HOT OFF THE...

HOT OFF THE PRESSES: THE NOVEMBER PRINT ISSUE. There remain too many Tapped readers out there who aren't subscribers to The American Prospect. That's a problem. The release of our November print issue might provide a nice occasion to reconsider this unfortunate state of affairs. For one thing, we have a truly must-read report by Spencer Ackerman -- now a Prospect senior correspondent and regular Tappeder (see below) -- that tackles one of the great under-discussed issues surrounding the Iraq debacle: the construction of permanent U.S. bases. Spencer's reporting tells a story of policy drift, official obfuscation, and stark facts on the ground that make it clear that America is planning -- and building -- for the long haul.

For years, the Bush administration has refused to discuss how long the United States will stay in Iraq. More recently, the administration speaks of both a �long war� and just-over-the-horizon troop reductions simultaneously -- although last month General John Abizaid, the U.S. commander for Middle East and Southeast Asia, ruled out a draw down until next year -- with the emphasis shifting depending on the president�s audience and the political moment. On the rare occasions when officials have been pressed, usually in congressional hearings that garner little attention, Bush aides insist there are �no plans� to build permanent bases, a nondenial-denial that focuses attention on unprovable administration intent. But beyond intent is actual construction. That is, the U.S. military has awarded contracts to erect enduring bases at Baghdad, the capital; Balad, in the Sunni center-west; Tallil, in the Shiite center-south; and near Rawah, on the western border with Syria. All this construction is being done not because of any master plan, but in the absence of it. To put it another way, the military has to take steps for a permanent presence in Iraq in order to be responsible -- since no one has instructed commanders about when they will leave.

There is a strategic fog surrounding every aspect of the Iraq War. No one knows, in late 2006, whether the mission is to establish democracy, prevent civil war, or forestall or facilitate Iraq�s disintegration. The duration of an unclear mission is necessarily unclear, which forces commanders to prepare for all contingencies. While the Bush administration publicly denies any plan to occupy Iraq forever, its own strategic confusion is increasingly forcing the military to prepare for precisely such an indefinite, open-ended occupation in very concrete ways. The press, for its part, has treated such development as a paranoid left-wing conspiracy theory rather than documented fact, thereby preventing the public from gaining a fuller understanding of what the United States is actually doing in Iraq. And many in the Army are starting to fear the consequences of what the Pentagon is doing: entrenching a quagmire and facilitating a powerful incentive for Defense Department hawks to launch further wars around the Middle East.

If you want to read the rest -- and you really should -- subscribe today.

Elsewhere in the issue, Joshua Kurlantzick reports on the global warming profiteers mounting a new-style gold rush to develop the melting polar icecaps. (It's not merely that oil companies contribute to global warming through carbon emissions -- they actually stand to reap a windfall from that warming as the melting Arctic opens up new areas for drilling.) Also, Brian Beutler gives a kiss-off to retiring senator Bill Frist, worst majority leader ever; Jaana Goodrich looks at the dubious data behind the "boys crisis" hype; Richard Byrne digs into The Wire; and Alan Blinder, Joanna Fitzgerald, Robert Kuttner, and Harold Meyerson kick off a new, ongoing series on creating good jobs in America.

It's a great issue. You can read it all if you subscribe. A subscription costs twenty bucks (fifteen for an online sub). Consider signing up.

--The Editors

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