oil resources.
The plan entails construction of long-lasting facilities in Iraq. The bases will include barracks and offices built of concrete blocks, rather than metal trailers and tents. The buildings are designed to withstand direct mortar strikes. Initial funding was provided in the $82 billion supplemental appropriations bill approved by Congress in May 2005.
[MAP TITLE: Permanent Military Bases Planned for Iraq]
The Christian Science Monitor reported in April 2006, "the Pentagon would prefer to keep its bases in Iraq. It has already spent $1 billion or more on them, outfitting some with underground bunkers and other characteristics of long-term bases. Some U.S. bases in Iraq are huge, e.g., Camp Anaconda, north of Baghdad, occupies 15 square miles, boasts two swimming pools, a gym, a miniature-golf course, and a first-run movie theater. The $67.6 billion emergency bill to cover Iraq and Afghanistan military costs includes $348 million for further base construction."
According to Global Security Watch, on March 23, 2004 "it was reported that 'U.S. engineers are focusing on constructing 14 enduring bases, long-term encampments for the thousands of American troops expected to serve in Iraq for at least two years. The U.S. plans to operate from former Iraqi bases in Baghdad, Mosul, Taji, Balad, Kirkuk, and in areas near Nasiriyah, near Tikrit, near Fallujah and between Irbil and Kirkuk . . . enhance airfields in Baghdad and Mosul . . .'"
Long-lasting military bases in Iraq will be an expensive budget item even if the U.S. decides to reduce its forces to 50,000, less than half the current troop level. The annual cost would run between $5 billion to $7 billion a year, estimates Gordon Adams, director of Security Policy Studies at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Recently, the House voted, by a voice vote, to oppose a permanent military presence in Iraq. Future on the record votes for appropriations will show whether this was a symbolic election-year vote, or something the House is serious about.
President George W Bush claims U.S. only intends to stay "as long as necessary and not one day more." And, Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld has testified on February 17, 2005 in Congress: "I can assure you that we have no intention at the present time of putting permanent bases in Iraq." These claims are hard to believe when Congress voted for the first funds for long-term bases that May, and construction is now underway.
As Joost Hiltermann, of the International Crisis Group, said: "One of the reasons they invaded, as far as I can tell, is because they needed to shift their military operation from Saudi Arabia and Iraq was probably the easiest one in terms of a big country to support their presence in the Gulf." Also, the idea that the U.S. wanted to swap Iraq for Saudi Arabia was acknowledged by then-deputy secretary of defense Paul Wolfowitz in an interview with Vanity Fair in 2003 saying: ". . . we can now remove almost all of our forces from Saudi Arabia. Their presence there over the last 12 years has been a source of enormous difficulty for a friendly government. It's been a huge recruiting device for al Qaeda."
On April 20, 2003, the New York Times reported "the U.S. is planning a long-term military relationship with the emerging government of Iraq, one that would grant the Pentagon access to military bases and project American influence into the heart of the unsettled region."
On May 2005 the Washington Post reported that plans called for consolidating American troops in Iraq into four large air bases: Tallil in the south, Al Asad in the west, Balad in the center, and either Irbil or Qayyarah in the north. Each base would support a brigade combat team, along with aviation and other support personnel."
In January 2005 it was reported that the Pentagon was building a permanent military communications system in Iraq. The new Central Iraq Microwave System is to consist of up to 12 communications towers throughout Iraq, along with fiber-optic cables connecting Camp Victory to other coalition bases in the country. The U.S. also has plans to renovate and enhance airfields in Baghdad and Mosul, and rebuild 70 miles of road on the main route for U.S. troops headed north.
The infrastructure is being put in place for a long-term military presence in Iraq. Unless Americans get tired of footing the growing and expensive bill for occupying Iraq -- now at nearly $10 billion per month -- or the Iraqis are able to force the United States to leave, it looks like Baghdad will be the center of operations for the U.S. presence in the Middle East. The U.S. will be sitting on top of the Earth's vast, but shrinking, oil recources.
Maps of U.S. bases can be seen at:
DESCRIPTION OF THE 14 LONG-TERM BASES IN IRAQ
As of mid-2005, the U.S. military had 106 forward operating bases in Iraq, including what the Pentagon calls 14 "enduring" bases -- all of which are to be consolidated into four mega-bases.
1) GREEN ZONE (BAGHDAD)
The Green Zone in central Baghdad includes the main palaces of former President Saddam Hussein. The area at one time housed the Coalition Provisional Authority; it still houses the offices of major U.S. consulting companies and the temporary U.S. embassy facilities.
2) CAMP ANACONDA (BALAD AIRBASE)
Camp Anaconda is a large U.S. logistical base near Balad. The camp is spread over 15 square miles and is being constructed to accommodate 20,000 soldiers.
3) CAMP TAJI (TAJI)
Camp Taji, former Iraqi Republican Guard "military city," is now a huge U.S. base equipped with a Subway, Burger King, and Pizza Hut on the premises.
