“On the rare occasions when officials have been pressed, usually in congressional hearings that garner little attention, Bush aides insist there are ‘no plans’ to build permanent bases,” Spencer Ackerman writes in The American Prospect. This is “a nondenial-denial that focuses attention on unprovable administration intent. But beyond intent is actual construction. That is, the U.S. military has awarded contracts to erect enduring bases…”
Ackerman documents a broad, resolute cover-up laden with dangerous possibilities, one that even Congress has failed to penetrate, while also revealing a resolute indifference on the part of the press:
“The Bush administration and the military obstructed my ability to report this story at every turn,” Ackerman writes. “For weeks, public-affairs officers at the Pentagon told me they did not even know where I should direct such requests for information….Responsible officials at the National Security Council declined interview requests. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s interview coordinator at the State Department did not return my repeated calls. Contractors refused to comment…”
“When New Jersey Democrat Jim Sexton asked her [Rice] the difference between an enduring base and a permanent base at an April hearing, she replied, Ackerman reports, ‘The presence in Iraq is for a very clear purpose, and that’s to enable Iraqis to be able to govern themselves and to create security forces that can help them do that. I don’t think that anybody believes that we really want to be there longer than we have to.’ A frustrated Sexton asked whether the bases were “permanent or not.” She parried, ‘I would think the people will tell you, we’re not seeking permanent bases, really, pretty much anywhere in the world these days….’”
Larry Diamond, a democracy-promotion expert at the Hoover Institution, “arrived in Iraq in early 2004 as an adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority, the first U.S. governing agency in Iraq,” Ackerman says, “He accepted the job at the personal request of Rice, his former provost,” and for him ‘the silence is maddening’”:
In the very first policy memo Diamond sent to Rice, then the national security adviser, he implored the administration to renounce any long-term presence in Iraq. She never gave him an answer.
“I certainly said it to Condi more than once,” Diamond says. With palpable frustration, he says the question of permanent bases “is like this pillow — you punch it, and the Pentagon won’t confirm, deny or reply. … No response. … In that sense, they’re very clever. They don’t defend it, don’t deny it, don’t confirm it. They just ignore it.”…
“We are seeking military bases, and I think it’s a scandal,” says Diamond. “The whole thing is just jaw-dropping. Nothing else explains this tenacious refusal, and the reactions I’ve gotten to my objections, except that people in the administration are clinging to this illusion, that at this late date, this goal is still possible, that we can turn this around and convert Iraq to host substantial American military power in the region, and to increase our military power in the region….
“In refusing to renounce these permanent military bases, we’re promoting precisely the instability that prompts the disruption of the Iraqi oil flow,” contends Diamond. “Holding on to this chimera disrupts the security goals that U.S. officials, and particularly civilian officials, think they’re pursuing. It’s absurd, and it’s profoundly tragic.”
That leaves another troubling possibility: to put it bluntly, that the war in Iraq is not the only war in the Middle East envisioned by the Bush administration….
Now to the press.
“In early September, John Warner, the Virginia Republican who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, frightened the Bush administration by musing that Congress might need to pass another resolution authorizing the expanding mission in Iraq.” Ackerman writes. “The Washington press corps regarded his message as a trial balloon. Yet,” he continues: “practically no news organization raised the question of permanent bases. This is as curious as it is inexcusable: In a presidential debate, John Kerry explicitly challenged Bush to renounce permanent bases. But Bush has never faced any pressure to do so, either during the campaign or after the election.”
“It baffles me,” says Diamond. “Why is the White House press corps not confronting the president, saying, ‘Mr. President, are we seeking permanent military bases in Iraq or not, and if not, why not take the issue off the table?’ It’s appalling. It’s no less a scandal that the press has failed to pin the administration down on this, and the administration has failed to come clean to the American people as we bleed and die there.”