No Permanent Bases: Passed Both Houses, Removed in
By David Swanson
When the House and the Senate pass similar but not
identical bills, they create a conference committee to
work out the differences. When they both passed
amendments to the "emergency supplemental" spending bill
stipulating that none of the money could be used to
build permanent bases in Iraq, the conference committee,
behind closed doors this week, resolved that non-
difference by deleting it.
This would appear to be a blatant violation of the rules
of Congress and an unconstitutional voiding of the will
of the people as expressed by their Representatives and
Senators. But it can't appear that way to a people that
knows nothing about it. And it does not appear that way
at all to the journalists who inform the public of its
government's doings. Even the minority members of the
conference committee and the leaders of the minority
party in Congress seem entirely comfortable with this
course of events, although Congresswoman Barbara Lee has
denounced the Republicans for it.
The House was the first to pass the "no permanent bases"
amendment, back in March. Only one media outlet in the
nation reported on the matter, the San Francisco
Chronicle, which wrote:
"Lee's amendment, which would bar the use of any funds
in the new spending bill to establish permanent bases,
passed on a voice vote, with no one speaking in
opposition. President Bush and some top administration
officials have said the U.S. military has no interest in
permanent bases, the prospect of which is among the
causes of anti-American unrest in Iraq. Leaders of the
Republican majority also may have chosen to avoid a
debate and recorded vote on Lee's proposal because they
didn't want to go on record endorsing a permanent
military presence in Iraq when polls show Americans
oppose the war. Opponents also may try to strike the
amendment when leaders of the House and Senate reconcile
their bill for final passage. 'In adopting this
amendment, we can take the target off our troops' backs
by sending a strong and immediate signal to the Iraqi
people, the insurgents and the international community
that the United States has no designs on Iraq,' Lee said
on the House floor."
In response to this, I wrote at the time:
"That's quite a story: an issue so touchy that the
majority party goes against its own wishes in order to
avoid going on record, and a reporter, with his editor's
approval, anticipates that they will likely reverse that
position behind closed doors. Won't that be an even
bigger story! Well, no. Not if no one has heard about
this one. And not if no one has even heard that bases
are being built or that Iraqis are killing Americans
because of it."
Then the Senate did the same thing. They passed "no
permanent bases" on a voice vote with no opposition. And
the media was silent. Everyone knew what was coming, but
nobody felt the public should hear about it.
Now the newspapers are full of stories about things the
conference committee did yesterday. None of the stories
that I've seen mention the removal of the language about
permanent bases. Instead, most of the articles focus on
the idea that the conference committee saw its job as
reducing spending. It stripped out money for American
farmers and other useful spending.
But what would those farmers think if they knew the
committee had spent their money on multi-billion-dollar
permanent military bases in somebody else's country,
bases never explicitly authorized by Congress, bases
built as part of an ongoing occupation never authorized
by Congress? Would the farmers be dangerously overcome
with joy to learn that? Is that the reason they must not
If nobody knows and nobody cares, I guess it can't be
Here are two people who would be interested to hear your
opinion on the topic: Senator Thad Cochran
(202-224-5054) and Congressman Jerry Lewis
(202-225-5861), the pair of Republicans in charge of the
conference committee. Feel free to give them a call and
tell them what you think.
Oh, and one other public servant would love to hear from
you. The public has been demanding for many months that
Congress at least hold an open debate on the Iraq War, a
lengthy debate allowing Congress Members from both sides
of the aisle to introduce amendments and have them voted
on. Instead, House Majority Leader John Boehner
(202-225-6205) has announced that he'll allow a short
debate next week, with no amendments allowed, and
discussion limited to a phony bill the Republicans
slapped together in secret this week on a napkin.
OK, I admit I don't know if it was on a napkin. But I
guarantee it will sound like it when you read it.
My advice for next week, if you want to keep some
sanity, is to ignore the House and watch the Senate,
where Senator Russ Feingold will introduce an amendment
on the floor requiring that all US troops in Iraq be
"redeployed" by December 31.
Get C-Span and watch it, because the media will not tell
you about it. They will not tell you for two reasons.
First, Feingold is running for president, and the
warmongers have already deemed him unacceptable. Second,
Senator Hillary Clinton will vote against the amendment,
and the warmongers have already deemed her the appropriate peace candidate to lose the 2008 election.