The Big Lie: American Forces Are Leaving Iraq

John W. Whitehead

Posted Apr 3, 2007      •Permalink      • Printer-Friendly Version
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The Big Lie: American Forces Are Leaving Iraq

By John W. Whitehead

“Iraqis do not support an indefinite occupation and neither does America.”—George W. Bush

American politicians have mastered the art of the sleight-of-hand: what you see and hear cannot always be believed. A classic example of the government’s deceptive mastery can be seen in the current debate over withdrawing American troops from Iraq.

CNN recently reported that nearly 60% of Americans polled want to see U.S. troops leave Iraq either immediately or within a year. And to the average onlooker, the Senate and the House of Representatives, by making a concerted effort to establish a timetable for withdrawal, seem to be listening.

The U.S. Senate has added language to a $121 billion war spending bill that would have troops withdrawn by March 2008. And the House of Representatives has ordered the President to bring the combat troops home from Iraq next year, which amounts to fewer than half of the roughly 140,000 troops in Iraq.

But as has been happening a lot lately, Americans are once again being sold a bill of goods. At the same time that politicians push for withdrawal, long-term military bases are being established throughout Iraq. Reportedly, both houses of Congress voted last year to declare that the U.S. would not maintain permanent military bases, but this language disappeared from the final legislation.

John Pike, director of, has identified approximately a dozen of these so-called “enduring bases” in Iraq, with more recent estimates hovering around 15. “Note the terminology ‘enduring bases,’” David R. Francis points out in The Christian Science Monitor. “That’s Pentagon-speak for long-term encampments—not necessarily permanent, but not just a tent on a wood platform either. It all suggests a planned indefinite stay on Iraqi soil that will cost U.S. taxpayers for years to come.”

And who will man these “enduring bases”? The remaining non-combat troops, of course.

Under both proposed measures, these so-called “non-combat” troops would remain in Iraq for the purposes of training Iraqi security forces and protecting American diplomats and assets. The Pentagon’s “Go Long” strategy reportedly envisions 50,000 to 60,000 troops—including one-tenth of the U.S. Army—remaining in Iraq for years to come.

From descriptions of these bases, they will resemble mini-cities, custom-built “to make U.S. warriors feel right at home,” most of them reportedly built by companies like Halliburton at taxpayer expense. Describing al-Asad, a U.S. military base in Iraq, journalist Phebe Marr notes, “The 17,000 troops and workers come and go in a kind of bustling American town, with a Burger King, Pizza Hut and a car dealership, stop signs, traffic regulations and young bikers clogging the roads.” And at the Balad Air Base, “The concrete goes on forever, vanishing into the noonday glare, 2 million cubic feet of it, a mile-long slab that’s now the home of up to 120 U.S. helicopters, a ‘heli-park’ as good as any back in the States.”

Another major U.S. military base called “embassy complex” is being built in the Iraqi Green Zone. According to one report, “There, $1 billion is being spent on a 100-acre installation, comparable to the size of Vatican City, with a Marine barracks, 300 homes, 21 other buildings, and its own electrical, water, and sewage systems.”

It certainly doesn’t sound like we’re planning to be out of Iraq anytime soon, does it? Despite the rhetoric in Washington, we seem to be settling in for the long haul as an occupying force. Many believe the U.S. government’s real intent is to make a permanent American footprint in the heart of the oil-rich region. And the facts seem to support this idea.

But whether combat or non-combat troops remain behind, the sad truth is that more American soldiers will die. The insurgents, who seem to grow stronger every day, are not going away. And I would almost guarantee that they don’t consider the non-combat troops to be off-limits.

In the end, it’s the American people who are being played for fools. We’re being fed half-truths and double talk from Democrats and Republicans alike about what’s being done with our money and our troops. And that’s unacceptable when numerous American lives and billions of taxpayer dollars are on the line.

People forget that we’re dealing with politicians, and all politicians lie. It’s like the old joke: How do you know when a politician’s lying? The punch line, of course, is: When his lips are moving.

Mark Twain may have been jesting in part when he said that “there is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress.” But it’s no joke that the President and Congress are playing games with us.

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