FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Foundations for Permanent War

by ANTHONY DiMAGGIO

Few developments in Iraq have been less reported on than the United States’ plans for permanent military bases. Most of the powers that be in the Republican and Democratic parties do not seem to see these bases as a problem. Quite the contrary, the bases, coupled with an extended military presence, are seen as vital in reinforcing American power in the Middle East. Military planners were implementing plans for the construction and completion of over a dozen “enduring bases” in Iraq by 2004, much to the chagrin of the majority of Iraqis, who view the U.S. as intent on maintaining a permanent occupation. These fears proved justified by 2007, when U.S. military officials announced their vision for a long-term “post-occupation” force of some level of troop presence (likely in the thousands) to be extended indefinitely. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, while claiming that “We have no interest in permanent bases [in Iraq],” admits he looks favorably on plans for a “protracted” military occupation, as opposed to a total withdrawal or even a timetable for the reduction of troops. Former White House Spokesman Tony Snow described the administration’s long term plan for Iraq along the lines of the South Korea model, whereby the U.S. military has retained a permanent military presence for more than five decades. If Republicans have their way, troops will likely be in Iraq permanently.

As recently as last month, the Bush administration pushed the Iraqi government to extend its support for the occupation indefinitely, despite the Iraqi Parliament’s support for a withdrawal timetable. President Bush displayed utter contempt for Iraqi public and political opposition to the war in a recent Executive interpretative signing statement that rejected Congressional opposition to permanent bases. The administration’s insistence on permanent occupation has provoked a conflict with more progressive Democrats in Congress. Forty six Democrats (including Barbara Lee, Henry Waxman, Bob Filner, and others) have sent a letter to Attorney General Michael Mukasey “demanding transparency on the issue of permanent military bases” (Maya Schenwar, “Congress Ramps Up Fight Against Permanent Iraq Bases, Truthout, 22 February 2008).

Sadly, Democratic Presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have not co-sponsored a new bill, introduced by Representative Barbara Lee, preventing construction or maintenance of permanent military bases in Iraq. Obama and Clinton have been rather vague in terms of their plans for Iraq. Congress’s 2008 Iraq spending bill included a requirement prohibiting any plans for permanent bases without Congressional approval; however, neither Clinton nor Obama even bothered to vote on this important bill, as they appeared more interested in campaigning than actively opposing the war.

Either candidate could have voted against the bill and expressed their commitment to cutting off funding for the war, or they could have voted in favor of funding for 2008, while at the very least supporting the bill’s prohibition on permanent bases. Their refusal to support a funding cut off or a prohibition on bases raises serious questions their “anti-war” status. While both candidates rhetorically support some sort of short-term reduction in troops, they have been suspiciously opposed to plans for complete withdrawal. They claim to support a withdrawal of combat forces, yet support keeping thousands in Iraq for “counter-terror” operations, perhaps as late as 2012 (or later). How such troops will not constitute a sizable “combat force” in Iraq remains unclear.

Media reporting, or the lack thereof, on plans for permanent occupation has not added any transparency to the public debate over Iraq. This should not be surprising, seeing as reporters and editors are merely following in the footprints of Democratic and Republican political leaders who consistently misrepresent or obscure their views on Iraq. A search of the Lexis Nexis electronic database for all available ABC News stories mentioning “Iraq” and “Military Bases” turns up rather sparse results. Only a single story on military bases appears in 2008, with only 4 stories for all of 2007, 8 for 2006, and 4 for 2005. Importantly, only one of these 17 stories features the issue of military bases (as opposed to the other pieces which simply mention bases somewhere in the piece), and even this single feature does not focus on the controversial nature of the bases, but rather on “insurgent” attacks against American forces (“War in Iraq; Explosion in the U.S. Military Base,” October 10, 2006). Of these 17 stories, only one mentions the question of permanent military bases (“24 Hours to Go; Candidates Must Win Strategies,” 2 January 2008), in the context of former Presidential Candidate John Edward’s opposition to the occupation.

The Washington Post’s reporting on military bases is slightly less abhorrent, although not much improved. Although the paper has filed hundreds of stories and editorials over the last three years that mention U.S. military bases in Iraq in some way, the question of permanent bases is, again, nearly invisible as a policy issue. A search of the Lexis Nexis database shows that from 2005 through 2008, the paper ran just 6 Op-Eds, Editorials, or news stories mentioning the words “Iraq” and “Permanent Military Bases,” ­ an average of just 2 stories per year. Furthermore, two of the six stories were printed in the paper’s metro section, rather than in the major international/national news section, and one of the pieces, an editorial by Republican Senator Richard Lugar, actively supported permanent military bases.

