Sunday, January 27, 2008

Exactly How Does The USA Leave Iraq?

I have just discovered this. It was published by the American Magazine "Mother Jones" on 18 October, 2007. The two quotations which follow are from the editors' introduction to that issue. They set the scene for what is an important contribution on Iraq which needs to be known outside of the USA.

... it's not just the administration that has its head in the sand; to varying degrees, we all do. For those of us who argued against invading, it is tempting to simply demand an end to "Bush's War" and wash our hands of it. But as General Anthony Zinni, former head of U.S. forces in the Middle East, told us, "Your conscience is not clean just because you're a peace demonstrator." In other words, just because you weren't in favor of going in doesn't mean you're not responsible for what happens when we pull out...

Yes, Bush, a leader with all the impulse control of a petulant three-year-old, "broke" Iraq. But we own it now. Time to get ready with the apology, the checkbook, and whatever else is required.

I Told You So

The line argued above is in line with a position I adopted between the invasion of Iraq on 18 March, 2003 and its conquest on 1 May, 2003. Having vigorously opposed the invasion, on 27 March I raised the following point in the Commons -

"Should we not have a debate on the humanitarian arrangements in Iraq to handle the current crisis? However hon. Members voted in relation to the war, surely we are all deeply concerned about the humanitarian crisis that exists in that country at the moment. For instance, Basra is the gateway to Iraq. It has an extensive dock marshalling yard and a railway line to Baghdad, and if it can be used properly for humanitarian provisions, that is all to the good. We should be able to debate those matters on the Floor of the House."

Unfortunately, no such debate was forthcoming and by my then turning my attention away from a "troops out" position my friends in the anti-invasion movement thought I had sold out. I was amazed that they were not automatically following the line I was taking.

Given that an invasion was then underway, we now know that the numbers of troops involved and the nature of forward planning were totally inadequate. It would have been revealing if the debate I had called for (and continued to press for) had actually taken place.


I thank "Rwendland's" contributions in my Comment Box for providing me with links which led me on to find "Mother Jones".


Pete said...

Do you think the US really will pull out of Iraq? I don't. Picking up on your heading, I don't see how they can.

This is Lt. Col. Karen Kwiatkowski (ret.) ex-Pentagon insider:

"... we have built four mega bases, they are complete. Most of the money we gave to Halliburton was for construction and completion of these bases. We have probably, of the 150,000, 160,000 troops we have in Iraq probably 110,000 of those folks are associated with one of those four mega bases. Safely ensconced behind acres and acres of concrete. To operate there indefinitely, no matter what happens in Baghdad, no matter who takes over, no matter if the country splits into three pieces or it stays one. No matter what happens ...

And we don’t even have status of forces agreements with any legitimate government in Iraq to support those bases. They are illegal bases, okay. But yes, they’re gonna stay, absolutely, they’re gonna stay. ...

And this guy [Jay Garner, Paul Bremer's predecessor]gave an interview in Government Exec Magazine, February 2004, he said “we will be in Iraq, and the American people need to get with this program, we will be in Iraq like we were in the Philippines for anywhere from 20 to 30 more years. That’s the time frame that we’re looking at. And that is the life span of the bases that we’ve constructed there. Yeah, we are not leaving these bases, and a Democratic president, I don’t care who they are, will keep those bases there. They will justify them and they will use them and we love that. We love it. So it’s not about what the American people think is right or wrong, it’s not about if we got lied to, what matters is, they did what they wanted to do, and as Bush says, and as Cheney says, “it’s quite the success.”

All sounds very likely to me. Will the US really pull out and leave those bases behind? Why? Who will make them? Who is in a position to put pressure on the US?

Full sorry story here at



Harry Barnes said...

Pete: These are valuable and important quotations. But despite all this concrete, nothing is ever set in concrete in politics. The US political scene can change with the end of Bush. The nations in the European Union and NATO can start to grasp the nettle, as their combined economic strength matches the US. This even means that pressures within the UN could be used on the US. Even political shifts in Iraq could lead to their Government demanding a specific end to American bases in their country, with consquences in the above areas. The odds might be in the other direction, but that is no reason for giving in to them.

Harry Barnes said...

P.S. Pete: The Iraqis forced the UK out of its "permanent" bases back in 1958.

rwendland said...

If the US has difficulty sending out patrols safely from these superbases, or interact with the Iraqis, I don't see that they have great value. After all the US kept Guantanamo Bay base in Cuba (using an old dubious treaty), and that has had virtually no US positive effect within Cuba, because it is completely cut-off from the populace.

These Iraqi superbase may simply become a very expensinve ineffective irritant within the Arab world.

Pete said...

Well, maybe you're both right. Though rwendland I don't think the US would keep the bases to send out foot patrols, they're there to create a strategic presence - 'lily pads' the military call them, places that troops can jump to in time of need. And Harry, I would like to think the EU has the will to take the US on over this, but I really don't see it. The UN? Possibly - the UN mandate is the only figleaf they have and that won't be renewed, I think. So maybe. Robert Gates has certainly said quite clearly that the US has no plans to station troops in Iraq permanently: " WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States has no interest in setting up permanent bases in Iraq, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday, playing down concerns raised by negotiations on the future US military presence in Iraq. "

see Yahoo - and who am I to question the sincerity of the Bush administration? Raed Jarrar doesn't see it that way though
" During the last few weeks, the U.S. government has finally announced its plans to maintain long term foreign intervention in Iraq, including leaving permanent military bases for decades to come. " RaedInTheMiddle he is biased, but he is also very well informed and active as an Iraqi advocate in the US with good contacts in Iraq. (Also BTW, for anyone who remembers the original Baghdad Blogger, he was the "Raed" after whom the blog - "Where is Raed" was named).

