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I recently had a very nice dinner with a pair of academics - one American, the other Iranian. These are smart people who don't get all their info from Murdoch and Hannitay. But they're under the impression - like many decent, liberal Americans - that the Democrats have different foreign policy goals than the Republicans, and wish to end the Iraq War.

When I said that the US was building permanent military bases in Iraq, and that this was a bi-partisan project, they refused to believe me. After all, it's never mentioned on CNN, or in the New York Times. My Iranian friend told me I had an Iranian perspective - because like all his countrymen I was a conspiracy theorist!

(I am a conspiracy theorist. But the permanent US bases in Iraq aren't a theory. Google "permanent US bases Iraq" and you'll get in excess of twelve million hits. These aren't conspiracy websites. They're sites like the Quakers' the Chicago Tribune, the Seattle Post Intelligencer, and Global Security, which exists, as far as I can tell, to provide information to families of US troops posted aboard, and to sell them 'deployment bracelets' and military ringtones.)

Global Security has a great introduction. There are fourteen permanent bases in all, including the Green Zone in Baghdad: two have not yet been officially identified. Not all of them are immediately proximate to oil fields (though the permanent Kirkuk base - Camp Renegade - sits on top of oil wells and a refinery). Most of them have airfields, which means they can quickly strike insurgents - or pipeline saboteurs - anywhere in the country.

The Pentagon intends to consolidate the bases - most of them, ironically enough, expansions of Saddam Hussein's palaces! - into four mega-bases. In addition to the Green Zone and Camp Renegade, they are:

Camp Anaconda (formerly Balad Airbase) - with five cafeterias, two swimming pools, and a 35mm cinema - holds 22,500 US troops and 2,500 US military contractors.

Camp Taji (formerly Camp Cooke), a Republican Guard 'military city' which has been fitted with 29,000 square feet of retail shopping opportunities for US troops.

Camp Falcon - also in Baghdad - intended to house 5,000 US soldiers.

Camp Courage (formerly Post Freedom - Saddam Hussein's Palace of Swords) in Mosul. Contains a kidney-shaped swimming pool, various palaces, three artificial lakes, and religious facilities for US troops.

Camp Victory - adjacent to Baghdad International Airport - has an artificial lake with a palace which serves as the USD Army's conference centre. Will house up to 14,000 US troops.

Camp Marez/Camp Diamondback - Mosul Airbase - with at least eight hardened aircraft shelters and muitions storage.

Camp Speicher, in Tikrit, Northern Iraq - a.k.a. Al Sahra airfield, where the Americans are building a new rail spur, to facilitate construction. Home of the US "Screaming Eagles" and 6,000 other US troops.

Camp Fallujah - the exact location of this provocative military base is being kept secret. The Quaker site suggests it's being built at the railway station. Global Security says the largest US base adjacent to Fallujah is Camp Baharia: this too features lavish facilities and another artificial lake!

Nasiriyah Base - exact name and whereabouts unknown. (Nasiriyah is a provincial capital of South-East Iraq adjacent to massive oil and gas reserves.)

Another nameless faculty, being built between Irbil and Kirkuk. (Again, this is one of Iraq's biggest oil fields, destined to be seized by our Kurdish "allies" should the country fall apart).

Plus two more permanent bases, names and locations currently undisclosed, designated #13 and #14.

None of the above info is new. None of it is secret. It's all available on the web; all ignored by BBC, by CNN, by the major newspapers of record in Britain and the US. I'm re-capping it here because I think it's important 1) that we realise this stuff isn't anyone's "theory" and 2) that we understand this is a bi-partisan project, which means those cuddly Democrats support it, too.

When the Dems took over Congress, they had a clear mandate to bring the troops home. They didn't attempt to do it. Having a majority means that the Dems could vote the permanent base plan out of existence, by refusing to fund it. And here's the rub - they did! The House voted, back in March 2006 (before the election!) for Barbara Lee's amendment to bar the use of any funds in the new spending bill to establish US permanent bases in Iraq. The Senate voted the same way - a voice vote, with no opposition.

But all the language barring money for permanent bases was stripped from the legistation by the conference committee - a bipartisan body. So when Nancy Pelosi offered George W an unconditional twelve months' extension of the war, it was exactly that. Not a peace plan, not a compromise, but a guarantee of twelve more months - minimum - to build those bases.

Here are two more useful and informative links - the first to a site supporting the Iraqi petroleum workers union IFOU (the union, legal under Saddam Hussein, has been banned by the Americans); the second to Carbonweb.org, where you can download the report CRUDE DESIGNS - coproduced by War on Want - detailing the American and British rip-off of Iraqi oil wealth.

And you can download a report on Shell's part in the Iraqi oil ripoff - Stealing Iraq's Future - here.


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