While the Bush administration has told Congress it will not seek permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq, Sen. James Webb still wonders what the word permanent really means. In an exchange at a Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Thursday, Webb received a very psychedelic response from two administration officials.

The exchange was among Webb, State Department Iraq coordinator David Satterfield and Assistant Defense Secretary Mary Beth Long.

The Washington Post:

Webb: What is a permanent base?

Satterfield: Senator, the administration has made quite clear that we are not seeking permanent bases in Iraq. …

[ … ]

Webb: We’ve had bases in Korea since 1953, anyway, and I would be hard-pressed to say they’re permanent. How long is permanent? We have bases in Japan under a security agreement, but we are relocating a lot of those to Guam, so I wouldn’t say that they are permanent. So to say that these won’t be permanent bases really doesn’t go to the question of what they will be. It goes to the question of what they won’t be. And what we’re saying they won’t be is a dead word.

Long: Senator, you’re exactly right. I think most lawyers … would say that the word “permanent” probably refers more to the state of mind contemplated by the use of the term.

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