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Voices of Conscience Against War on Iran

Aggressive war, against a country that has not attacked the aggressor country, is the supreme war crime.  We said it on February 4 across the nation.  I talked about it outside the US Mission to the UN (see video).

We won't stop saying it.  Here's another chance:

Sunday March 4 in Washington, D.C., when President Obama speaks at the 2012 Convention of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, we'll be there, with a visible anti-war protest, along with Code Pink, Veterans for Peace, and the Occupy movement.

Openly Lying Us Into War With Iran

From A Tiny Revolution

This is from p. 84-5 in Which Path to Persia?: Options for a New American Strategy toward Iran, a June, 2009 book edited and co-authored by Kenneth Pollack of the Brookings Institution:

...absent a clear Iranian act of aggression, American airstrikes against Iran would be unpopular in the region and throughout the world...it would be far more preferable if the United States could cite an Iranian provocation as justification for the airstrikes before launching them. Clearly, the more outrageous, the more deadly, and the more unprovoked the Iranian action, the better off the United States would be. Of course, it would be very difficult for the United States to goad Iran into such a provocation without the rest of the world recognizing this game, which would then undermine it. (One method that would have some possibility of success would be to ratchet up covert regime change efforts in the hope that Tehran would retaliate overtly, or even semi-overtly, which could then be portrayed as an unprovoked act of Iranian aggression.) ... [T]he use of airstrikes could not be the primary U.S. policy toward Iran...until Iran provided the necessary pretext.

You may remember Pollack from The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq, the 2002 book cited by all the nice liberals who sadly and reluctantly supported war. What you don't remember—because none of the nice liberals mentioned it—is that on p. 364-5 of The Threatening Storm Pollack presented exactly the same option regarding Iraq:

Assembling a [] coalition would be infinitely easier if the United States could point to a smoking gun with Iraqi fingerprints on it—some new Iraqi outrage that would serve to galvanize international opinion and create the pretext for an invasion...

There are probably [] courses the United States could take that might prompt Saddam to make a foolish, aggressive move, that would then become the "smoking gun" justifying an invasion. An aggressive U.S. covert action campaign might provoke Saddam to retaliate overtly, providing a casus belli...

What matters about this is that Pollack is right at the heart of the Democratic Party's foreign policy establishment, and he's completely comfortable proposing that he and his friends lie the world into war after war in the mideast. (The other authors of Which Path to Persia? are Daniel L. Byman, Martin Indyk, Suzanne Maloney, Michael E. O’Hanlon and Bruce Riedel.) No one he hangs around with will find anything jarring about this. And he knows he can count on the media to never mention this option is being openly kicked around before the war starts. (Pollack is Ted Koppel's son-in-law.)

READ THE REST.

President Barack Obama and His Key Advisors are a Gang of War Criminals

 

By Dave Lindorff

 

If a bunch of street toughs decided to gang up and beat the crap out of some guy in the neighborhood because they feared he might be planning to buy a gun to protect his family, I think we’d all agree that the police would be right to bust that crew and charge them with conspiracy to commit the crime of assault and battery. If they went forward with their plan and actually did attack the guy, injuring or killing him in the process, we’d also all agree they should all be charged with assault and battery, attempted murder, or even first-degree murder if he died.

 

Pressure Israel, Not Iran

By Marjorie Cohn

Neocons in Israel and the United States are escalating their rhetoric to prepare us for war with Iran. Even the infamous John Yoo, architect of George W. Bush’s illegal torture and spying programs, is calling on the Republican presidential candidates to “begin preparing the case for a military strike to destroy Iran’s nuclear program.”

Under the 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Iran has the legal right to produce nuclear power for peaceful purposes. The United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has found no evidence that Iran is developing a nuclear weapons program. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta recently said on CBS that Iran is not currently trying to build a nuclear weapon.

Nevertheless, the United States and Israel are mounting a campaign of aggression against Iran. The United States has imposed punishing sanctions against Iran that are crippling Iran’s economy, and pressuring other countries and strong-arming financial institutions to stop buying oil from Iran, the world’s third largest exporter. The Obama administration is also preparing new punitive measures that target the Central Bank of Iran. And the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to pass the Iran Threat Reduction Act of 2011 which would outlaw any contact between U.S. government employees and some Iranian officials.

