Abizaid on our long-term vision for a military presence in Iraq

| Wed Mar. 15, 2006 4:27 PM EST

Can you say "permanent bases"? Gen. John Abizaid can.

The United States may want to keep a long-term military presence in Iraq to bolster moderates against extremists in the region and protect the flow of oil, the Army general overseeing U.S. military operations in Iraq said on Tuesday.

While the Bush administration has downplayed prospects for permanent U.S. bases in Iraq, Gen. John Abizaid told a House of Representatives subcommittee he could not rule that out.

..."Clearly our long-term vision for a military presence in the region requires a robust counter-terrorist capability," Abizaid said. "No doubt there is a need for some presence in the region over time primarily to help people help themselves through this period of extremists versus moderates."

Abizaid also said the United States and its allies have a vital interest in the oil-rich region.

"Ultimately it comes down to the free flow of goods and resources on which the prosperity of our own nation and everybody else in the world depend," he said.

Last year, Joshua Hammer, writing in Mother Jones, wondered why the U.S. government was spending billions of dollars to build "enduring" bases in Iraq if it didn't plan to occupy the country for any longer than necessary. And, more recently, Tom Engelhardt brought us up to date with this piece on the "massive and ongoing" U.S. base construction there.