4) CAMP FALCON-AL-SARQ (BAGHDAD)
In late September 2003, the 439th Engineering Battalion delivered over 100,000 tons of gravel and is assisting with building roads, walls, guard towers, and buildings for Camp Falcon. Camp Falcon is planned to house 5,000 soldiers.
5) POST FREEDOM (MOSUL)
Saddam Hussein's former palace in Mosul is currently home to the 101st Airborne Division.
6) CAMP VICTORY - AL NASR (BAGHDAD AIRFIELD)
Camp Victory is a U.S. Army base situated on airport grounds about 5 kilometers from Baghdad International Airport. The base can house up to 14,000 troops. Al Faw Palace on Camp Victory is surrounded by a man-made lake and serves as an unofficial conference center for the Army.
7) CAMP MAREZ (MOSUL AIRFIELD)
Located at an airfield southwest of Mosul, Camp Marez has a tent dining capacity for 500. In December 2004, a suicide bomber killed himself and 13 U.S. soldiers at the base's dining tent.
8) CAMP RENEGADE (KIRKUK)
Strategically located near the Kirkuk oil fields and the Kirkuk refinery and petrochemical plant, Camp Renegade has a dormitory that houses up to 1,664 airmen in 13 buildings with six to eight people to a room.
9) CAMP SPEICHER (TIKRIT)
Named after F/A-18 pilot Michael "Scott" Speicher who was shot down during the first Gulf War in 1991, Camp Speicher is located near Tikrit in northern Iraq, approximately 170 kilometers north of Baghdad.
10) CAMP FALLUJAH (RAIL STATION?)
The exact whereabouts and name of this base is unknown. Analysts believe that the U.S. is building an "enduring base" in Fallujah, a large town forty miles west of Baghdad. Fallujah has proved to be the most violence-prone area in Iraq. Between early April 2004, when Marines halted their first offensive against the city, and November 2004, when the city was "re-taken" from insurgents, Fallujuh was a no-go area with numerous murders and bombings.
11) UNKNOWN NAME (NASIRIYAH)
The exact whereabouts and name of this base is unknown. Analysts believe that the U.S. is building an "enduring base" near Nasiriyah, a provincial capital of South-East Iraq on the Euphrates River.
12) UNKNOWN NAME (BETWEEN IRBIL AND KIRKUK)
BALAD AIR BASE IN IRAQ EVIDENCE THAT U.S. PLANNING TO STAY FOR A LONG TIME; 15-SQUARE-MILE MINI-CITY ONE OF FOUR 'SUPERBASES' WHERE THE PENTAGON WILL CONSOLIDATE U.S. FORCES
** New $592 Million 'Massive' U.S. Embassy Being Built in Baghdad **
April 23, 2006
NEW YORK -- Despite all the political debate in Washington about a quick U.S. pullout from Iraq, the vast Balad Air Base, a 15-square-mile mini-city of thousands of trailers and vehicle depots located 43 miles north of Baghdad, is hard evidence that the Pentagon is planning to stay in Iraq for a long time-at least a decade or so, according to military strategists.
With 27,500 landings and takeoffs a month, Balad is second only to London's Heathrow Airport in traffic worldwide, Brig. Gen. Frank Gorenc, the base commander, tells Newsweek Senior Editor Michael Hirsh in the current issue. In an interview with Newsweek, Gorenc said he's "normalizing" the giant Balad airfield, or gradually rebuilding it to U.S. military specs. The Saddam-era concrete is considered too substandard for the F-16s, C-130s, and other aircraft that fly in and out so regularly they crack the tarmac. "It's safe to say Balad will be here for a long time," says Gorenc, who feels at home in Iraqi skies, where the Air Force has been having its way since the first Gulf war. "One of the issues of sovereignty for any country is the ability to control their own airspace. We will probably be helping the Iraqis with that problem for a very long time."
Hirsh reports that the Balad Air Base is an image of what America's long-term plans for Iraq look like. It's one of four "superbases" where the Pentagon plans to consolidate U.S. forces, taking them gradually from the front lines of the Iraq war. (Two other bases are slated for the British and Iraqi military.) The shift is part of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's plan to draw down U.S. ground forces in Iraq significantly by the end of 2006. Sovereignty issues still need to be worked out by mutual, legal agreement. But even as Iraqi politicians settle on a new government after four months of stalemate -- on Saturday, they named a new prime minister, Jawad al-Maliki -- they are welcoming the long-term U.S. presence, Hirsh reports in the May 1 issue of Newsweek (on newsstands Monday, April 24).
There is ample evidence elsewhere of America's long-term plans. The new $592-million U.S. embassy being built at the heart of Baghdad's "international zone" is "massive . . . the largest embassy to date," says Maj. Gen. Chuck Williams, head of the State Department's Overseas Building Operations office. In an interview with Newsweek, Williams called it the "most ambitious project" his office has undertaken in its history. Officials in both the executive branch and Congress say they are unaware of any serious planning, or even talk inside the national-security bureaucracy, about a full withdrawal.
