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20 March 2008

Can anyone tell me whether Hill or Obama will dismantle current bases in Iraq?

This is not a rhetorical question: please let me know, "offline" or not.

Note the language on each candidates site:

In other words, this is all in the future tense. What about the billions (literally) that have been spent already? Are going to pull up the stakes?
  • Clinton to Bush: Get Congressional Approval Before Moving Forward on US-Iraq Security Agreement

    "'The President has ignored the American people's desire to end this war and is now engaging in a process that threatens to commit the United States to permanent bases in Iraq. This is unacceptable and I hope the President asks Congress to review this agreement. If he doesn’t, Congress must act.' ... And now, with this agreement, President Bush is attempting to create a long-term presence of U.S. forces in Iraq, including the possibility of establishing permanent bases there.
Senator Clinton has consistently opposed the creation of permanent bases in Iraq. In 2006, Congress placed a restriction on the use of any funds to establish bases in Iraq. Last week, Senator Clinton wrote President Bush to advise him that this agreement must not commit the United States to permanent bases in Iraq, and must include a commitment to the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq. Today she called for him to agree to get Congressional approval before completing the agreement.
President Bush has attempted to expand the power of the Executive Branch more than any President since World War II. Senator Clinton’s legislation reaffirms the fundamental constitutional principle of the separation of powers. It will prevent President Bush from thwarting the will of the American people by prolonging this war, while ensuring that our Constitution is respected."
In other words, the problem is separation of powers primarily. Note, though, the language: again, the notion that permanent bases are in the future ("...is now engaging in a process that threatens to commit the United States to permanent bases in Iraq."; "...including the possibility of establishing permanent bases there."; etc.) is patently false -- and not much better than Obama's position, which is also in cloud-cuckoo land.

But I do feel hope surging through my veins every time I gaze upon either candidate. They like me; they really, really like me.

Note Obama's reticence in 2006 on bases:
In such a scenario [i.e., Obama's version of "phased withdrawal"], it is conceivable that a significantly reduced U.S. force might remain in Iraq for a more extended period of time. But only if U.S. commanders think such a force would be effective; if there is substantial movement towards a political solution among Iraqi factions; if the Iraqi government showed a serious commitment to disbanding the militias; and if the Iraqi government asked us -- in a public and unambiguous way -- for such continued support. We would make clear in such a scenario that the United States would not be maintaining permanent military bases in Iraq, but would do what was necessary to help prevent a total collapse of the Iraqi state and further polarization of Iraqi society. Such a reduced but active presence will also send a clear message to hostile countries like Iran and Syria that we intend to remain a key player in this region.
OK, I get all the "ifs" here; note that what is left unsaid is what we will do about these bases (here still languishing in some subjunctive alternate universe) if none of these things come to pass. Or rather, the message was sent, and rather clearly. The last sentence is a carbon copy of Robert Gates' repeated mantra. Oh, yes: a world of difference.

Here's a good commentary from late February on the media and Democratic reaction, or lack thereof, to this key question -- dare I say, "litmus test"? Here's the key part:

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.
By way of comparison, from HR 1234, Kucinich's bill:
    (1) The insurgency in Iraq has been fueled by the United States occupation and the prospect of a long-term presence as indicated by the building of permanent United States military bases.

    (2) A United States declaration of an intention to withdraw United States troops and close military bases will help dampen the insurgency which has been inspired to resist colonization and fight aggressors and those who have supported United States policy.

    (3) A United States declaration of an intention to withdraw United States troops and close military bases will provide an opening in which parties within Iraq and in the region can set the stage for negotiations toward a peaceful settlement in Iraq.
That's pretty unequivocal. As is the following, from 2004, by Nader:
Monday April 19, 2004
Washington, DC:

Today, Independent Presidential candidate Ralph Nader put forward a three-step approach to rapidly remove US military forces, civilian military contractors and US corporate interests from Iraq. "Every day the US military remains in Iraq we imperil US security, drain our economy, ignore our nation's domestic needs and prevent democratic self-rule from developing in Iraq, nor does the belligerent rhetoric of the Bush regime help the cause of moderates in Iraq." Nader said.

Nader made his statement amid calls by President Bush and Senator Kerry to "stay the course" despite increasing violence against US soldiers and US military contractors. "As has been demonstrated in recent weeks, US soldiers and civilians have become magnets for an expanding insurgency against US occupation of Iraq," Nader said. "The way to save US and Iraqi lives and reverse the escalating spiral of violence is for the United States to go back home. US presence serves as fuel for the insurrection, kidnapping, terrorism and anarchy. Since the occupation is increasingly turning mainstream Iraqis against the US; announcing a withdrawal and ending the corporate takeover of the Iraqi economy and oil resources will attract their support away from the insurgents."

Nader put forward a three-step process for removal of US troops.
  1. Development of an appropriate international peace-keeping force: Under the auspices of the United Nations an international peace keeping force, from neutral nations with such experience and from Islamic countries, should be assembled immediately to replace all US troops and civilian military contractors doing many jobs the Army used to do more efficiently. "Former General Wesley Clark described the Bush administration's foreign policy as 'cowboy unilateralism that goes against everything the United States is supposed to represent to the world,' noted Nader. "It is time for the US to return to the family of nations. The US will have to underwrite a significant portion of this less expensive short-term peacekeeping force since it was George W. Bush's illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq that has led to this quagmire."
  2. Support Iraqi self rule and free and fair elections: Free and fair elections should be held as soon as possible under international supervision so democratic self-rule can be put in place in Iraq. This will allow Iraq to develop legitimate self-government that will be able to provide for its own security. Nader recognized: "It is a challenge to bring democracy to Iraq, a country controlled by a brutal dictator, devastated by economic sanctions and torn apart by war. The complicated culture of Iraq, the split between Sunnis, Shiites and Kurds makes consensus on a new government a challenge. A suitable framework of unity with allowance for reasonable autonomy would be a proper balance. But Iraq should be able to sort out these issues more easily without the military presence of a US occupying force and the projected 14 US military bases that Iraqis see as installing a puppet government fronting for an indefinite military and oil industry occupation."
  3. The US should provide humanitarian aid to Iraq to rebuild its infrastructure: The US invasion of Iraq and the long-term US-led economic sanctions against Iraqi civilians resulted in tremendous damage to people, their children and the Iraqi infrastructure. The US has a history of supporting Saddam Hussein. "Until the 1991 Gulf War, Saddam Hussein was our government's anti-communist ally in the Middle East. Washington also supported him to keep Iran at bay with his army. In so doing, during the 1980s under Reagan and the first George Bush, corporations were licensed by the Department of Commerce to export the materials for chemical and biological weapons that President George W. Bush later accused him of having," said Nader. "Therefore, the US has a responsibility to the Iraqi people so Iraq can become a functioning nation again. However, we should not allow US oil and other corporations to profit from the illegal invasion and occupation of their country." Control over Iraqi oil and other assets should be exercised by Iraqis.
Nader noted the caution of former General Wesley Clark, who said: "President Bush plays politics with national security. Cowboy talk. The administration is a threat to domestic liberty." Nader urged the public to "free itself from the national security fear campaign of the Bush Administration and support a humanitarian conclusion to the Iraq episode."
Don't y'all worry your pretty little anti-war heads over anything: Saint Obama (or Dame Clinton) will be oh-so-much different than, say, McCain, on Iraq.

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