Debunking the Spurious Iranian Nuclear Threat

  Debunking the Spurious Iranian Nuclear Threat

 

by Stephen Lendman

 

Previous articles debunked claims of Iran's alleged nuclear threat. For months, major media scoundrels regurgitated official lies.

 

Yet at least since 2007, America's annual intelligence assessment found none. Media reports ignored it. Suddenly old news is new news.

Pentagon Thinks The End of the Year May Be the Time for War With Iran - Why? - Will Something Be Over in November?

From the Telegraph:

Reflecting Pentagon fears that the US could be sucked into a war by the end of the year, the Central Command told Congress that it wanted the new systems in place by the autumn.

Iran Holds Up Access to Parchin for Better IAEA Deal

http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=106863

 


Analysis by Gareth Porter*


WASHINGTON, Feb 23, 2012 (IPS) - The failure of a mission by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to get Iranian permission to visit a military testing site mentioned in its latest report has been interpreted in media coverage as a stall to avoid the discovery of confirming evidence of past work on nuclear weapons.

But the history of Iranian cooperation with the IAEA on carrying out inspections at the Parchin military testing centre, as well as a previous IAEA-Iran work programme agreement, suggests that Iran is keeping permission for such a visit as bargaining leverage to negotiate a better deal with the agency. 

The IAEA statement Wednesday emphasised the fact that the mission to Tehran had been denied permission to visit the site at Parchin. That prompted Associated Press correspondent in Vienna George Jahn to called Iran's refusal to agree to an IAEA visit to Parchin "stonewalling" and evidence of "hard line resistance" to international pressure on its nuclear programme. 

International Herald Tribune blogger Harvey Morris wrote that Iran's strategy was to "play for time". 

But access to Parchin was discussed as part of broader negotiations on what the IAEA statement called a "document facilitating the clarification of unresolved issues" in regard to "possible military dimensions" of Iran's nuclear program. The negotiations were focused on what cooperation the IAEA is demanding and what the agency is ready to offer in return for that cooperation. 

Judging from past negotiations between Iran and the IAEA, Iran is ready to offer access to Parchin as well as other sites requested by the agency as part of an agreement under which the IAEA would stop accusing Iran of carrying out covert nuclear weapons experiments. 

The IAEA's position in the negotiations was revealed by the AP's Jahn, who reported that the agency mission had hoped to get Iranian agreement to meetings with "scientists suspected of working on the alleged weapons program" and to "inspect documents related to nuclear weapons work". 

The September 2008 IAEA report said the agency had "proposed discussions with Iranian experts on the contents of the engineering reports (on the Shahab-3 missile) examining in detail modeling studies…." 

Iran has rejected such demands as threatening its legitimate national security interests, in violation of the IAEA statute. 

The scientists that the agency is demanding to see are publicly known officials of Iran's military research institutions. Even before Israel had begun assassinating Iranian scientists, Iran had made it clear it will not give the IAEA physical access to any individual scientists. 

The IAEA wants to visit a specific site at Parchin because of information from an unnamed member state, cited in its November 2011 report, that Iran had "constructed a large explosives containment vessel in which to conduct hydrodynamic experiments" – tests of nuclear weapons designs without the use of fissile material. 

The report said the construction had been carried out at Parchin military complex in 2000 and that the IAEA had satellite imagery that was "consistent with" that information, meaning only that there were structures that could have housed such a vessel at Parchin in 2000. 

The previous history of IAEA inspections at Parchin make it clear, however, that Iran knew it had nothing to hide at Parchin after 2000. 

In 2004, John Bolton, the point man in the George W. Bush administration on Iran, who coordinated closely with Israel, charged that satellite imagery showed a bunker at Parchin appropriate for large-scale explosives tests such as those needed to detonate a bomb that would use a neutron trigger. 

Bolton put heavy pressure on the IAEA to carry out an investigation at Parchin. A few months later, Tehran agreed to allow the agency to select any five buildings and their surroundings to investigate freely. 

That gave U.S. and Israeli intelligence, as well as IAEA experts, an opportunity for which they would not have dreamed of asking: they could scan satellite imagery of the entire Parchin complex for anything that could possibly suggest work on a nuclear weapon, including a containment vessel for hydrodynamic testing, and demand to inspect that building and the grounds around it at their leisure. 

In January 2005, an IAEA team visited Parchin and investigated the five areas they had chosen, taking environmental samples, but found nothing suspicious. In November 2005, Iran allowed the IAEA to do the same thing all over again on five more buildings of its own choice. 

