“I emphasized the importance of progress in reducing the role and profile of the military in the North, and full respect for human rights” – thus said Robert Blake, an US official flying regularly to Sri Lanka bringing messages from his Government. Interesting as the statement is, it raises one simple question – in which international law book does it say that the US can have over thousands of foreign military bases while US can dictate to a sovereign nation on how to place its military inside its country? This is the question Sri Lankans like to ask and have answered. When the nations legally made to host these US foreign installations oppose US presence, what “accountability” does the US have for respecting the calls of these natives – since The “Status of Forces Agreement” has guaranteed that US cannot be held accountable for their crimes in any country that the US has bases in.
Exact US foreign military bases: Keep Guessing
It is believed that the US has over 1000 foreign military bases in over 120 nations and territories while UK and France have a further 200 in their former colonies. Inside these territories and nations the US bases and outposts are equally shocking. The number of US personnel currently stationed number over 160,000 and excludes US personnel in Iraq, Afghanistan, Hawaii, Guam, Puerto Rico and Kwajalein Atoll. All bases functions as storage facilities for weapons including nuclear arms, training, intelligence gathering, “echelon” bases monitor all email, phone and data communication traffic, extra-judiciary transport, imprisonment and torture of which Guantanamo Bay is the best example.
World War 2 gave US the excuse to strategize and establish a global network of military bases to protect its interests and those of its allies. Ironically, much of the security concerns US has today results from its own self-destructive actions and bullying approach. But, the “security factor” has been used to install bases in East Asia, Europe, Latin America, Middle East, Africa and Asia Pacific. Thus, the bases are crucial for US, NATO and EU and are perfect to overthrow governments diplomatically or militarily. The shocking military invasions numbering over 300 over the past century have been launched from these foreign bases thus the need to understand the threat posed to national security of any country entering the “enemy” list or “economic target” list.
The US has divided the world into 6 territories – 4 are located in the US and the other 2 in Stuttgart where the European Command territory stretches from Greenland to Alaska including Turkey, while the AFRICOM oversees military operations in Africa. EUCOM and AFRICOM is authorized to command US missions from Germany. Germany is the center of US military intelligence in Europe. Its not just foreign bases that the US has secured. What about the buildings, the heavy infrastructure, the storage tanks, the runways, rail lines and even pipelines that the US secures in all of these nations and territories?
To add to the confusion has been the numbers of private security contractors like Blackwater (Xe) who are based in all of the locations that the US troops are in. It is they who carry out the drone attacks and have been responsible for much of the mayhem taking place in the Middle East through their mercenary services.
Bases in Iraq and Afghanistan
The number of US bases in Iraq (505) were revealed only after US troops were preparing to leave Iraq. Officially, we are told that the US has removed troops from Iraq but does this not include the Dept of Defense staff currently in Iraq? The bases in Afghanistan is over 1500 counting all the forward operating bases, checkpoints, mega-bases, military installations and other logistical support facilities. The number of US troops stands at over 100,000 if not more. In 2002 NATO had 800 bases in Afghanistan. We may never know the exact numbers as at present but the Afghan bases are not reducing! Another question is why would US and NATO desire to have bases with sophisticated offices and gigantic airbases only along the gas and oil pipeline that is being built?
Why is it that the entirety of US bases in Afghanistan are all located along the route of the gas/oil pipeline? Why has opium production increased by a staggering 3100% (from 185tons before arrival of US in 2001 and now 5800tons in 2011) – Afghanistan accounts for 90% of opium and cannabis supplies to the world? What about the precious minerals like lithium, gold, iron, copper and cobalt that has also been discovered? Opium, morphine, cannabis, heroin, codeine, thebaine are all sought after by pharmaceutical companies.
Unknown to most of us Afghanistan’s Hindu Kush region is the home to rich soil – uranium, copper, lithium, gold and iron ore worth upto $ 3trillion. Hajigak area is said to contain 1.8tons of iron ore. Lithium is rare but needed for cell phones, portable computers, electric car batteries and so Afghanistan certainly has much to offer the mining industries!
The 9/11 attackers were not Iraqi’s nor had they links to Al Qaeda, neither did Iraq have WMDs but Iraq was attacked. US attacked Iraq to secure 115billion barrels of oil reserves! US spends $ 900billion per year on destruction when 49m Americans live in poverty and 46million depend on food stamps to survive and 4m are homeless.
Are there geological treasures in Sri Lanka in particular the North and East apart from the natural harbor?
US has 293 bases in Germany – why is it necessary for the US and UK to have bases in Germany or Japan 65 years after World War with over 70,000 US troops currently in Germany, more than 45,000 US soldiers in Japan and close to 30,000 US troops in South Korea?
