Reuters reports that conservatives are quietly backtracking from their earlier stance against permanent base construction in Iraq:
Congressional Republicans killed a provision in an Iraq war funding bill that would have put the United States on record against the permanent basing of U.S. military facilities in that country, a lawmaker and congressional aides said on Friday.
As ThinkProgress noted last month, the Senate acted to unanimously pass an amendment to the supplemental spending bill that clearly stated that none of the appropriated funds should be used for permanent base construction. In March, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) wrote on ThinkProgress that the House had unanimously accepted her amendment prohibiting permanent base construction.
The amendment served an important purpose – it indicated to Iraqis that the U.S. did not plan to remain in their country forever. A Jan. 2006 Knight Ridder poll found that at least half of Iraqis supported attacks against U.S. troops. The poll suggested one reason for Iraqi hostility was the common belief that the U.S. planned to remain in Iraq:
The poll also found that 80 percent of Iraqis think the United States plans to maintain permanent bases in the country even if the newly elected Iraqi government asks American forces to leave. Researchers found a link between support for attacks and the belief among Iraqis that the United States intends to keep a permanent military presence in the country.
It appears that conservatives caved to pressure from the administration. Testifying before Congress in April, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice “did not directly answer” a question about whether the Bush administration was planning for permanent bases, and Gen. Abizaid has refused to rule it out. And according to the Congressional Research Service, the Bush administration has asked for more than $1.1 billion for new military construction in Iraq.
Next week, the House will hold a floor debate about the administration’s Iraq policy. Rep. Lee has already indicated she plans to make permanent base construction a key part of that debate. Call your congressman and tell them where you stand.