The Iranian military and nuclear establishment would never have agreed to such terms for IAEA inspection missions at Parchin - not once but twice - if they had been concealing a hydrodynamic test facility at the base. 

Other information suggests that no such vessel ever existed at Parchin. The November report claimed the IAEA had obtained information on the dimensions of the containment vessel from the publication of a foreign expert identified as someone who worked "in the nuclear weapons program of the country of his origin". 

That was a reference to Vlachyslav Danilenko, a Ukrainian scientist who has acknowledged having lectured in Iran on theoretical physics and having helped the country build a cylinder for production of nano-diamonds, which was his research specialty. However, Danilenko has firmly denied ever having done any work related to nuclear weapons. 

The claim that the dimensions of the putative bomb test chamber at Parchin could be gleaned from a publication by Danilenko is implausible. 

The report said the bomb containment chamber at Parchin was "designed to contain the detonation of 70 kilograms of high explosives". Danilenko's patented 1992 design for a cylinder for nano-diamond production, however, was built to contain only 10 kg of explosives. 

Former IAEA weapons inspector and nuclear weapons expert Robert Kelley has pointed out, moreover, that a container for only 70 kg of explosives could not possibly have been used for hydrodynamic testing of a nuclear weapon design. 

The negotiations on a "framework" for Iran's cooperation with the IAEA recall the negotiation of a "work programme" in August 2007 aimed at resolving a series of issues on which the IAEA Safeguards Department suspected links to nuclear weapons. The issues included experiments involving the extraction of polonium-210, plutonium experiments and possible military control of the Gchine uranium mine. 

In previous years, Iran had failed to provide sufficient information to overcome those suspicions. But after the negotiation of the "work programme", Iran began to move with dispatch to provide documentation aimed at clearing up the six remaining issues. 

The US and Its Dark Passenger, Part II: Act of Valor

 

By John Grant

 

The United States is finding the occupation of other nations more and more challenging. Consider the burning of Korans in Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan, the bombing deaths of 24 Pakistani soldiers and a host of other recent disasters. Economic challenges at home only add to the difficulty.

In such a frustrating quandary, Washington and Pentagon leaders are falling back on what they feel the US does best: Secret killing.

Irresponsible Anti-Iranian Fear-Mongering

  Irresponsible Anti-Iranian Fear-Mongering

 

by Stephen Lendman

 

Irresponsible anti-Iranian political and pack journalism rhetoric sound ominously like spurious Iraqi WMD threats in the run-up to the 2003 war.

 

In his January State of the Union address, Obama said:

 

Mutual Preemptive Strikes: What Could Go Wrong? (But It Is Not Clear This Is the Right Interpretation of the General's Statement)

Iran Vows to Launch Preemptive Strike If Attack on Them Imminent

- Common Dreams staff

A top Iranian military commander said today that Iran would take pre-emptive action against its enemies if it felt it were about to be attacked.

"We do not wait for enemies to take action against us. We will use all our means to protect our national interests" said Brigadier General Mohammad Hejazi. Deputy Commander of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of Iran's Armed Forces Mohammad Hejazi, Deputy Head of the Iranian Armed Forces, made his comments to the Iranian FARS news agency.

Iran is facing mounting international pressure over its controversial nuclear program. Iran insists that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only.

"Our strategy now is that if we feel our enemies want to endanger Iran's national interests, and want to decide to do that, we will act without waiting for their actions," Mr Hejazi told FARS.

* * *

Heightening Anti-Iranian Tensions

  Heightening Anti-Iranian Tensions

 

by Stephen Lendman

 

For months, Iran faced baseless accusations. They include:

  • the spurious US Saudi ambassador assassination plot;

 

The 10 Most Excellent Reasons to Attack Iran

1. Iran has threatened to fight back if attacked, and that's a war crime. War crimes must be punished.

2. My television says Iran has nukes.  I'm sure it's true this time.  Just like with North Korea.  I'm sure they're next.  We only bomb places that really truly have nukes and are in the Axis of Evil.  Except Iraq, which was different.

3. Iraq didn't go so badly. Considering how lousy its government is, the place is better off with so many people having left or died.  Really, that one couldn't have worked out better if we'd planned it. 

4. When we threaten to cut off Iran's oil, Iran threatens to cut off Iran's oil, which is absolutely intolerable.  What would we do without that oil? And what good is buying it if they want to sell it?

