A bill sponsored by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) was passed by the House of Representatives today that would make it the official policy of the United States not to establish permanent military bases in Iraq, and not exercise economic control over Iraq’s oil resources. This bill came about because of statements like that of White House Press Secretary Tony Snow who said that President Bush sees the U.S. maintaining a military presence in Iraq like the one that currently exists in S. Korea, where U.S. troops have been stationed for 50 years.

After initially saying in 2004, that there would be no permanent bases in Iraq, both President Bush and Defense Secretary Gates both have backed off that previous stance. Part of the findings section in this bill states, “On October 25, 2006, the President stated,`Any decisions on permanency in Iraq will be made by the Iraqi government.’, in response to a question whether the United States wanted to maintain permanent military bases in Iraq, and on February 6, 2007, Secretary Gates said, `We will make that decision, sir’ in response to the question:`Is that still our policy, that we’re going to be there [Iraq] as long as the [Iraqi] government asks us to be there? … Is our presence left up to the Iraqis or do we make the decision?’”

The bill also limits the use of congressional funds for the purposes of establishing of bases in Iraq that would allow for the permanent stationing of U.S. troops, or utilizing economic control of Iraq’s oil resources. The bill passed today by a vote of 399-24. While speaking on the floor of the House before the vote, Rep. Lee said, “To those who raise objections or want to suggest that this is only a symbolic measure or raise semantic questions about what a ‘permanent base’ is, let me say this: This is a serious issue, and I think we all recognize how much is at stake.  The question is simple: do we support an endless occupation, or do we oppose it? We may disagree on many things about Iraq, but I hope we can agree that that an endless occupation is not the answer.  Let’s make that commitment today.  Let’s put the so-called Korea-model to bed.  Let’s tell our troops that when they come home, they will all come home.  Let’s pass this legislation.”

The tricky part here is in defining what a permanent base really is. Technically speaking, any base which the U.S. currently has troops on is a temporary base as long as the U.S. has the ability to turn the structure over to the host nation at some point. Knowing this, I don’t understand why the administration is now so reluctant to reiterate that their will not be permanent bases in Iraq.

I think the rationale for not doing so is in part related to the White House’s gung-ho mentality of any statement that even hints that American troops will someday leave Iraq is one that gives aid to the enemy, but everyone knows that the administration’s long term plan was to maintain a military presence in Iraq. Iraq was viewed as a way for the U.S. to get a toehold in the region. To me, what this overwhelming vote illustrates today is that even Republican patience has worn thin with this war, and that the neo-con dream of spreading America’s reach all over the globe is probably dead.

Text of Rep. Lee’s remarks

Text of the bill

Jason Easley is the editor of the politics zone at 411mania.com.  His news column The Political Universe appears on Tuesdays and Fridays at www.411mania.com/politics
 

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