Friday, June 09, 2006

Permanent What? Whuzzat Bases? Huh-raq?

Y'all should probably just read Matt Yglesias instead of me. From him, once again:
Iraq's Prime Minister semi-endorses an 18 month timetable for withdrawal and Bush, rather than embrace the opportunity to extricate ourselves, smacks him down. Did someone say "permanent bases"?
No, nobody said that. Matt links to Steve Benen at Political Animal:
Tom Engelhardt noted that the "debate" over permanent U.S. bases in Iraq was practically non-existent. After a search of the LexisNexis database, he explained, "American reporters adhere to a simple rule: The words 'permanent,' 'bases,' and 'Iraq' should never be placed in the same sentence, not even in the same paragraph; in fact, not even in the same news report."

With the U.S. set to build four "super-bases" in Iraq, which many believe will eventually be part of a massive permanent presence, maybe it's time to put the question on the table? According to one House Democrat, GOP lawmakers are avoiding the issue.
My question is simple: Why would any thinking person expect a debate over permanent bases? Imperialism is a self-sustaining process - so long as it's a consensus. The moment the debate begins (in a democracy, at least) the debate is lost. Nobody, after all, can logically or ethically defend perpetual bases in Iraq - unless the US aims to use Iraq as a point of departure for regional attacks.

Let's be clear - American bases are modern-day colonies. They are, for all intents and purposes, American soil. The law of the host countries does not apply on the bases. If an American soldier commits a crime - say, raping a schoolgirl - the only thing he needs to do to avoid punishment is get back to the base before the local law enforcement catches him. The military then ships the randy soldier back to the land of the free, never to return. South Korea and Okinawa have a long, sad, horrifying history of this.

In the run-up to the war in Iraq, al-Jazeera ran an inconvenient truth of it's own: the majority of the territory of Kuwait was off-limits to the Kuwaiti people, as the American bases there had expanded dramatically in preparation for the war. This had some historical overtones that were less than flattering for the US: Access to Iranian soil was one of the major grievances of the Iranians under the Shah.

A discussion of American bases in Iraq might lead to an inconvenient discussion about American bases all over the world. This, of course, cannot be allowed. So the press carefully ignores the elephant in the room. Which is why I'm sure that when angry Iraqis eventually evict the Americans, we will no doubt hear cries of "why do they hate us?" and "what did we ever do to them?"

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