5. Iran was secretly behind 9-11. I read it online. And if it wasn't, that's worse. Iran hasn't attacked another nation in centuries, which means its next attack is guaranteed to be coming very soon.

6. Iranians are religious nuts, unlike Israelis and Americans.  Most Israelis don't want to attack Iran, but the Holy Israeli government does. To oppose that decision would be to sin against God. 

7. Iranians are so stupid that when we murder their scientists they try to hire a car dealer in Texas to hire a drug gang in Mexico to murder a Saudi ambassador in Washington, and then they don't do it -- just to make us look bad for catching them.

7. b. Oh, and stupid people should be bombed.  They're not civilized.

8. War is good for the U.S. economy, and the Iranian economy too.  Troops stationed in Iran would buy stuff.  And women who survived the war would have more rights.  Like in Virginia.  We owe Iranians this after that little mishap in 1953.

9. This is the only way to unite the region.  Either we bomb Iran and it swears its eternal love to us.  Or, if necessary, we occupy Iran to liberate it like its neighbors.  Which shouldn't take long.  Look how well Afghanistan is going already.

10. They won't give our drone back.  Enough said.

Does AIPAC Want War? Lieberman "Capability" Red Line May Tip AIPAC's Hand

For all it has done to promote confrontation between the United States and Iran, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee has worked to avoid the public perception that AIPAC is openly promoting war. In AIPAC's public documents, the emphasis has always been on tougher sanctions. (If you make sanctions "tough" enough - an effective embargo - that is an act of war, but it is still at one remove from saying that the U.S. should start bombing.)

But a new Senate effort to move the goalposts of U.S. policy to declare it "unacceptable" for Iran to develop a nuclear weapons capability - not a nuclear weapon, but the technical capacity to create one - gives AIPAC the opportunity to make a choice which all can observe. If the Lieberman resolution becomes an ask for AIPAC lobbyists at the March AIPAC policy conference, then the world will know: AIPAC is lobbying Congress for war with Iran.

Protest Planned at Council on Foreign Relations

Dear Americans for Peace and Dialogue with Iran - Emergency Call

Date: Thurs., March 1, 2012

Time: Gather at 5:00 PM

Place: Council on Foreign Relations

58 East 68th Street, NY, NY 10065

(Building just off Park Ave.)

Iranian communities across the U.S. and in Iran are outraged by learning that Jonathan Tepperman, Managing Editor of Foreign Affairs magazine, the bi-monthly publication of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), has allowed Matthew Kroenig's toxically anti-Iran article: "Time to Attack Iran" to appear in the Jan/Feb. 2012 issue of the magazine.  As if this egregious act was not enough to bring discredit to the magazine and the Council on Foreign Relations, CFR is sponsoring a public "live debate" on March 1st, to convince Americans that war on Iran, just as the ones in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya and Syria, in its early stages, is the rational, humane and civilized method of dealing with the differences between the two countries of U.S. and Iran.

It is a well-known fact that is verified numerous times by even some top U.S. officials in the U.S. Administration and intelligence services, including by the Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and President Barack Obama among many others in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that Iran has no nuclear weapons or even programs.

American Iranian Friendship Committee (AIFC), consistent with our 8 year Mission Statement, call on all Iranians and Americans who do not wish to witness another war – this time on Iran – to join us in a protest picket line in front of the Council on Foreign Relations to voice your opposition to this meeting that intends to promote war, death and destruction of yet another country in the Middle East. 

Negotiate with Iran!                 Remove your Warships!                                                                       

Lift the Sanctions!                     Sign a Non-Aggression Treaty!

Iran has no NUKES!                  U.S. and Israel have 1000's!

Called by American Iranian Friendship Committee (AIFC)  www.iranaifc.com  914-589-0744

Congress Gets Briefed on Radical New Idea As Alternative to War: Talking

Washington D.C. (February 16, 2012) – Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) yesterday hosted a briefing regarding the status of diplomatic negotiations with Iran to prevent war and to address Iran’s nuclear program.

Kucinich welcomed Dr.

The US and Its Dark Passenger

 

By John Grant

 

I could have been a vicious raving monster who killed and killed and left towers of rotting flesh in my wake. Instead, here I was on the side of truth, justice and the American way. Still a monster, of course, but I cleaned up nicely afterward, and I was OUR monster, dressed in red, white and blue 100 percent synthetic virtue.
 
