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Signing Up For The Forever War

Remember those non-permanent permanent bases in Iraq? They’re looking a lot more like permanently permanent bases these days.

 Yesterday, the Guardian published details of the “Secret US plan for military future in Iraq” negotiated by Ambassador “UmUmUm” Crocker and Prime Minister Maliki – a plan that “authorises the US to "conduct military operations in Iraq and to detain individuals when necessary for imperative reasons of security" without time limit.”

The draft strategic framework agreement between the US and Iraqi governments, dated March 7 and marked "secret" and "sensitive", is intended to replace the existing UN mandate and authorises the US to "conduct military operations in Iraq and to detain individuals when necessary for imperative reasons of security" without time limit.

The authorisation is described as "temporary" and the agreement says the US "does not desire permanent bases or a permanent military presence in Iraq". But the absence of a time limit or restrictions on the US and other coalition forces – including the British – in the country means it is likely to be strongly opposed in Iraq and the US.

While Crocker claimed in yesterday’s hearings that the agreement would need approval by the Iraqi Parliament, it’s already clear that that body will not approve this arrangement, and there is concern in Iraq since Maliki ignored the Iraqi constitution in December 2007 to extend the UN mandate:

The move violated both the Iraqi constitution and a law passed earlier this year by the Iraqi parliament — the only body directly elected by all those purple-finger-waving Iraqis in 2005 — and it defied the will of around 80 percent of the Iraqi population.

Earlier in the week, a group representing a majority of lawmakers in Iraq’s parliament — a group made up of Sunni, Shiite and secular leaders — sent a letter to the Security Council, a rough translation of which reads: "We reject in the strongest possible terms the unconditional renewal of the mandate and ask for clear mechanisms to obligate all foreign troops to completely withdrawal from Iraq according to an announced timetable."

Those objections had no impact — and apparently the opposition of members of the US Senate to Bush’s plans to sign the agreement without Senate approval will also be ignored:

So, in true American democratic style, they’ve taken to calling what any reasonable person would consider a long-term security treaty a "co-operation agreement," saying that it’s the equivalent of the kind of non-binding "status of forces" deals the U.S. has with hundreds of countries around the world. As such, the two leaders argue, the legislature has no say in the matter.

The administration is also apparently covering up the fact that the agreement will bind future adminstrations to the Bush McCain Forever War. As TomDispatch noted of the secret agreement:

It will legally entrench American forces on those mega-bases for years to come. In a recent op-ed in the Washington Post, Secretary of Defense Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice denied that the administration was trying to bind a future president to Bush’s Iraq policies. ("In short, nothing to be negotiated in the coming months will tie the hands of the next commander in chief, whomever he or she may be.") This, however, is obviously not the case. The agreement is also being carefully constructed to skirt the status of a "treaty," so that it will not have to be submitted to the Senate for ratification. All of this, in the grand tradition of Vice President Cheney, might be thought of as the Bush administration’s embunkerment policy in Iraq.

Of course, Crocker, Bush and friends all claim that those bases are not “permanent,” a very suspicious claim since plans for permanent bases were disclosed in 2003 and :

Just the other day, the President again told Fox News, "We won’t have permanent bases… [but] I do believe it is in our interests and the interests of the Iraqi people that we do enter into an agreement on how we are going to conduct ourselves over the next years." Dana Perino, White House press spokesperson, offered further clarification by indicating that we do not actually have permanent bases on Planet Earth, even in Korea more than half a century later. "I’m not aware," she said, "of any place in the world — where we have a base — that they are asking us to leave. And if they did, we would probably leave." (She made a singular exception for Guantanamo.)

Consider this a philosophic position. Evidently, we don’t do permanent because all things are evanescent; everything must end.

Or as Howie Klein wrote in 2006:

Is there an argument over what "permanent" means? If Bush claims at some point that "permanent" means "until the Rapture or Armageddon" or whatever claptrap governs these fruitcakes lives, maybe he can wriggle out from under this– at least in the minds of the 29% of Americans who still think believe he’s doing a good job. This weekend the NY TIMES reported that Bush’s highly-publicized "strategy session," which begins today, will put forward a plan to keep U.S. troops in Iraq "for decades to come." I guess there could be an argument about the meaning of "permanent" around that.

Not only do those bases look mighty permanent, we’ve just begun building a new one:

And only in the last weeks, reports have emerged on the latest U.S. base under construction, uniquely being built on a key oil-exporting platform in the waters off the southern Iraqi port of Basra and meant for the U.S. Navy and allies. Such a base gives meaning to this passage in the Bush/Maliki declaration: "Providing security assurances and commitments to the Republic of Iraq to deter foreign aggression against Iraq that violates its sovereignty and integrity of its territories, waters, or airspace."

As the British Telegraph described this multi-million dollar project: "The US-led coalition is building a permanent security base on Iraq’s oil pumping platforms in the Gulf to act as the ‘nerve centre’ of efforts to protect the country’s most vital strategic asset." Chip Cummins of the Wall Street Journal summed up the project this way in a piece headlined, "U.S. Digs In to Guard Iraq Oil Exports — Long-Term Presence Planned at Persian Gulf Terminals Viewed as Vulnerable": "[T]he new construction suggests that one footprint of U.S. military power in Iraq isn’t shrinking anytime soon: American officials are girding for an open-ended commitment to protect the country’s oil industry."

While many questions have been asked of Crocker and Petraeus over the past two days, the big question will be whether the members of Congress will take stronger actions to prevent the signing of such an “open-ended commitment” which infringes on their constitutional powers since they did not when the Iraqi Constitution was being decimated.

Meanwhile in Iraq, US airstrikes continue to bomb civilian locations in Baghad’s Sadr City which is still under curfew:

“We are fed up with the fighting and deteriorated public services since 25 March. There is no water, no electricity, and food and vegetables are hard to get, while prices are soaring,” said Jamal Hussein Nasser, a Sadr City resident who fled with his 15-member family to nearby Shaab area.

And Al Sadr again makes clear his call to end the occupation, inviting:

"the government of Iraq, if it exists" to change course and protect the people from the bombings and the American militias and the "companies" behind which they hide, and to demand the withdrawal of the occupation forces or at least a schedule for their withdrawal, and turn their attention to providing services for the people.

His invitation is now apparently joined by the Basra-based Sunni The Council of Arab Tribes of the South:

The statement, issued on the fifth anniversary of the entry of the foreign troops, said: "On the eve of this landmark day, we say, on behalf of all Iraqis: ‘Enough with the occupation, you occupiers. Depart far away, because you bring with you nothing but evil and terror, and enough of the foreign interventions and the messages of killing and destruction exchanged between the parties to foreign struggles’.

Will our Senate, will we, finally also say "Enough with the occupation?"

Video: last year’s Bases are Loaded on the "nonpermanent" permanent bases.

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Siun is a proud Old Town resident who shares her home with two cats and a Great Pyrenees. She’s worked in media relations and on the net since before the www, led the development of a corporate responsibility news service, and knows what a mult box is thanks to Nico. When not swimming in the Lake, she leads a team working on sustainability tools.

Email: media dot firedoglake at gmail dot com