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Are We Really 'Withdrawing' from Bush's Wars? Quietly, US Constructs Even More Bases in the Mideast

The news is focused on a future U.S. withdrawal from Iraq -- but the withdrawal isn't to send the military presence home -- it's into bases across the Persian Gulf.

Editor's Note: Here's a big mystery: You have a country that only recently had upwards of 300 military bases, monster to micro, in a single war-torn land, Iraq. It probably now has something like 300 bases combined in Iraq and Afghanistan (where base-building is on the rise). Outside of those war zones, it has perhaps 800 more "facilities" (as they're called) around the globe and thousands more at home. Some of them are absolutely enormous, the equivalent of small American towns with all the amenities of home.

Without a doubt, this represents an accomplishment of some sort. Historically speaking, it's news of the first order. No other great power, from the Han Chinese and the Romans to the British Empire, has ever built so many military outposts in such far-flung places.

So is this empire of bases a matter of pride at home? Hardly. It's rarely thought about. It's not a matter for general discussion or mainstream debate, nor is it news, except on the rarest of occasions (usually when the government threatens to shut down domestic bases and job losses loom). Changes in Pentagon global basing policy are for Washington policy wonks, not ordinary Americans, and certainly not American reporters. From the mainstream media, you get at best a kind of shrug on the subject. Yes, from time to time, you can find a decent piece on an American military base abroad, but normally they are places where American TV reporters can safely set up their cameras and discuss other matters entirely. News about U.S. military bases being built or upgraded in distant lands is usually left to websites like TomDispatch to keep track of.

When it comes to the Middle East, the building of Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem or the West Bank, or of secret nuclear facilities in Iran are major news subjects, but the building up of U.S. base infrastructure in the region?  Not so much. If, for the first time in its history, the U.S. Navy sets up a permanent strike force based in Bahrain in the Persian Gulf, Expeditionary Strike Group 5, remember to check the National, the English-language paper in the United Arab Emirates, for it, not your local rag or the Washington Post, New York Times, or Wall Street Journal. Mind you, we're talking about the U.S. Navy in the Persian Gulf, the unsettled oil and natural gas heartland of the planet, yet not a peep.

A basic principle taught to any young reporter is: "follow the money." A similar principle should apply to U.S. foreign policy reporting: follow the bases. As striking facts-on-the-ground, such bases tell us much about bedrock U.S. policy, whatever the policy debates in Washington. If the mainstream media ignores such bases, TomDispatch has long made it a policy of keeping an eye on them. Recently, Nick Turse, this site's associate editor and the award-winning author of The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives, reported on a story only modestly and partially covered here: the way the Pentagon has been pouring money into building up its base infrastructure in Afghanistan.

Now, he turns to the Persian Gulf region where the news is focused on a future U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. It turns out, however, that we're withdrawing into something -- that, in fact, there's been a massive, if hardly noticed, Pentagon build-up in this region, too. You'd think it might be news. --Tom Engelhardt, Editor

The Pentagon Garrisons the Gulf

As Washington Talks Iraq Withdrawal, the Pentagon Builds Up Bases in the Region
By Nick Turse

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