by Tom Engelhardt
".........By now, billions have evidently gone into single massive mega-bases like the U.S. air base at Balad, about 60 miles north of Baghdad. It's a "16-square-mile fortress," housing perhaps 40,000 U.S. troops, contractors, special ops types, and Defense Department employees. As the Washington Post's Tom Ricks, who visited Balad back in 2006, pointed out – in a rare piece on one of our mega-bases – it's essentially "a small American town smack in the middle of the most hostile part of Iraq." Back then, air traffic at the base was already being compared to Chicago's O'Hare International or London's Heathrow – and keep in mind that Balad has been steadily upgraded ever since to support an "air surge" that, unlike the president's 2007 "surge" of 30,000 ground troops, has yet to end.
While American reporters seldom think these bases – the most essential U.S. facts on the ground in Iraq – are important to report on, the military press regularly writes about them with pride. Such pieces offer a tiny window into just how busily the Pentagon is working to upgrade and improve what are already state-of-the-art garrisons. Here's just a taste of what's been going on recently at Balad, one of the largest bases on foreign soil on the planet, and but one of perhaps five mega-bases in that country......."