As two of the most prominent news outlets in the country, the reporting of ABC News and the Washington Post is incredibly important in influencing the quality of the American political debate on Iraq. It is sad, then, that the organizations so systematically delete the subject of permanent military bases from public discussion. Media censorship by omission only hurts democratic deliberation. Only the most careful readers and viewers of the Post and ABC, failing to miss a single issue or news report from the outlets, would likely have seen these few stories devoted to the topic of permanent military bases. Then again, the erasure of the military bases question from reporting is precisely what one would expect in a media system dedicated to official misinformation, spin, and propaganda.

ANTHONY DiMAGGIO has taught Middle East Politics and American Government at Illinois State University. His book, Mass Media, Mass Propaganda: Understanding the News in the “War on Terror,” is due out in April. He can be reached at: adimag2@uic.edu

 

 

 

 

Anthony DiMaggio holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Illinois, Chicago.  He has taught U.S. and global politics at numerous colleges and universities, and written numerous books, including Mass Media, Mass Propaganda (2009), When Media Goes to War (2010), Crashing the Tea Party (2011), and The Rise of the Tea Party (2011).  He can be reached at: anthonydimaggio612@gmail.com

Weekend Edition
April 29, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
What is the Democratic Party Good For? Absolutely Nothing
Roberto J. González – David Price
Anthropologists Marshalling History: the American Anthropological Association’s Vote on the Academic Boycott of Israeli Institutions
Robert Jacobs
Hanford, Not Fukushima, is the Big Radiological Threat to the West Coast
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
US Presidential Election: Beyond Lesser Evilism
Dave Lindorff
The Push to Make Sanders the Green Party’s Candidate
Ian Fairlie
Chernobyl’s Ongoing Toll: 40,000 More Cancer Deaths?
Pete Dolack
Verizon Sticks it to its Workers Because $45 Billion isn’t Enough
Richard Falk
If Obama Visits Hiroshima
Margaret Kimberley
Dishonoring Harriet Tubman
Deepak Tripathi
The United States, Britain and the European Union
Peter Linebaugh
Marymount, Haymarket, Marikana: a Brief Note Towards ‘Completing’ May Day
Eva Golinger
My Country, My Love: a Conversation with Gerardo and Adriana of the Cuban Five
Moshe Adler
May Day: a Trade Agreement to Unite Third World and American Workers
Vijay Prashad
Political Violence in Honduras
Paul Krane
Where Gun Control Ought to Start: Disarming the Police
David Anderson
Al Jazeera America: Goodbye to All That Jazz
Rob Hager
Platform Perversity: More From the Campaign That Can’t Strategize
Pat Williams
FDR in Montana
Dave Marsh
Every Day I Read the Book (the Best Music Books of the Last Year)
David Rosen
Job Satisfaction Under Perpetual Stagnation
John Feffer
Big Oil isn’t Going Down Without a Fight
Murray Dobbin
The Canadian / Saudi Arms Deal: More Than Meets the Eye?
Gary Engler
The Devil Capitalism
Brian Cloughley
Is Washington Preparing for War Against Russia?
Manuel E. Yepe
The Big Lies and the Small Lies
Robert Fantina
Vice Presidents, Candidates and History
Mel Gurtov
Sanctions and Defiance in North Korea
Howard Lisnoff
Still the Litmus Test of Worth
Dean Baker
Big Business and the Overtime Rule: Irrational Complaints
Ulrich Heyden
Crimea as a Paradise for High-Class Tourism?
Ramzy Baroud
Did the Arabs Betray Palestine? – A Schism between the Ruling Classes and the Wider Society
Halyna Mokrushyna
The War on Ukrainian Scientists
Joseph Natoli
Who’s the Better Neoliberal?
Ron Jacobs
The Battle at Big Brown: Joe Allen’s The Package King
Wahid Azal
Class Struggle and Westoxication in Pahlavi Iran: a Review of the Iranian Series ‘Shahrzad’
David Crisp
After All These Years, Newspapers Still Needed
Graham Peebles
Hungry and Frightened: Famine in Ethiopia 2016
Robert Koehler
Opening the Closed Political Culture
Missy Comley Beattie
Waves of Nostalgia
Thomas Knapp
The Problem with Donald Trump’s Version of “America First”
Georgina Downs
Hillsborough and Beyond: Establishment Cover Ups, Lies & Corruption
Jeffrey St. Clair
Groove on the Tracks: the Magic Left Hand of Red Garland
Ben Debney
Kush Zombies: QELD’s Hat Tip to Old School Hip Hop
Charles R. Larson
Moby Dick on Steroids?
David Yearsley
Miles Davis: Ace of Baseness
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail