THE BLOG

The Burdens of Empire

05/25/2011 12:25 pm ET

For the better part of a year before the gratuitous invasion of Iraq, along with others I wrote often about the real neocon plan, the secret one not disclosed to the American people. It involved the use of Iraq as the U.S. political and military base in the Middle East, dictation of terms to surrounding nations, protection of our oil dependencies, long term occupation, and the construction of permanent military bases. All of this would be administered by a proconsul of Roman proportions, safely sequestered behind a multi-billion dollar fortress now known as the Green Zone.

Yesterday, President Bush signed the Defense Authorization Bill, including Section 1222 prohibiting permanent military bases in Iraq, with the now customary "signing statement" declaring that he has no intention of enforcing the law of the land, including this provision, though bound by oath and Constitution to do so.

To seal the deal, with the expectation of binding future presidential successors, Mr. Bush and Iraq president Nouri al-Maliki are in the process of negotiating a "status of forces agreement" that would commit the U.S. military to combat any internal or external factions the Iraqi government deemed a threat. This represents a one-directional security treaty cloaked in the form of an agreement not subject to Senate ratification. And it guarantees U.S. involvement in age-old Iraqi sectarian conflict for decades to come.

As John Isaacs, the knowledgeable director of the Council for a Livable World has noted, this "ignores the 1969 National Commitments Resolution which holds that assisting a foreign country through the 'use of Armed Forces' is a 'national commitment' that requires a treaty, statute, or concurrent resolution (of Congress)."

Now Congress must hold hearings not only on the legal implications of this major end run of the Constitutional process but also on the current status and planned expenditure on permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq. The costs to the American taxpayers, who the Republicans constantly say they care about, of a fifty year American presence in Iraq will be in the hundreds of billions of dollars, not to say the potential tens of thousands of American casualties ("casualty;" killed or wounded).

Of course, the next Democratic president can simply cancel this back-door deal. But Karl Rove, Jr., will have those pictures of half-finished bases to use in future elections to prove the Democrats soft on terrorism. By the way, al Qaeda still represents less than ten percent of the attacks still underway in Iraq. The rest are still carried out by sectarian tribes, clans, and gangs. But Mr. Bush still finds it politically profitable to call them all "al Qaeda."

Though the press doesn't seem interested in finding out, my guess is that the bases now under construction are garrisons outside the cities. They will be fortresses in the desert reminiscent of French fortresses in the jungles of Indochina. Future occupying troops will provide target practice for mortar and rocket attacks for decades to come. Thus does one empire repeat the folly of another.

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