-Jeff Lindsay
Dearly Devoted Dexter

 


I teach creative writing in a maximum security prison in Philadelphia. During the week I scour two thrift shops for 35-cent paperbacks that I haul in to stock a small lending library I created for inmates. Amazingly, the prison had no library.

Iran Falsely Charged with India and Georgia Attacks

  Iran Falsely Charged with India and Georgia Attacks

 

by Stephen Lendman

 

Last October, Iran was falsely charged with a fake terror plot that didn't pass the smell test. At best, it resembled a bad film script too implausible to believe.

 

Can Obama avert war with Iran?

By Gareth Porter, Al Jazeera

President Barack Obama has finally begun in recent months to signal to Israel that the United States would not get involved in a war started by Binyamin Netanyahu without US approval. If it is pursued firmly and consistently through 2012, the approach stands a very good chance of averting war altogether. If Obama falters, however, the temptation for Netanyahu to launch an attack on Iran, indulging in what one close Israeli observer calls his "messianism" toward the issue of Iran. 

A Doorway to Persia

Madonna fans in Israel ask government to delay any war with Iran until after May concert

From New York Daily News:

Israeli Madonna fans are asking their country to give peace a chance — at least until after the Material Girl's late-spring concert there.

They're rallying around, what else, a Facebook page, called "Bibi don't start a war with Iran until after Madonna's show on May 29."

Translated, that message suggests that Israel will eventually attack Iran if Iran doesn't back off on its nuclear development program.

But it asks that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delay any such action until after the Madonna show, because of the likelihood that foreign artists would not want to play in a country with a war in progress.

The Pentagon’s Afghan Basing Plans for Prisons, Drones, and Black Ops

450 Bases and It’s Not Over Yet
By Nick Turse,   Tom Dispatch

In late December, the lot was just a big blank: a few burgundy metal shipping containers sitting in an expanse of crushed eggshell-colored gravel inside a razor-wire-topped fence.  The American military in Afghanistan doesn’t want to talk about it, but one day soon, it will be a new hub for the American drone war in the Greater Middle East.

Next year, that empty lot will be a two-story concrete intelligence facility for America’s drone war, brightly lit and filled with powerful computers kept in climate-controlled comfort in a country where most of the population has no access to electricity.  It will boast almost 7,000 square feet of offices, briefing and conference rooms, and a large “processing, exploitation, and dissemination” operations center -- and, of course, it will be built with American tax dollars. 

Nor is it an anomaly.  Despite all the talk of drawdowns and withdrawals, there has been a years-long building boom in Afghanistan that shows little sign of abating.  In early 2010, the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) had nearly 400 bases in Afghanistan.  Today, Lieutenant Lauren Rago of ISAF public affairs tells TomDispatch, the number tops 450.

The hush-hush, high-tech, super-secure facility at the massive air base in Kandahar is just one of many building projects the U.S. military currently has planned or underway in Afghanistan.  While some U.S. bases are indeed closing up shop or being transferred to the Afghan government, and there’s talk of combat operations slowing or ending next year, as well as a withdrawal of American combat forces from Afghanistan by 2014, the U.S. military is still preparing for a much longer haul at mega-bases like Kandahar and Bagram airfields. The same is true even of some smaller camps, forward operating bases (FOBs), and combat outposts (COPs) scattered through the country’s backlands.  “Bagram is going through a significant transition during the next year to two years,” Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Gerdes of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Bagram Office recently told Freedom Builder, a Corps of Engineers publication.  “We’re transitioning... into a long-term, five-year, 10-year vision for the base.” 

Whether the U.S. military will still be in Afghanistan in five or 10 years remains to be seen, but steps are currently being taken to make that possible.  U.S. military publications, plans and schematics, contracting documents, and other official data examined by TomDispatch catalog hundreds of construction projects worth billions of dollars slated to begin, continue, or conclude in 2012. 

While many of these efforts are geared toward structures for Afghan forces or civilian institutions, a considerable number involve U.S. facilities, some of the most significant being dedicated to the ascendant forms of American warfare: drone operations and missions by elite special operations units.  The available plans for most of these projects suggest durability.  “The structures that are going in are concrete and mortar, rather than plywood and tent skins,” says Gerdes. As of last December, his office was involved in 30 Afghan construction projects for U.S. or international coalition partners worth almost $427 million.  