Sectarian conflict here has worsened in recent months, outstripping the anti-American insurgency in significance, and many Iraqis know there is no alternative to U.S. troops for the foreseeable future. "I think the presence of the American forces can be seen as an insurance policy for the unity of Iraq," says national-security adviser Mowaffaq al-Rubaie.
U.S. officials routinely deny that America intends to put down permanent bases. "A key planning factor in our basing strategy is that there will be no bases in Iraq following Operation Iraqi Freedom," says Lt. Col. Barry Johnson, a spokesman for CENTCOM in Baghdad. "What we have in Iraq are 'contingency bases,' intended to support our operations in Iraq on a temporary basis until OIF is complete." But according to the Congressional Research Service, the Bush administration has asked for more than $1.1 billion for new military construction in Iraq, roughly double what it plans to spend in Kuwait, Qatar, and United Arab Emirates combined. Of that, the single biggest share is intended for Balad ($231 million).
Technically Colonel Johnson may be telling the truth about the Pentagon's long-term plans. But it is also true that the U.S. government has never drawn up plans for "permanent" military bases, even when it ended up staying for half a century. In Korea, where tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers have been deployed for 55 years since the end of the Korean War, "they're only just now moving American troops out of temporary facilities like huts to real buildings," says John Pike, a Washington security expert. A White House official, asked last week about long-term U.S. plans, himself made the analogy to Asia and to Germany. In every conflict the United States has recently been involved in, except Vietnam, U.S. forces have remained in the country, said the official, who asked for anonymity because the matter is considered sensitive.
STEEP DESCENT ENDS FLIGHT INTO WAR ZONE
By Sean Cockerham
News Tribune (Tacoma, WA)
April 26, 2006
BALAD AIR BASE, Iraq -- The C-17 pilots started putting on their helmets and flak vests an hour before we were supposed to land in Iraq.
Planes had been taking small arms fire going into the base as recently as a couple of days prior. Our pilots started plotting the best descent to avoid attack as a crewman set up armor around the backs of their cockpit chairs.
I was in back with the cargo as the plane landed, also wearing a helmet and flak vest. But it passed my mind more than once that our load included huge tanks of liquid oxygen and, if a bullet hit one of those, all the body armor in the world wouldnt do much good.
The descent was steep, hard, and fast. Then, all of a sudden, there was the feel of wheels hitting Iraqi ground.
Walking off the plane, it immediately felt like a war zone. Just 42 miles north of Baghdad, it definitely is a war zone.
Helicopters flew everywhere, heading out to missions in this area and beyond. This is one of the more active parts of the country for insurgent attacks. Most buildings here are surrounded by huge concrete barriers for protection against the near-daily mortar and rocket attacks.
The crew of the C-17 that I came in on worked furiously to unload and get out. This was an East Coast crew but McChord C-17 airmen tell me the planes never spend much time at Balad -- between a half-hour and two hours depending on the cargo.
The big planes, the same ones that fly over homes in Tacoma every day, are sitting ducks when on the ground in Iraq.
You dont want to be there stuck for long on the ground in a bird thats nothing but a giant fuel cell, said Master Sgt. J.P. Wirth, a McChord reservist from Seattle.
Men and women from McChord play a big role at Balad, particularly in treating the wounded at the Air Force theater hospital here and in evacuating the more seriously hurt out of Iraq to hospitals in Germany and the U.S.
McChord C-17 crews also bring in a lot of the cargo to the base, which is the main logistical hub for all of Iraq. Major Leo Synoracki, a McChord reservist from Tacoma, said he thinks about that when hes sleep-deprived from missions that can run 20 hours or more.
Youve got to think about the guys at Balad. They need this stuff were bringing them, he said.
Balad is a bustling place of more than 20,000 U.S troops and covering 15 square miles, with the kind of hard-stand construction that leads some to say the U.S. could be in Iraq a long time. Some of the nicer buildings, and the mosque, are left from the days when it was the Iraqi air force academy. Theres even a graveyard of old Iraqi MiG fighter jets now covered in Kilroy was here kind of graffiti.
The wider base is also known as Logistical Support Area Anaconda. You might recognize the name because this is where some 4,000 men and women from the Washington National Guard spent a year in 2004 and 2005.
Right outside the wire marking the perimeter of the base, Iraqi shepherds tend their flocks. The terrain doesnt feel as alien as other parts of the Middle East. Its hot and dry, but there are trees and flowering bushes.
Night at Balad, though, feels surreal with the sandbags, intense bright lights, the omnipresent helicopter noise and soldiers everywhere with body armor and assault rifles.
--Sean Cockerham of the News Tribune is reporting from Iraq. Hell focus on the activities of air crews and support units from McChord Air Force Base.