Re: Gareth Porter's superior essay entitled: Bush Pledges on Iraq Bases Were a Ruse
Note: Investigative historian Gareth Porter has written a supurb analysis of the current issue involving planned US military bases in Iraq. The article is repeated in full below my introductory comments.
Some of you have said you cannot accept that honorable men like Robert Gates, Ryan Crocker and David Petraeus would knowingly collaborate in a secret effort to exaggerate Iranian involvement in covert action in Iraq that caused the deaths of Americans and would thereby justify retaliatory action against bases in Iran from which such activity was allegedly being carried out.
That campaign of "sexed up" intelligence has suddenly died down. Why? If it was true last month that the Iranians were causing Americans to die in Iraq, isn't that just as dangerous a challenge to our national interests today as it was yesterday? Apparently, a tentative plan to use that accusation as justification for military action has been shelved, at least temporarily --- so the "intelligence" justification (the background mood-music) that was to precede the attacks is no longer such an urgent priority.
I'm going to say it one more time -- for the twentieth time in the past four years: the Iraqi individual or group that eventually gains control over the country will have derived its credibility, its legitimacy and its popularity from the degree to which it has opposed the American occupation, not cooperated with it. Dick Cheney has never even begun to comprehend that simple fact, or the reasons behind it; is it too late for someone to explain the facts of life to John McCain?
Date: Fri, 13 Jun 2008 17:39:37 -0400
From: Gareth Porter <email@example.com>
Bush Pledges on Iraq Bases Were a Ruse
Analysis by Gareth Porter*
*WASHINGTON, Jun 12 (IPS) - Two key pledges made by the George W. Bush
administration on military bases in its negotiations with the government
of Iraq have now been revealed as carefully-worded ruses aimed at
concealing U.S. negotiating aims from both U.S. citizens and Iraqis who
would object to them if they were made clear.*
Recent statements by Iraqis familiar with U.S. demands in negotiations on
the U.S.-Iraq "strategic framework" agreement have highlighted the fact
that administration promises that it would not seek "permanent bases" or
the use of bases to attack Iran or any other neighbouring countries were
deliberately misleading. The wording used by the Bush administration
appears to have been chosen to obscure its intention to have both
long-term access to Iraqi bases and complete freedom to use them to launch
operations against Iran and Syria.
When Defence Secretary Robert Gates first informed the public about U.S.
aims in negotiating Jan. 24, he renounced the aim of "permanent bases" in
Iraq. Gates said the U.S.-Iraq agreement "would not involve -- we have no
interest in permanent bases". The same day, State Department spokesman Tom
Casey, asked if the agreement would include any reference to "permanent
bases", replied, "We're not seeking permanent bases in Iraq. That's been a
clear matter of policy for some time."
Casey went on to say, "No, the agreement is not a basing agreement."
In Congressional testimony Apr. 8, Ambassador Ryan Crocker said the
agreements "will not establish permanent bases in Iraq and we anticipate
that it will expressly foreswear them."
These public reassurances, moreover, mirrored the actual language used in
the U.S. draft of the agreement given to the Iraqi negotiators. A draft
dated Mar. 8, which was leaked to The Guardian's Seumas Milne and reported
Apr. 8, includes the statement that the United States "does not desire
permanent bases or a permanent military presence in Iraq".
That commitment, which seems definitive at first glance, actually
incorporates deliberate ambiguity on at least two different levels. The
term "permanent military base" appears to represent a substantive legal
term, but in fact is a completely misleading term.
When Democratic Sen. James Webb asked the State Department's David
Satterfield, "What is a permanent base?" Satterfield tried to avoid
answering the question. But Assistant Defence Secretary Mary Beth Long was
more responsive. She said, "I have looked into this. As far as the
department is concerned, we don't have a worldwide or even a
department-wide definition of permanent bases."
Webb then observed, "It doesn't really mean anything," to which Long
replied, "Yes, senator, you're right. It doesn't." She added that "most
lawyers... would say that the word 'permanent' probably refers more to the
state of mind contemplated by the use of the term".