The Big Base Build-Up

Recently, the New York Times reported that President Obama is likely to approve a plan to shift much of the U.S. effort in Afghanistan to special operations forces.  These elite troops would then conduct kill/capture missions and train local troops well beyond 2014.  Recent building efforts in the country bear this out.   

A major project at Bagram Air Base, for instance, involves the construction of a special operations forces complex, a clandestine base within a base that will afford America’s black ops troops secrecy and near-absolute autonomy from other U.S. and coalition forces.  Begun in 2010, the $29 million project is slated to be completed this May and join roughly 90 locations around the country where troops from Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force-Afghanistan have been stationed.

Elsewhere on Bagram, tens of millions of dollars are being spent on projects that are less sexy but no less integral to the war effort, like paving dirt roads and upgrading drainage systems on the mega-base.  In January, the U.S. military awarded a $7 million contract to a Turkish construction company to build a 24,000-square-foot command-and-control facility.  Plans are also in the works for a new operations center to support tactical fighter jet missions, a new flight-line fire station, as well as more lighting and other improvements to support the American air war.

Last month, Afghan President Hamid Karzai ordered that the U.S.-run prison at Bagram be transferred to Afghan control.  By the end of January, the U.S. had issued a $36 million contract for the construction, within a year, of a new prison on the base.  While details are sparse, plans for the detention center indicate a thoroughly modern, high-security facility complete with guard towers, advanced surveillance systems, administrative facilities, and the capacity to house about 2,000 prisoners.        

At Kandahar Air Field, that new intelligence facility for the drone war will be joined by a similarly-sized structure devoted to administrative operations and maintenance tasks associated with robotic aerial missions.  It will be able to accommodate as many as 180 personnel at a time.  With an estimated combined price tag of up to $5 million, both buildings will be integral to Air Force and possibly CIA operations involving both the MQ-1 Predator drone and its more advanced and more heavily-armed progeny, the MQ-9 Reaper.

The military is keeping information about these drone facilities under extraordinarily tight wraps.  They refused to answer questions about whether, for instance, the construction of these new centers for robotic warfare are in any way related to the loss of Shamsi Air Base in neighboring Pakistan as a drone operations center, or if they signal efforts to increase the tempo of drone missions in the years ahead. The International Joint Command’s chief of Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) operations, aware that such questions were to be posed, backed out of a planned interview with TomDispatch.

“Unfortunately our ISR chief here in the International Joint Command is going to be unable to address your questions,” Lieutenant Ryan Welsh of ISAF Joint Command Media Outreach explained by email just days before the scheduled interview. He also made it clear that any question involving drone operations in Pakistan was off limits. “The issues that you raise are outside the scope under which the IJC operates, therefore we are unable to facilitate this interview request.”

Whether the construction at Kandahar is designed to free up facilities elsewhere for CIA drone operations across the border in Pakistan or is related only to missions within Afghanistan, it strongly suggests a ramping up of unmanned operations.  It is, however, just one facet of the ongoing construction at the air field.  This month, a $26 million project to build 11 new structures devoted to tactical vehicle maintenance at Kandahar is scheduled for completion.  With two large buildings for upkeep and repairs, one devoted strictly to fixing tires, another to painting vehicles, as well as an industrial-sized car wash, and administrative and storage facilities, the big base’s building boom shows no sign of flickering out.

Construction and Reconstruction

This year, at Herat Air Base in the province of the same name bordering Turkmenistan and Iran, the U.S. is slated to begin a multimillion-dollar project to enhance its special forces’ air operations.  Plans are in the works to expand apron space -- where aircraft can be parked, serviced, and loaded or unloaded -- for helicopters and airplanes, as well as to build new taxiways and aircraft shelters.

That project is just one of nearly 130, cumulatively valued at about $1.5 billion, slated to be carried out in Herat, Helmand, and Kandahar provinces this year, according to Army Corps of Engineers documents examined by TomDispatch.  These also include efforts at Camp Tombstone and Camp Dwyer, both in Helmand Province as well as Kandahar’s FOB Hadrian and FOB Wilson.  The U.S. military also recently awarded a contract for more air field apron space at a base in Kunduz, a new secure entrance and new roads for FOB Delaram II, and new utilities and roads at FOB Shank, while the Marines recently built a new chapel at Camp Bastion.

