By Sherwood Ross
If the Iraq war is over and the Afghan war is winding down, what is prompting the remorseless expansion of the Pentagon’s vast network of overseas military bases?
Veteran foreign affairs journalist Eric Walberg says the bases are the modern version of colonies. The U.S. has a whopping 1,100 of them in 63 countries so they’re the preferred method by which the Pentagon seeks to dominate the planet.
That’s why President George W. Bush could tell an Abu Dahbi audience on Jan. 13, 2008, “The United States has no desire for territory.” It doesn’t need any more. The Pentagon’s real estate holdings include 52,000 buildings on gazillions of acres on bases around the world. It already is in a position to intimidate or attack virtually every country with overwhelming firepower, including nuclear weapons.
Since 9/11 alone, the Pentagon has put up new military bases in Poland, Lithuania, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel, Kyrgyzstan, Qatar and Bahrain. Many others, however, remain secret even though area residents are only too familiar with them and the hazards they bring, Walberg reports in his book “Postmodern Imperialism”(Clarity Press). The U.S. still operates 268 bases in Germany, 124 in Japan, and—60 years after the end of the Korean War—87 bases in South Korea.
“The U.S. military is keen on establishing military bases in every nation, and new NATO members in Eastern Europe top the list,” writes Lt. Col. Carlton Myer, a former U.S. Marine Corps officer who has made a study of the issue for his G2mil.com web site. He notes that the Czech Republic, recalling the unwanted Soviet presence, rejected a strong push during the Bush administration to build a base on their soil. “Attempts to establish a base in Poland are ongoing, using the bogus ‘missile defense’ sales strategy. That ruse was recently tried on the new NATO nation of Romania. It agreed to an American ‘missile defense’ base and the U.S. military has begun construction of a new permanent military base at Deveselu airbase, near Caracal, Romania.”
The crash of an F/A-18 Hornet fighter plane from Oceana air base into a Virginia Beach residential community the other week highlights the tragic accidents spawned by military bases that can impact local communities. Other penalties range from pollution to prostitution and the setting aside of choice real estate for military use that might have better served the community if dedicated to peaceful pursuits. This last is a major complaint of Okinawans. Besides its foreign bases, the U.S. has an additional 1,000 bases Stateside. No other country has anything remotely approaching the enormity of this vast operation in number, firepower, and financial cost to its taxpayers. China, for example, does not have a single foreign base anywhere and Russia maintains only a handful in Central Asia.
“Bases abroad have become a major and unacknowledged “face” of the United States, frequently damaging the nation’s reputation, engendering grievances and anger, and generally creating antagonistic rather than cooperative relationships between the United States and others,” writes David Vine in “Foreign Policy In Focus.”
“Most dangerously,” he continues “as we have seen in Saudi Arabia and Yemen, and as we are seeing in Iraq and Afghanistan, foreign bases create breeding grounds for radicalism, anti-Americanism, and attacks on the United States, reducing, rather than improving, our national security.”
The U.S. bases are so sited overseas that they can now exercise military control over virtually the entire globe. Though Kosovo is nominally independent, it is the site of Camp Bond Steel, the largest U.S. base in Europe, Walberg says, housing 3,000 soldiers and “giving the U.S. control of the Balkans, within easy reach of the Caspian Sea and Israel.” There are 43 bases that ring Iran alone. Iran, of course, has none anywhere. Given this disposition, which country would appear to be the more likely aggressor?
“Polls show the vast majority of American citizens support the closure of most U.S. military bases overseas,” writes Lt. Col. Myer. “There are over a thousand U.S. military installations elsewhere, (outside of the Middle East) and half can be closed, Myer asserts. He cites Bondsteel as an example, writing:
“Since it costs hundreds of millions of dollars a year to operate Camp Bondsteel, why does it still exist? It has little value as a regional base since it lacks an airstrip with aircraft hangars; it just has several helicopter pads. It has no port or rail facilities nor ammunition storage igloos or warehouses. It is only 955 acres with no training areas or firing ranges. It’s best described as a luxurious prison camp, where American soldiers are sentenced to one-year of service, and kill time by driving around the area armed with pistols.”
There is a darker side to the presence of these bases, author Vine points out. “In undemocratic nations like Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Saudi Arabia, our bases support governments responsible for repression and human rights abuses. In too many recurring cases, soldiers have raped, assaulted, or killed locals, most prominently of late in South Korea, Okinawa, and Italy. The forced expulsion of the entire Chagossian people to create our secretive base on British Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean is another extreme but not so aberrant example.”
Additionally, the U.S. operates 11 floating bases—-aircraft carrier task forces that may take control of the waters washing any continent. These come packing a devastating punch that, if used, could wipe out most countries overnight. Each carrier is accompanied by a guided missile cruiser, two guided missile destroyers and an attack sub, among others.
As if all these fleets and bases were insufficient, U.S. domination of the entire planet includes control of outer space, Walberg writes. ”Freedom of action in space is as important to the U.S. as air power and sea power,” comments the Air Force Flight Plan of 2004 he cites in his book.
“Unlike domestic bases, which set off local alarms when threatened by closure, our collection of overseas bases is particularly galling because almost all our taxpayer money leaves the United States (much goes to enriching private base contractors like corruption-plagued former Halliburton subsidiary KBR),” writes Vine. “One part of the massive Ramstein airbase near Landstuhl, Germany, has an estimated value of $3.3 billion. Just think how local communities could use that kind of money to make investments in schools, hospitals, jobs, and infrastructure.” Indeed!
Now and then a bit of sanity creeps into the debate over shutting down the threatening U.S. overseas holdings. “I do not think we should be spending money to have troops in Germany 65 years after World War II. We have a terrible deficit and we have to cut back,” said Massachusetts Democratic Congressman Barney Frank. Actually, it’s not just German bases that need closing. It’s all foreign bases that need to be shuttered. They are not “defensive” but “offensive.” Consider this: why would any nation build a thousand foreign military bases if it didn’t plan to use them? Their construction only emboldens our presidents to blab about “preventive war” as their existence makes such tyrannical aggression feasible. Are U.S. taxpayers listening?
Sherwood Ross is an award-winning reporter. He served in the U.S Air Force where he contributed to his base newspaper. He later worked for The Miami Herald and Chicago Daily News. He contributed a weekly column on working for a major wire service. He is also an editorial and book publicist. He currently resides in Florida.
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