One of the Iraq War’s many oddities is the near-total absence of discussion about the two poles around which everything else rotates: the air war and our permanent bases. The first is — far more than COIN — the primary expression of our power in Iraq, allowing us to dominate it with so few troops. The second, although visible from the beginning, has emerged in the Status of Forces Agreement as a primary goal of our invasion and occupation of Iraq.
Yet the war revolves silently around these poles, so far as the American public knows. The media seldom covers these things. Nor are these things often mentioned in the vast numbers of web sites on which experts and faux-experts swap guesses about every trivial aspect of the war (usually ignoring these two centers of the war).
What little we know has been collected and reported by a few people, most notably Tom Engelhardt — whose work will, I suspect, figure more prominently in the War’s histories than most of the journalists and commentators today amous in the media and on the Internet. Here is Engelhardt’s latest, as usual a must-read for anyone interested in our wars.
The Greatest Story Never Told, Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch (15 June 2008) — “Finally, the U.S. Mega-Bases in Iraq Make the News.” Excerpt:
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. In terms of troops, the President may only have put his “surge” strategy into play in January 2007, but his Pentagon has been “surging” on base construction since April 2003.
… It has been, for instance, a commonplace of these years to see a TV correspondent reporting on the situation in Iraq, or what the American military had to say about Iraq, from Baghdad’s enormous Camp Victory. And yet, if you think about it, that camera, photographing ABC’s fine reporter Martha Raddatz or other reporters on similar stop-overs, never pans across the base itself. You don’t even get a glimpse, unless you have access to homemade G.I. videos or Pentagon-produced propaganda.
… Imagine if just about no one knew that the pyramids had been built. Ditto the Great Wall of China. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon. The Coliseum. The Eiffel Tower. The Statue of Liberty. Or any other architectural wonder of the world you’d care to mention.
Tom Engelhardt is the author of The End of Victory Culture — Cold War America and the Disillusioning of a Generation. Here are excerpts and reviews.
For more information about the Iraq War, see the “reference library” on the top of the right-hand menu bar. The two following sections are from the Iraq & Afghanistan Wars – other valuable reports page.
I. The Air War in Iraq
Our use of airpower is the great undercovered story of the Iraq War. Tom Engelhardt has been one of the few covering this key aspect of the war. A journalist — no military expert — he has told a story ignored by most warbloggers and military experts. For example, look at the low volume of coverage of the air war at StrategyPage, the Small Wars Council, and by Stratfor. Here are his major articles on the air war, essential reading for anyone seeking to understand our activities in Iraq.
Incident on Haifa Street, TomDispatch (September 19, 2004)
Dahr Jamail on Life under the Bombs in Iraq, TomDisatpch (February 2, 2005)
Icarus (Armed with Vipers) Over Iraq, TomDispatch (December 5, 2005)
Michael Schwartz on Iraq as a Killing Ground, TomDispatch (January 10, 2006)
Air War, Barbarity, and the Middle East, TomDispatch (July 28, 2006)
Nick Turse on America’s Secret Air War in Iraq, TomDispatch (February 7, 2007)
Nick Turse: The Air War in Iraq Uncovered, Tom Dispatch (May 24, 2007)
Bombs Away Over Iraq, TomDispatch (29 January 2008)
“The Role of Airpower in the Iraq and Afghan Wars“, Anthony H. Cordesman, Center for Strategic adn International Studies (19 March 2008)
“Oops, Our Bad“, TomDispatch (10 April 2008)
“In Iraq, a Surge in U.S. Airstrikes“, Washington Post (23 may 2008) — “Military Says Attacks Save Troops’ Lives, but Civilian Casualties Elicit Criticism”
II. Where to go for information about our bases in Iraq
- If the U.S. is ultimately leaving Iraq, why is the military building ‘permanent’ bases?, Friends Committee on National Legislation
- Iraq Facilities, Global Security.org
- A Permanent Basis for Withdrawal?, Tom Engelhardt (14 February 2006)
- How Permanent Are Those Bases?, Tom Engelhardt (7 June 2007)
- Baseless Considerations, Tom Engelhardt (4 November 2007)
- A Basis for Enduring Relationships in Iraq, Tom Engelhardt (2 December 2007)
- Stratfor’s analysis of US reasons for invading and occupying Iraq, FM site, (4 March 2008)
- The Greatest Story Never Told, Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch (15 June 2008) — “Finally, the U.S. Mega-Bases in Iraq Make the News”
FYI — Tom’s Sources for his latest report, and further reading
- Patrick Cockburn has shown what a good journalist can still do for the rest of us.
- Juan Cole’s invaluable Informed Comment blog (which I visit daily without fail),
- Those splendid hunter-gatherers of the news at Antiwar.comand Cursor.org’s daily Media Patrol,
- Dan Froomkin’s superb White House Watch blog in the Washington Post, and
- Sharp-eyed Paul Woodward at his War in Context blog.
- For those of you who want to get a little more sense of the endless base-building activities of the Bush administration, check out the chatty newsletter(PDF file) of the Redhorse Association, “a group of past and present members of the U.S. Air Force Prime Beef and Red Horse combat engineer units.”
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