Seven years ago, Forward Operating Base Sweeney, located a mile up in a mountain range in Zabul Province, was a well-outfitted, if remote, American base.  After U.S. troops abandoned it, however, the base fell into disrepair.  Last month, American troops returned in force and began rebuilding the outpost, constructing everything from new troop housing to a new storage facility.  “We built a lot of buildings, we put up a lot of tents, we filled a lot of sandbags, and we increased our force protection significantly,” Captain Joe Mickley, commanding officer of the soldiers taking up residence at the base, told a military reporter.

Decommission and Deconstruction

Hesco barriers are, in essence, big bags of dirt.  Up to seven feet tall, made of canvas and heavy gauge wire mesh, they form protective walls around U.S. outposts all over Afghanistan.  They’ll take the worst of sniper rounds, rifle-propelled grenades, even mortar shells, but one thing can absolutely wreck them -- the Marines’ 9th Engineer Support Battalion.

At the beginning of December, the 9th Engineers were building bases and filling up Hescos in Helmand Province.  By the end of the month, they were tearing others down. 

Wielding pickaxes, shovels, bolt-cutters, powerful rescue saws, and front-end loaders, they have begun “demilitarizing” bases, cutting countless Hescos -- which cost $700 or more a pop -- into heaps of jagged scrap metal and bulldozing berms in advance of the announced American withdrawal from Afghanistan.  At Firebase Saenz, for example, Marines were bathed in a sea of crimson sparks as they sawed their way through the metal mesh and let the dirt spill out, leaving a country already haunted by the ghosts of British and Russian bases with yet another defunct foreign outpost.  After Saenz, it was on to another patrol base slated for destruction.

Not all rural outposts are being torn down, however.  Some are being handed over to the Afghan Army or police.  And new facilities are now being built for the indigenous forces at an increasing rate.  “If current projections remain accurate, we will award 18 contracts in February,” Bonnie Perry, the head of contracting for the Army Corps of Engineers’ Afghanistan Engineering District-South, told military reporter Karla Marshall.  “Next quarter we expect that awards will remain high, with the largest number of contract awards occurring in May.”  One of the projects underway is a large base near Herat, which will include barracks, dining facilities, office space, and other amenities for Afghan commandos.

Tell Me How This Ends

No one should be surprised that the U.S. military is building up and tearing down bases at the same time, nor that much of the new construction is going on at mega-bases, while small outposts in the countryside are being abandoned.  This is exactly what you would expect of an occupation force looking to scale back its “footprint” and end major combat operations while maintaining an on-going presence in Afghanistan.  Given the U.S. military’s projected retreat to its giant bases and an increased reliance on kill/capture black-ops as well as unmanned air missions, it’s also no surprise that its signature projects for 2012 include a new special operations forces compound, clandestine drone facilities, and a brand new military prison.

There’s little doubt Bagram Air Base will exist in five or 10 years.  Just who will be occupying it is, however, less clear.  After all, in Iraq, the Obama administration negotiated for some way to station a significant military force -- 10,000 or more troops -- there beyond a withdrawal date that had been set in stone for years.  While a token number of U.S. troops and a highly militarized State Department contingent remain there, the Iraqi government largely thwarted the American efforts -- and now, even the State Department presence is being halved. 

It’s less likely this will be the case in Afghanistan, but it remains possible.  Still, it’s clear that the military is building in that country as if an enduring American presence were a given.  Whatever the outcome, vestiges of the current base-building boom will endure and become part of America’s Afghan legacy.   

On Bagram’s grounds stands a distinctive structure called the “Crow’s Nest.”  It’s an old control tower built by the Soviets to coordinate their military operations in Afghanistan.  That foreign force left the country in 1989.  The Soviet Union itself departed from the planet less than three years later.  The tower remains. 

America’s new prison in Bagram will undoubtedly remain, too.  Just who the jailers will be and who will be locked inside five years or 10 years from now is, of course, unknown.  But given the history -- marked by torture and deaths -- of the appalling treatment of inmates at Bagram and, more generally, of the brutality toward prisoners by all parties to the conflict over the years, in no scenario are the results likely to be pretty.

Nick Turse is the associate editor of TomDispatch.com.  An award-winning journalist, his work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Nation, and regularly at TomDispatch. This article is the sixth in his new series on the changing face of American empire, which is being underwritten by Lannan Foundation.  You can follow him on Twitter @NickTurse, on Tumblr, and on Facebook.

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