Friday, July 27, 2007

Words and deeds two different things

July 27, 2007

Words and deeds are different things

Last week's vote by the US House of Representatives preventing creation of permanent US military bases in Iraq and to bar US control of Iraqi oil was a strong blow to the core of the Bush administration's strategic objectives in the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
The motion, presented by Democrat Representative Barbara Lee of Oakland, is indeed the strongest sign yet of congressional opposition to maintaining American forces in foreign soil. At the same time, it also puts the Republicans on the spot with little option but to adopt a similar position.
The move might or might not be binding on the administration, which could use the Senate to scale down its impact. And we could expect a lot of Democrat-Republican wrangling not only on this issue but also many other aspects of the US military presence in Iraq.
But the political message is clear: The US has no business to seek a long-term presence in Iraq and the administration should not be a proxy for American oil companies to take control of Iraq's oil.
It is known that the US is building several huge military bases in Iraq with a view to keeping a 50,000-75,000-strong rapid deployment force ready to intervene anywhere in the Middle East against whatever Washington would see as detrimental to its strategic interests in the region. The massive US embassy that is being built on the banks of the River Tigris in Baghdad is an emphatic statement that the US intends to dig in its heels in Iraq.
Washington is also applying intense pressure on the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki to persuade parliament to take up and endorse a draft legislation on the country's oil. The proposed bill, which has already been approved by the Maliki cabinet, is designed to hand over control of Iraq's rich hydrocarbon deposits to foreign — read American — companies through production sharing agreements that would undoubtedly favour the foreign partner than Iraq itself. Beyond that, it would also accelerate the northern Kurds' campaign for eventual independence once they secure authority to finalise oil agreements with foreign companies on their own.
Many arguments were heard during the House of Representatives debate on the Lee motion, including pointed Republican reminders that the US should be focusing on preventing Al Qaeda from establishing "permanent bases in Iraq and using them to stage terrorist attacks" against the US" and its allies.
Proponents of that argument are basing themselves on a wrong footing. As long as the US maintains a military presence in Iraq, it would continue to attract and encourage anti-US militants to inflict as much damage as possible on the American forces. The militants would be deprived of their main raison d'ĂȘtre if there is no American military presence in Iraq. If anything, one of the beneficiaries of the US military presence in Iraq is Al Qaeda itself, which is finding itself being offered US targets right in the region.
Another Republican argument is that there is no such thing as "permanent" US bases outside US territory since such facilities are subject to agreements with the host countries.
All that it needs to deflate that argument is the fact that the US is maintaining military bases in South Korea for more than 54 years, and there is no sign of the American forces leaving the Korean Peninsula. The motivations and reasoning might be different but "permanent" military bases are anything but what they are.
Of course, last week's House of Representatives vote was the latest in a series of Democratic moves against the Republican administration after the Democrats eliminated the latter's dominance of Congress in last year's elections.
Surely, we would be hearing a lot more from the Democrats. As the Democratic speaker of the House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, put it, the Democrats are determined to "go on record — every day if necessary — to register a judgment in opposition to the course of action that the president is taking in Iraq."
Given that there is little chance of the Bush administration moving to withdraw the US military from Iraq, the world would be watching closely how the Democrats would live up to their anti-war declarations and promises when, as widely expected, when they gain control of the White House in 2009.