From today’s Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

While most Americans are focused on how soon U.S. troops can get out of Iraq, the Army and Air Force are pouring an awful lot of concrete there.

An Associated Press investigative report suggests that there is a certain air of permanence to the military construction we’re doing in Iraq. Massive development at several U.S. outposts raises the prospect that the administration may be contemplating the U.S. installations designed to outlast insurgency and the creation of a stable Iraqi government.

We’ve all been hearing about the permanent bases for awhile, but I haven’t seen many details reported by the evil ol’ libruhl media. Some googling brought up the AP report cited above, by Charles Hanley:

BALAD AIR BASE, Iraq – The concrete goes on forever, vanishing into the noonday glare, 2 million cubic feet of it, a mile-long slab that’s now the home of up to 120 U.S. helicopters, a “heli-park” as good as any back in the States. At another giant base, al-Asad in Iraq’s western desert, the 17,000 troops and workers come and go in a kind of bustling American town, with a Burger King, Pizza Hut and a car dealership, stop signs, traffic regulations and young bikers clogging the roads.

At a third hub down south, Tallil, they’re planning a new mess hall, one that will seat 6,000 hungry airmen and soldiers for chow.

Are the Americans here to stay? Air Force mechanic Josh Remy is sure of it as he looks around Balad.

“I think we’ll be here forever,” the 19-year-old airman from Wilkes-Barre, Pa., told a visitor to his base.

Yesterday President Bush cheerfully informed the nation that the U.S. military would be in Iraq as long as he is president. William Douglas reported for Knight Ridder:

President Bush said Tuesday that U.S. troops will be in Iraq until after his presidency ends almost three years from now.

Asked at a White House news conference whether there’ll come a time when no U.S. forces are in Iraq, he said “that will be decided by future presidents and future governments of Iraq.” Pressed on that response, the president said that for him to discuss complete withdrawal would mean he was setting a timetable, which he refuses to do.

Note to news media: Next time Bush gives a news conference, one of you should ask him about the concrete.

Hanley of the AP continues:

Lt. Cmdr. Joe Carpenter, a Pentagon spokesman on international security, told The Associated Press it would be “inappropriate” to discuss future basing until a new Iraqi government is in place, expected in the coming weeks.

Less formally, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, asked about “permanent duty stations” by a Marine during an Iraq visit in December, allowed that it was “an interesting question.” He said it would have to be raised by the incoming Baghdad government, if “they have an interest in our assisting them for some period over time.”

In Washington, Iraq scholar Phebe Marr finds the language intriguing. “If they aren’t planning for bases, they ought to say so,” she said. “I would expect to hear ‘No bases.'”

Right now what is heard is the pouring of concrete.

In 2005-06, Washington has authorized or proposed almost $1 billion for U.S. military construction in Iraq, as American forces consolidate at Balad, known as Anaconda, and a handful of other installations, big bases under the old regime.

Note to news media: Next time Rummy gives a news conference, one of you should ask him about the concrete.

According to Hanley, the plan seems to be to lower the profile of U.S. troops by withdrawing from cities to the safety of fortified concrete bases.

They have already pulled out of 34 of the 110 bases they were holding last March, said Maj. Lee English of the U.S. command’s Base Working Group, planning the consolidation.

“The coalition forces are moving outside the cities while continuing to provide security support to the Iraqi security forces,” English said.

The move away from cities, perhaps eventually accompanied by U.S. force reductions, will lower the profile of U.S. troops, frequent targets of roadside bombs on city streets. Officers at Al-Asad Air Base, 10 desert miles from the nearest town, say it hasn’t been hit by insurgent mortar or rocket fire since October.

And the bases being built sound, um, permanent —

Al-Asad will become even more isolated. The proposed 2006 supplemental budget for Iraq operations would provide $7.4 million to extend the no-man’s-land and build new security fencing around the base, which at 19 square miles is so large that many assigned there take the Yellow or Blue bus routes to get around the base, or buy bicycles at a PX jammed with customers.

The latest budget also allots $39 million for new airfield lighting, air traffic control systems and upgrades allowing al-Asad to plug into the Iraqi electricity grid – a typical sign of a long-term base.

At Tallil, besides the new $14 million dining facility, Ali Air Base is to get, for $22 million, a double perimeter security fence with high-tech gate controls, guard towers and a moat – in military parlance, a “vehicle entrapment ditch with berm.”

Jack Murtha proposed that U.S. troops in Iraq redeploy “over the horizon.” The Bushie plan is to have troops redeploy “over the concrete.”

