Iraqi Bases - The Greatest Story Never Told

It's just a $5,812,353 contract -- chump change for the Pentagon -- for "replacement facilities for Forward Operating Base Speicher, Iraq."

In the last five-plus years, untold billions of taxpayer dollars have been spent on the construction and upgrading of such U.S. bases in Iraq.

Billions have evidently gone into single massive mega-bases like the U.S. air base at Balad, about 60 miles north of Baghdad. It's a "16-square-mile fortress," housing perhaps 40,000 U.S. troops, contractors, special ops types, and Defense Department employees. As the Washington Post's Tom Ricks, who visited Balad back in 2006, pointed out -- in a rare piece on one of our mega-bases -- it's essentially "a small American town smack in the middle of the most hostile part of Iraq." Even back then, air traffic at the base was already being compared to Chicago's O'Hare International or London's Heathrow.

Think of this as the greatest American story of these years never told -- or more accurately, since there have been a few reports on a couple of these mega-bases -- never shown. After all, what an epic of construction this has been, as the Pentagon built a series of fortified American towns, each some 15 to 20 miles around, with many of the amenities of home, including big name fast-food franchises, PXes, and the like, in a hostile land in the midst of war and occupation.

Imagine if just about no one knew that the pyramids had been built. Ditto the Great Wall of China. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

Perhaps one explanation lies in this: On rare occasions when Americans are asked by pollsters whether they want "permanent bases" in Iraq, significant majorities answer in the negative. You can only assume that, as on many other subjects, the Bush administration preferred to fly under the radar screen on this one -- and the media generally concurred.

And, not surprisingly, [these bases in Iraq] reek of permanency. They are the unavoidable essence -- unless, like most Americans, you don't know they're there -- of Bush administration planning in Iraq. Without them, no discussion of Iraq policy in this country really makes sense.

[Excerpt of TomDispatch article by Tom Engelhardt]

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