Overlooked in the congressional cave-in to Dubya on a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq is that the final bill (H.R. 2206) kept in a flat ban on funding permanent bases:
SEC. 3301. None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this or any other Act shall be obligated or expended by the United States Government for a purpose as follows:
(1) To establish any military installation or base for the purpose of providing for the permanent stationing of United States Armed Forces in Iraq.
(2) To exercise United States control over any oil resource of Iraq.
Yet it was only a day after Bush signed the bill into the law that the NY Times reported:
[Senior Bush administration officials] said the proposals being developed envision a far smaller but long-term American presence, centering on three or four large bases around Iraq. Mr. Bush has told recent visitors to the White House that he was seeking a model similar to the American presence in South Korea.
And when reporters asked WH Press Secretary Tony Snow if the “Korea” parallel means they’re planning on staying for 50 years, he danced, saying that’s “unanswerable” but “what I’m saying is you get to a point in the future where you want it to be a purely support role.”
(See Washingtonpost.com’s Dan Froomkin for a great overview.)
That’s in sync with what LiberalOasis wrote in April 2006:
The end game is, and always has been, permanent military bases. A permanent military presence gives them the ability to exert influence on the Iraqi government and makes it easier to pressure neighboring countries, or start wars with them.
You don’t need, or even want, to keep 150,000 troops in Iraq to accomplish that. Probably around 30,000 would do.
Which is why the Bushies don’t flinch at talking about drawdowns in the future, because it’s part of the plan anyway.
They’ve never explicitly talked about staying in Iraq permanently. And now they really can’t, because it’s unequivocally against the law.
But they’re subtly making it clear they’re not planning to go anywhere.
Which means Congress has the ability to investigate and assess if the White House is breaking the law with those “three or four large bases.”
If they don’t try to enforce the law that they passed, then the law is meaningless.
Every Democratic presidential candidate is opposed to permanent bases. Some of them are in Congress.
The candidate that actually takes the permanent bases law seriously, takes the lead on oversight, and forcefully challenges the foreign policy objective of permanent occupation, will make a strong impression.