Iraqi officials quickly figured out that the real significance of the
draft's wording on access to military bases was that it contained neither
a time limit on access to Iraqi bases nor any restrictions on the U.S. to
"conduct military operations in Iraq and to detain individuals when
necessary for imperative reasons of security".
Authorisation for such operations was called "temporary", but the absence
of any time limit makes that seemingly reassuring term meaningless as
The Bush administration's renunciation of "permanent bases" was a ploy to
lull the key committees of the U.S. Congress on an issue which had aroused
many Democratic critics of the war, who had repeatedly used that term in
demanding a legal commitment on the issue.
The administration also used such ambiguous language to help the Iraqi
government sell the agreement to Iraqi nationalists who object to
long-term U.S. bases in their country. Thus as early as last December,
Iraqi National Security Adviser Mowaffaq al-Rubayi declared in a
television interview, "The Iraqi people reject the presence of permanent
bases in Iraq" and reassured Iraqis that the government would not accept
such bases "in any form whatever and will not approve, and I believe the
Council of Representatives will not approve it."
As Iraqi sources have now revealed to Western reporters, however, the U.S.
has proposed access to dozens of military bases without a time limit that
would be technically Iraqi bases but which would actually be fully under
The ploy of turning over legal control of U.S. bases to a client regime is
one that U.S. administrations had used on at least two previous occasions
to get around legal/political problems associated with continuation of
U.S. base rights.
In the 1973 Paris peace agreement that ended the Vietnam War, the U.S.
pledged to dismantle all of its military bases in South Vietnam within 60
days. But it had already secretly transferred the deeds to the bases and
equipment to the South Vietnamese government and then had them "loaned
back" to the United States. U.S. officials then claimed that there were no
U.S. bases to dismantle.
Because of nationalist opposition to U.S. military bases in the
Philippines, the United States gave nominal "sovereignty" over the bases
to the Philippines in 1978 and put a Philippine officer in nominal command
of each base, while insisting on U.S. "effective command and control" as
well as "unhampered military operations".
Another issue on which the Bush administration inserted language in its
draft to suggest a major concession to Iraqi political sensitivities while
keeping its own freedom of action is the U.S. use of Iraqi bases to carry
out military operations against another country. That was an obvious red
line for the al-Maliki regime and its ally, Iran. Prime Minister
al-Maliki's spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh insisted last January that U.S.
troops must "not be used against [Iraq's] neighbours," because, he said,
it could put the country's security in jeopardy.
Dabbagh said this one the principles that Iraqi negotiators would seek to
spell out in the agreement.
The Mar. 7 draft includes a statement that the United States "does not
seek to use Iraqi territory as a platform for offensive operations against
other states". That commitment leaves plenty of room for the Bush
administration to argue that it is responding defensively to an Iranian
threat to its troops or other interests.
Iraqi negotiators were well aware of the ambiguous nature of the U.S.
language. And a U.S. demand for control over Iraqi airspace below 29,000
feet, reported by more than one Iraqi official in recent weeks, fueled
intense suspicions of the administration's intentions.
"Senior Iraqi military sources" were quoted by GulfNews as saying the
agreement gave the United States "the right...to strike, from within Iraqi
territory, any country it considers a threat to its national security".
That interpretation was based on the absence of specific language ruling
out U.S. military operations without the prior consent of the Iraqi
It now appears that the Bush administration's ambitions to establish a
legal framework to legitimise the occupation before the end of Bush's term
will be frustrated by strong opposition to the pact from pro-Iranian
Shiite political parties on whose support the al-Maliki regime depends.
The government is under strong pressure from legislators belonging to
al-Maliki's own Dawa Party and the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq to
scuttle the pact, and wait for the next U.S. administration before
negotiating on the status and role of U.S. forces in Iraq.
*Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist specialising
in U.S. national security policy. The paperback edition of his latest
book, "Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in
Vietnam", was published in 2006.