So why haven’t we heard more about this?

If long-term basing is, indeed, on the horizon, “the politics back here and the politics in the region say, ‘Don’t announce it,'” [Gordon] Adams [of George Washington University] said in Washington. That’s what’s done elsewhere, as with the quiet U.S. basing of spy planes and other aircraft in the United Arab Emirates.

Army and Air Force engineers, with little notice, have worked to give U.S. commanders solid installations in Iraq, and to give policymakers options. From the start, in 2003, the first Army engineers rolling into Balad took the long view, laying out a 10-year plan envisioning a move from tents to today’s living quarters in air-conditioned trailers, to concrete-and-brick barracks by 2008.

In early 2006, no one’s confirming such next steps, but a Balad “master plan,” details undisclosed, is nearing completion, a possible model for al-Asad, Tallil and a fourth major base, al-Qayyarah in Iraq’s north.

Back to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

The administration may see strategic advantages to a U.S. military footprint in the oil-rich but volatile Middle East. It would give the military more “punch” than aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf and perhaps deter aggression by Iran.

But the risks are vast. U.S. military presence in the Middle East was among the rationale claimed by Osama bin Laden for the 9/11 attacks. The establishment of long-term U.S. bases would shatter the administration’s claim that Americans are in Iraq as “liberators, not occupiers.”

Cynics might argue that a Mideast military foothold is a more believable motive for Bush’s invasion of Iraq than the capture of weapons of mass destruction, ferreting out terrorists or bringing democracy to the Iraqis.

If the administration doesn’t intend to create permanent bases in Iraq, why not clearly say so? Or devote the $1 billion proposed for military construction there to providing Iraqis with electricity and water.

Um, news media? Do you want to start asking the Bush Administration about the concrete?

20 thoughts on “Concrete

  1. Excellent work.

    But the risks are vast. U.S. military presence in the Middle East was among the rationale claimed by Osama bin Laden for the 9/11 attacks.

    If Robert Pape is right in his book Dying to Win, the principal motivation for suicide terrorism is always the wish to drive troops out a territory — so we’re just asking for more suicide attacks.

  2. It was to American strategic advantage to maintain a long term presence in western Europe during our long war with the Bolsheviks.

    It was to American strategic advantage to maintain a long term presence in Korea during our long war with the Bolsheviks.

    It will be to American strategic advantage to maintain a long term presence in Iraq during our long war with the Islamofascists of the Middle East.

    Ooops! Who ever accuses the left wing wackos here of being concerned with American strategic advantage anywhere?

  3. Ooops! Who ever accuses the left wing wackos here of being concerned with American strategic advantage anywhere?

    Does anyone want to explain to Mr. Dim Bulb here that when the enemy is not a nation-state the “strategic advantage” of long-term occupation is not exactly the same as when the enemy is a nation-state? Or does the very question go right over his head?

  4. The troops need all the conveniences of home. They can’t be expected to go to work unless they have their coffee and donuts or a big mac. An army, it is said, travels on its stomach.

    And the visiting oversight officials must have those conveniences or they will get upset about the progress.

    I vividly recall the warm feelings I had while visiting in a foreign when I came upon familiar fast food outlets. Just like home.

    The tragedy is that so little is being done to support the reconstruction of the nation. It is reminiscent of some of our larger cities when one gets beyond the shopping strip.

  5. >

    We own Iraq, simpleton, and we’re there for several reasons.

    One, we are there to insure that the Iraq government that ultimately
    comes to power is friendly to the U.S.

    Two, we are there to make sure Iraq’s oil infrastructure gets on line
    so that, combined with the recently online Caspian Sea pipeline, the
    Saudi influence over OPEC will be diminished.

    Three, in case you missed it, with Afghanistan in the East, our new
    Central Asian friends in the North, Iraq in the West and the US Navy to
    the South, The “nation state” of Iran is completely surrounded.

    Four, we are there to have a PERMANENT military foothold in a very
    unstable region of the world which unfortunately has an inordinate
    amount of the world’s fuel – oil. Until we get a viable, alternative
    fuel source up and running, it is critical to the GLOBAL economy (not
    just the U.S.) that the world’s second largest known oil field be

    Welcome to reality

  6. Four, we are there to have a PERMANENT military foothold

    Good. Honest of you to admit it. If only your hero in the White House weren’t too craven to be as honest as you are.

  7. zmtnman, son, we all know the Bush Administration goals for being in Iraq. The sad fact is that we’re not achieving those goals. If anything, those goals are becoming more and more unobtainable every day because of Bushie incompetence. THAT’S reality.

