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A Bill That Would Prohibit Permanent US Iraq Bases


Between the Lines Q&A
A weekly column featuring progressive viewpoints
on national and international issues
under-reported in mainstream media
for release July 27, 2005
http://www.btlonline.org/btl072905.html

U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee Introduces Bill That Would Prohibit Permanent U.S. Military Bases in Iraq

- Interview with Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., conducted by Melinda Tuhus

Listen in RealAudio:
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Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) -- the only member of Congress to vote against authorizing President Bush to respond militarily to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 -- has initiated two recent actions in the House of Representatives that further solidifies her role as a leading opponent of the Bush administration's foreign policy. Rep. Barbara Lee was nominated in late June for the Nobel Peace Prize as part of an international effort to recognize the work of women around the world who promote peace.

On June 30, Lee introduced a bill that states it is "the policy of the United States not to enter into any base agreements with the government of Iraq that would lead to a permanent United States military presence in Iraq." The bill currently has 41 co-sponsors.

Lee, who co-chairs the Progressive Caucus in the House, is also circulating a letter to her colleagues asking them to sign onto a Resolution of Inquiry into the Downing Street Memo, with the goal of learning "whether steps were being taken by the Bush administration to 'fix' intelligence and facts around a decision to go to war."

Between The Lines' Melinda Tuhus spoke with Rep. Lee about these two measures, and the growing opposition to the war in Iraq across the nation and in Congress.

Barbara Lee: Well, I think the American people have heard the president, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and (Defense Secretary Donald) Rumsfeld say over and over again that the United States does not intend to occupy Iraq for an indefinite time, and that the U.S. has no plans for a military presence in Iraq, so basically, what my resolution does is just codify what the president and the administration have been saying. It’s very important that the American people know and that the Iraqi people know that the U.S. does not plan to enter into any permanent military base agreement. And, we’re attempting to move this forward in a very aggressive way. Hopefully, we’ll build more co-sponsor support. I think 41 co-sponsors within a couple of weeks in phenomenal. I think there’s a general sense here -- on both sides of the aisle -- that the cost, first of all, in terms of the military presence in Iraq, would be billions of dollars, that it would not provide for regional security and stability, and the questions about why the U.S. would want a permanent base, or permanent bases, in Iraq, are questions that have to be answered. So I think this resolution will finally get the administration, if they support the resolution, to put it in writing.

Between The Lines: Are there any Republicans among the 41 co-sponsors of the bill?

Barbara Lee: I think one Republican, but I’m talking about discussion of the issue around no permanent bases. I’m on the International Relations Committee, and during the mark-up of the State Department authorization bill, I offered the same resolution as an amendment to that bill, and I believe there were three Republicans who voted for it then. So, it’s a general feel, I believe that those issues need to be fleshed out, but we definitely intend to build bipartisan support.

Between The Lines: I’ve read, despite all the statements from President Bush and top administration officials that they’re not going to build permanent bases, I’ve also read a number of things that refer to indications that they are building bases, even now, that those are the plans. Can you speak to that?

Barbara Lee: I’ve heard those rumors. We know that this administration has very little credibility, when it comes to their rhetoric, because they have misled the world in so many ways on so many occasions and what my resolution wants to do and will do, is put the administration on record in support of this in a law that says we are not going to have any permanent bases. I’ve been very disappointed that they haven’t wanted to come forward and introduce their own legislation so the Congress wouldn’t have to really worry about doing it, that it would be very clear in saying this is something they want, we want to codify. So, I think what we’re going to do will really help them to live up to their public statements.

Between The Lines: I also wanted to ask you about your resolution of inquiry to look into the information in what’s been called the Downing Street memo to look into whether intelligence was fixed around the policy of going to war in Iraq. That hasn’t been introduced yet?

Barbara Lee: This is something we’re working on with many members of Congress, and I think the bottom line is a resolution of inquiry is very important, because Congress has the duty and responsibility to provide oversight and to ask the tough questions with regard to how we got into this war and how we’re going to end this war. Too many of our young men and women have died, countless Iraqi civilians, Iraq has become now a hotbed for terrorism, so there are now many more national security questions and issues that we have to address. And the basic questions that we’re asking, the American people have a right to know.

Between The Lines: Do you think these bills and resolutions you’re introducing, along with others by some of your fellow members of Congress, such as the one by Rep. Dennis Kucinich to set a target date for withdrawal, as I understand it, that this is reflecting a growing uneasiness on the part of the American people and members of Congress with the war and with the administration’s policies on how they’re handling the war?

Barbara Lee: Well, I think the American people, even reading these polls, are really fed up with this. They don’t believe the president. They wanted to, but they don’t. Many of us knew early on that this war was not a war that needed to be fought. We knew that there were no weapons of mass destruction -- we told him that. We knew that Iraq did not pose an imminent threat and danger to the U.S. -- we told him that. Now, I believe what’s going on is people are at their wits’ end, the American people. They’ve seen too many young people losing their lives behind the distortions and the lies that were told, and I think the resolutions we’re offering provide a focus and provide the public with a way to know and to understand that there are some of us here who are with them, and who believe that inside the House of Representatives we need to ensure that their voice is heard and that the appropriate policies are introduced and passed that would help begin to bring our young men and women home.

For more information on Lee's work in Congress, call her office at (202) 225-2661 or visit her website at http://www.house.gov/lee.

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Melinda Tuhus is a producer of Between The Lines, which can be heard on more than 35 radio stations and in RealAudio and MP3 on our website at http://www.btlonline.org. This interview excerpt was featured on the award-winning, syndicated weekly radio newsmagazine, Between The Lines for the week ending July 29, 2005. This Between The Lines Q&A was compiled by Melinda Tuhus and Anna Manzo.

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