Iraqi insurgents have reacted to President Obama's talk of a “responsible end” to the Iraq war by killing 26 people in a day's attacks across Baghdad and the eastern city of Kut. The attacks cause serious problems for Mr. Obama's purported reduction of U.S. troop numbers to 50,000 by August 31 and for his long-term intentions. First, insurgents are widely thought to be regrouping around several Iraqi cities in preparation for the latest round of U.S. withdrawals. Secondly, Iraq's politicians are yet to form a coalition government, nearly five months after the general election. Thirdly, Washington's talk of reduction covers only combat troops and conceals the fact that the U.S. will maintain a network of gigantic bases in Iraq. The one at Balad, about 100 km north of Baghdad, can house 20,000 personnel; it covers 40 sq km and has an internal bus service and the usual American facilities. Inside, U.S. law applies and staff need not even set foot outside. The Al Asad base, 160 km west of Baghdad, holds 17,000 troops; one of its runways is 4.26 km long. The base is to be connected to the national electricity grid. Other U.S. stations in Iraq include Camp Falcon-al-Sarq at Baghdad, and Camp Victory near Baghdad International Airport, which can take 14,000 troops. The plan is apparently to maintain 70,000 troops and 200,000 contractors, or mercenaries by any other name, in Iraq.
The terms “enduring bases” and “permanent access” do more than evade the Congressional ban on permanent bases in foreign countries. The creation of such huge outposts in Iraq is entirely consistent with the Quadrennial Defense Review and the National Defense Strategy, both of which in effect put U.S. interests above the sovereignty or independence of other states. The possible counter that the Philippine Senate closed Clark Field and Subic Bay after nearly a century of U.S. tenure is negated by the subsequent Visiting Forces Agreement, under which Washington continues as before. In Iraq, the key document is the 2008 Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), signed between the U.S. and the then government in Baghdad. The Iraqi cabinet passed the agreement, but the ratifying referendum was postponed twice. It was then planned for March 2010 but nothing happened. So SOFA is de facto Iraqi law, despite being signed by a puppet regime in a country occupied and controlled by the U.S. According to one critic, instead of building the bases to wage war, the U.S. has waged war to build the bases. Noam Chomsky, for his part, calls the bases an empire, meaning they are not for U.S. security but for global dominance. In this, the Obama administration is indistinguishable from its infamous predecessor.