So yes, I was thinking, maybe I'm just being cynical. Certainly a President Obama would find it hard to keep bases there after the kind of speaches he's been making. And then I thought of our local USAF base, 'RAF' Fairford, from where B52s flew to drop bombs on Baghdad. That was built for D-Day, 60-odd years ago. And then I had another thought - and let me put it to you: the US has just recently agreed to withdraw from Uzbekistan. Apart from there, can you think of any other country in the world that the US has withdrawn from once having established bases? I think they are in about 130 countries all told.

And what if Iraq asked the US to stay 'for a while'. How could they say "No"? Pressure? What pressure? (Same pattern unfolding in Afghanistan, of course.)



rwendland said...

Pete, thanks for the fascinating link to .

I didn't know
that the Iraqi parliament has "the exclusive constitutional authority over ratifying or approving international treaties", and does not want the United Nations mandate renewed, nor "to ratify the U.N. agreement under which the multinational forces operate in Iraq". The Maliki govt is doing its best to ignore/bypass their constitutional right, but probably cannot.

Jarrar thinks the U.S. would ignore lack of UN mandate renewal, but thinks the UK would honour that and withdraw completely.

Fascinating, if correct. Has this been reported in the UK anywhere?

Harry Barnes said...

Rwendland: I have not seen UK reports of the important information you provide via your link to the Real News Network. I will look into this further.

Pete: "Raedinthemiddle" overestimates the killings in Iraq. They are terrible, but are probably nearer to a quarter of the estimate he is drawing from -

There are US bases in Turkey, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman, Afganistan and Eqypt. They can manage any legitimate interests the US have in the region without requiring those in Iraq. My argument was that it is difficult, but not impossible to shift them. If necessary, providing genuine replacements if that is what the Iraqi Parliament approves. But a start could be made by withdrawing the privatised military forces.

Harry Barnes said...

Rwendland: If I am not dealt with as spam, I have asked Brendan O'Leary for his views on the Real News Network item. He helped with the drafting of the Iraqi Constitution.

Gabriel said...

An interesting blog has come to my attention, it is that of my brother in law David McCardle who lives in Essex. As well as being married to my sister Geraldine, David and I go back a long way, having been through the particularly ahem 'memorable' experience of an education in a school imbued with the ethos of the Jesuits.
David's blog is particularly interesting and informative, since David is suffering from Cancer and wishes people to be informed of what the sufferer experiences. It certainly makes for reading that will make those of us who complain about traffic congestion and the usual panoply of trivial everyday problems get things into perspective. It would be great if readers of Unrepentant Communist were able to send on their best wishes to a very brave guy.

Frank Partisan said...

Interesting post.

Out Now is the lesser evil. The US has been literally arming all sides, including Sunni groups with terrorist ties.

After Saddam was overthrown, the first thing they did, was divide it by religion. They gave priviledges to some, and not others.

Harry Barnes said...

Renegade Eye: I have never had any doubts about the Coalition's criminal stupidity in attacking Iraq and in its many failures since then. But what if the more feasible way to get occupation troops out is in pieces, rather than in a single grand departure? e.g. mercenaries first. Given your political stance, the following might interest you -

Pete said...


This is a link to a hearing of the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs, at which Raed Jarrar gave evidence on the Iraqi constitution (amongst other things). A transcript of his contribution is here . If you read it, you will obviously draw your own conclusions - but it seems to me these points are interesting:

The Iraqi executive branch [president and cabinet] argued that while it respects and understands the parliament’s exclusive right to ratify international treaties and agreements, the UN mandate does not
count as an international treaty or agreement.

So the President is saying, the UN mandate under which troops are in Iraq is not an international treaty .
The parliament didn't like that, but only found out after the mandate renewal had been signed. They now think they've passed a law that specifically requires parliamentary approval for the renewal of the mandate this time round.

Fairly obviously, and significantly, the Iraq executive wants the US to stay.


Harry Barnes said...

Pete: thank you for the important link. I have printed off a copy of the Hearing. I note that Michael Rubin worked for Rumsfeld and rushes to the Defence of Maliki's interpretation, whilst dismissing the parliamentarians' case as "grandstanding". Which is in contrast to others (and especially Raed Jarrar) who give a detailed analysis and come to a different conclusion.

I have also looked at a Joint Hearing on the proposed US-Iraq agreement. It involves the same Committee plus the one on Asia and the Middle East. It again has submissions from Rubin and Katzman.

I hope to meet up with some Iraqi Trade Unionists and British MPs in Commons in a couple of weeks' time and I will look further into these matters and will, at least, put some of my findings onto this blog in preparation. So thanks, once more, for the information.

nadia said...

That's really interesting. It's hard to find dialogue in the left that asks instead of "when are we leaving," "what is the best way we can go about Iraq for them, now that we've done what we did" which are 2 very different things, obviously.

Though I know many anti-war people that do ask those questions, alot seem afraid to express those concerns.

Either way, thank you for posting this, it's good to see.