So, our fine President says that we’re in Iraq for the long haul, but how exactly long is a long haul? Long enough to establish a permanent presence there? Well, today I thought I’d review an article I read in my local newspaper yesterday. Note that this isn’t an article I’ve read in any national news source as of yet, so good luck finding it. However, if you’re interested, join me and “Continue Reading” to find out if there’s something we’re just not hearing…

So, I pick up the newspaper yesterday, to find a prominently titled article, “In Iraq for the Long Haul?” Well, I’d seen this tagline before that day, so nothing new, right? Well, not quite:

BALAD AIR BASE, Iraq – The concrete goes on forever, vanishing into the noonday glare, 2 million cubic feet of it…

That’s how it starts…

At another giant air base, al-Asad…the 17,000 troops comes and go in a kind of bustling American town, with a Burger King, Pizza Hut, and a car dealership…

Ok, now I’m all for understanding and agreeing that our troops shouldn’t be forced to get used to another nation’s food, just because they’re serving overseas, but come on! Turning what should be a temporary setup into something that looks like something you might expect to find at a base over here? Surely importing the food is good enough; no need to bring in the corporates. And what’s with the car dealership? I wasn’t aware the troops got paid enough to afford a car. Indeed, of all military-based complaints I’ve heard, the not-so-hot payrate is one of the biggest. Then with all the insurgency we keep hearing about, why bother to buy a car if it’s just going to get blown up?

Here’s some numbers to look at:

In 2005-06, Washington has authorized or proposed almost $1 billion for U.S. military construction in Iraq, as American forces consolidate at Balad, known as Anaconda, and a handful of other installations, big bases under the fomer regime.

That’s about $1 billion dollars more I’d like to see go toward rebuilding the crap we’ve destroyed trying to root out Saddam and co., rather than bringing home-away-from-home to our men and women in uniform. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m all for making sure that conditions are safe, sanitary, and comfortable, while we’re over there. On the other hand, $1 billion dollars???

Here’s some more numbers to be aware of:

Al-asad will become even more isolated. The proposed 2006 supplemental budget for Iraq operations would provide $7.4 million to extend the no-man’s-land and build new security fencing around the base, which at 19 square miles is so large that many assigned there take the Yellow or Blue bus routes to get around the base…

Lets consider something here. My own town, which, in some respects is considered a small city, is about 27 square miles. My state’s capital, a true city, is 18 square miles, a whole square mile smaller than this huge base. And it doesn’t end there…

…$39 million for new airfield lighting, air traffic control systems, and upgrades allowing al-Asad to plug into the Iraqi electrical grid — a typical sign of a long-term base.

Long term stay? I’d say so. But why? The article doesn’t stop at saying what is being built, it looks into why. Perhaps it’s for the “long-haul” Bush spoke of the other day. The long-haul for what? The fight against the insurgency of course. How long will that take? Five, ten, fifteen years? W. doesn’t know himself. He’s just admitted it won’t be him that takes the troops out of Iraq; he’s going to leave it for someone else, whether they be an R or a D.

President Bush said Tuesday that U.S. troops would remain in Iraq beyond his presidency, a message that could complicate his effort to reassure an increasingly skittish public that the military deployment is not open-ended. — LA Times

Or is it for something else? Maybe to get Iran scared? Or Syria? Or someone else who might like to take a stab out of the new Iraq? Either way, a long-term presence in Iraq probably means the oil isn’t getting into the wrong hands. Seems like the writers of “24” got ahead of themselves when announcing America was looking for a way to establish a long-term presence in the Middle East. Why not? Oust a tyrannical dictator, pour a billion dollars into upgrading three (and possibly four) bases that would suit our troops well. That and Iraq is pretty centrally located, so that other targets would not be difficult to reach. At least, that’s what the George Adams of George Washington Universities says:

“There’s a huge advantage to land-based infrastructure. At the level of strategy it makes total sense to have Iraq bases.”

So, what is the real reasoning for these base upgrades? I’m betting it’s not for the Iraqi’s benefit. The last thing anyone, especially the Bush administration, wants is for these upgraded military towns to get into the wrong hands. However, what happens when the next President pulls us out? Will all this be for nothing? Maybe we should had thought of spending the billions of dollars elsewhere once we’re out of there. Surely there’s still some demolished buildings left to get back in to shape. I just think the Bush administration need to set their priorities straight. After all, it’s supposed to be getting rid of weapons of mass…oh, wait…I forgot, it’s now providing freedom to the Iraqi…or was it all about that oil stuff…or is it about sending a message to Iran and company? Well? Now I’m just getting mixed messages. Anyone else?

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