    And in case you missed it, it doesn’t matter a whit if Iran is surrounded (it isn’t, but let’s pretend). Because the jihadists aren’t allied with the nation-state of Iran. And they never were, even when Saddam was in charge. And they can go anywhere. Trying to contain jihadists by controlling territory is like trying to carry water in a kleenex.

  8. American bombs, bullits, and bullies have tried to control Iraq for the last 15 years, literally raising hell, and what is the fruit of our labour? If we reap what we sow, are you ready for the harvest??

  9. C. Allawi is now backing off his previous statement about being in civil war in Iraq. He is being interviewed on CNN Int’l. He is blaming United Iraqi Alliance for delay of new government being formed.

    Someone brought up Allawi’s comments about civil war having broken out in Iraq at Bush’s Press Conference yesterday. Bush said he disagreed with Allawi.

    And, today Allawi is backing off and discussing ways to avoid civil war. I think someone got to Allawi! Who could it be now? (remember that song?)

  10. I’m sorry, I just started laughing when nitwitman used the phrase “our long war with the Bolsheviks.”

    Dude’s living in a 20-year-old Tom Clancy novel. Fiction.

    Our presence in Iraq will fuel terrorism. Reality.

    There is no arguing with delusional people, but fortunately the majority of Americans have awakened and the nitwits have no one to gibber to anymore.

  11. My idea of functional leadership at any level is a combination of a) crtical thinking skills, b) insight and knowledge in the service of wisdom, c) finesse in dealing with adversaries and allies alike, and then of course, d) some measure of testosterone (even females have a measure of it).

    For men testosterone by itself is good for only two things. One of them is aggression and hostility, the other one… When one’s predominate interenal resource is testosterone, then aggression and hostility are the behaviors that come most easily.

    Here’s a moment of reflection about a certain kind of leadership: Pick up a hammer and study intently the Head of the hammer. What is on the inside of a hammerhead is all there is ever going to be–information can neither go in or come out. A Hammerhead is designed for only one thing–to pound, without awareness that it can be no more than a blunt instrument, and that it can only do the same thing over, and over, and over regardless of outcome.

    Now where do I get these ideas??

  12. “We own Iraq, simpleton”
    Right, just like Israel owns Palestine.
    What do you mean by “We” kimosabe?
    “Dude’s living in a 20 yr old Tom Clancey novel”
    Did you mean “Dude” or ” Douche”Joan?
    I believe the Dude or Douche is deluded.
    Google Greg Palast to see what’s going on. there will be no leaving Iraq, no matter if the Repugs are booted out and replaced by Dems, Big oil owns ’em all.
    I wish it weren’t so , but wish in one hand and poop in the other….

  13. How many cubic yards of concrete are we laying in Louisana and Mississippi? I’m just kind of curious about how the effort to rebuild after Katrina measures against the effort to build military bases in Iraq.

  14. If we’re pulling out of the cities and building bases in the desert, it’s almost equivalent to a partial withdrawal and matches part of what Jack Murtha recommended (shhh, don’t tell the Republicans!). I have zero faith in anything Bush says these days but reality has a way of limiting what he can do and can’t do and it may be that in coming months we’ll see fewer American deaths for the simple reason that we’re forced to cut back our military activities in Iraq, though we’ll be positioned for any major emergencies.

    We need to start withdrawing; and beginning that process by pulling out of the cities isn’t the worst thing that can happen. On the other hand, we can rely on Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld to find some way to screw things up even further just out of sheer incompetence.

  15. The big gamble(one of many) with this whole misadventure was that if we did not succeed, as we haven’t, we have set ourselves up for a fall. Any pullout of troops now is a win for whatever group wants to exploit it. THEY are the ones who forced the Gerat Satan out.
    Also, I have been in my fair share of strange and far away places and the last thing I wanted was for it to be like home. It most assuredly wasn’t anything like I knew and any attempt to make it so only put up a sign poiniting this fact out.

  16. I frankly don’t give a damn about the people of Iraq having freedom at this point. I do care about the soldiers, our Americans, who were sent there.

    Look at the deaths, the young men & women who have been very seriously injured, the money going down the drain and for what, for absolutely what!

    What is the truth about Pat Tillman’s death? There was an article about the investigation in yesterday’s NYTimes. Oh yes, apparently, Rummy hit the ceiling because another investigation was going to take place!

    Bush said he wants to spread freedom-bullshit.

    I care about America and what is going on here. The people who wanted to go to war – Bush – Cheney, Rove and on and on were dodgers and not in the military.

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