WASHINGTON — Disbelief greeted the White House admission that President George W. Bush envisions U.S. occupation of Iraq for 50 years, modeled on the more than half-century U.S. occupation of South Korea.

Bush’s press secretary, Tony Snow, said of a prolonged U.S. stay in Iraq: “The Korean model is one in which the United States provides a security presence … over a period of years, and therefore the U.S. is a force of stability.”

Meanwhile, on his arrival in Prague June 5, Bush was met by tens of thousands of demonstrators protesting U.S. plans to build a so-called anti-missile and radar base in the Czech Republic aimed at Russia. It, too, would require permanent deployment of U.S. military personnel to operate the “anti-missile shield” and guard the base. Bush attended a conference of Cold War dissidents initiated by Natan Sharansky where he lectured Russia for “backsliding” on democracy.

In May, the Pentagon announced, 122 U.S. soldiers died in Iraq. In the first three days of June, 16 more soldiers died. Those grim reports showed that the Bush administration’s policy of pre-emptive war and permanent occupation is a destabilizing factor in Iraq and the world.

Iraq war veteran Evan Knappenberger spoke to the World by cell phone from a 6-foot platform outside the federal building in rain-soaked downtown Bellingham, Wash. He is conducting a weeklong vigil to protest multiple deployments of overstressed soldiers to Iraq.

“There is no way the U.S. could sustain such an occupation without reintroducing the draft, unless Bush plans to make all the soldiers into slaves like the Roman army,” he said, reacting to news that Bush plans to keep U.S. troops in Iraq for half a century.

The Pentagon’s “stop loss” policy of extending troop deployments in Iraq from 12 to 15 months and sending soldiers back for multiple deployments has wreaked havoc on the troops, he said.

“Morale has not been so low since the Vietnam War,” Knappenberger said. His 400-member battalion suffered 15 suicides while deployed in Iraq and since his unit returned, 70 of 72 soldiers have suffered alcohol-related problems. “There is a report that 70 percent of Iraq war veterans are suffering post traumatic stress disorder,” he said. “This policy is destroying the military, destroying readiness. I supported the war at the beginning. Now I believe the best possibility is a timeline for disengagement and withdrawal.”

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), who pushed through the House a bill to bar permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq, said, “The White House announcement that they view South Korea as the model for a permanent U.S. military presence in Iraq is further evidence of how dangerously out of touch with reality this administration is.” Lee added: “The overwhelming majority of Iraqis want an end to the occupation, and for the White House to suggest that it will continue for another 50 years, or perhaps permanently, only fuels the insurgency and further endangers our troops. … The American people are also calling for an end to the occupation, and the fact that the administration has responded by saying they think the occupation should be permanent just underlines how out of touch they are but how critical it is for Congress to intervene to bring an

end to this failed policy.”

Leslie Cagan, national coordinator of United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ), told the World in a phone interview, “As outrageous as it is for the head of one government to proclaim his plan to occupy another country for half a century, it is not surprising. What is at stake here is the U.S. plan to control the oil resources of Iraq. Why else would they plan to occupy Iraq for another half century? This should make us refocus on the motives of this war in the control of oil.”

As the antiwar movement works hard to end the Iraq war, she added, “we need to lay the foundation for a real, fundamental change in U.S. foreign policy. This war was not a mistake. It was part and parcel of how they [the war-makers] think the U.S should interact with our neighbors on this planet.”

UFPJ is meeting in Chicago, June 22-24, to strategize on how to advance the struggle to end the Iraq war, Cagan said. “It’s looking very, very good. Upwards of 170 organizations in our coalition have already registered. It’s never possible for all the groups in a coalition as large as ours to send a delegation. But we have both the geographical spread and a cross-section of the organizations in the coalition.”

Paul Kawika Martin, media spokesperson for Peace Action, pointed out that the half-century U.S. occupation of Korea “paved the way for a military dictatorship in South Korea.” He added, “This is the first open admission by this administration of an imperial interest in staying in Iraq for a long time.”

It also helps explain “why the administration is in such a hurry to get the oil law passed” through the Iraqi Parliament, a “benchmark” that will “open up Iraq to the oil interests,” he said.

greenerpastures21212 @yahoo.com