The largest overseas US base is in Ramstein Air Base where US sent 40,000 troops to Afghanistan in 2009 – soldiers injured in Iraq and Afghanistan are flown and then sent to Landstuhl the largest US military hospital. Ramstein is used to cover 3 continents (51 nations) and has the largest US military shopping center and a 350 room hotel. There are 20 nuclear weapons at Buchel guarded by 50 US special forces troops. Over 80% of supplies of weapons, troops and other logistical requirements are routed via Germany. In 2008, there were over 1350 military transport landings in Leipsiz including 500,000 GIs en route to or from Iraq and Afghanistan. German-owned DHL has the exclusive US Army contract for courier services in Afghanistan and Iraq. Commercial airports like Hahn and US training at Grafenwohr is also provided.
Though the reunification agreement of the early 90s gives Germany the right to cancel US bases the Stationing of Forces Agreements with the US makes it unlikely that Germany would prohibit or restrict US military bases as Turkey did following the Iraq invasion though majority of Germans opposed the Iraq invasion.
The Netherlands is another US ally and hosts 7 US bases with nuclear warheads including 2 undisclosed locations that functions are reconnaissance flights over Colombia. All US arms and materials enter US without going through Dutch customs. All pilots flying on KLM have signed contracts that declare they have to take direct orders from the US air force in case of a war.
Asia – Countering China and Pilfering Resources
Following the Korea war the US has over 100 bases and facilities in Korea. Cases of US crimes in Korea are many yet US soldiers are never accountable and are instead repatriated where military court generally declares them “not guilty” or passes the most lenient of judgments. No damages can be claimed by the victims as the guilty enjoys legal immunity.
Iran and Pakistan have also begun building an oil and natural gas pipeline traversing Afghanistan and the pipeline has completed the Iranian portion and is now at the Pakistani border. Iran, Pakistan and even Afghanistan are all looking to push US away. While the US has been doling blood and money into these nations the people hate the US and are now looking for partners in China. US is seeking to include India into its periphery.
Rising demand for closure of US bases
Much of the outcries to close foreign military bases is due to their impact on land, water resources, communications, environment and health, cultural identity and the crimes that take place with foreign troops violating humanitarian international laws but having a carte blanche and immunity.
The military bases are located in strategic places, not only from the political and economic point of view, but they are placed near natural resources such as oil, water and biodiversity.
The US appears to care less over the rising numbers of calls for the closure of its military bases on the grounds that the facilities are undermining international peace and security as they are stations meant to prepare for war. Let us not forget that it was the US bases in Germany, Turkey, Diego Garcia, Saudi Arabia and other pro-US Gulf States that facilitated the Iraq invasion. Aerial bombings on Pakistan are launched from Diego Garcia, Ecuador base is used for covert military actions on Colombia, Iraq and Turkey bases functions as intelligence missions for Iran and Syria.
Iran is aware that it is being watched from US-occupied Iraq and Afghanistan while 8 of its neighbors are also hosting US/NATO bases. Moreover Iran is also faced with threats from US-backed nuclear powers of Israel, Pakistan and India and nuclear warheads in Turkey.
These foreign bases are causing social and environmental problems – rises in rapes by US soldiers, crimes, pollution, health hazards caused by testing conventional and non-conventional weapons are grounds for the opposition. The tragedy is that the agreements signed to enable the presence of US troops in these countries makes US soldiers unaccountable and immune from all local laws.
Nevertheless, it has not deterred residents from crying foul – activists and locals protested against expansion of US base with a new landing strip in Italy, the people of Okinawa, Japan are continuing their opposition that 30% of the island of Okinawa is being used by the US military since World War 2 and Okinawans even blocked the construction to a new base which was stopped in 2008 by a US court on ecological grounds. Residents of Okinawa have increased their opposition due to 12 MV-22 Osprey aircrafts operating in highly populated areas (Iwakuni, Yamaguchi, Ginowan and Okinawa) following crashes in Morocco and Florida. The Status of Forces agreement is a hindrance to the Japanese Government taking any action though US moved 4700 marines to Guam and 3000 to Hawaii, Philippines and Australia. Okinawa is important to the US because of its vantage on China, Taiwan and North Korea. However Futenma base (in the city of Ginowan which has over 90,000 residents) is unlikely to be ever moved off Okinawa. The plight of the Okinawians is made worse because Okinawa has only 4 seats in Japan’s lower house therefore the people’s verdict is of little consequence to political decisions.
Africans strongly opposed the US Africa Command with a headquarters costing over US$ 500m with close to 2000 US troops in Djibouti.
Natives from Puerto Rico (Vieques) were expelled from their homes to make way for a US bomb testing range that used 2/3 of the island and protests resulted in US navy withdrawing in 2004.
In 1973, under the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) all citizens of Diego Garcia were rounded up, put on ships and sent to Mauritius following a US-UK deal allowing US to have an airbase in Diego Garcia. However, the Chagossian natives have won court cases in the UK to their right to return by that right has been blocked by British executive orders.
A RAND Corporation study reveals that 57% of all Germans want a complete withdrawal of US troops from Germany.
There are numerous local campaigns and movements like the International Network for the Abolition of Foreign Military Bases and the No Bases Network that are continuing the fight to resist military bases overseas and making progress internationally. The closure of the Manta military base in Ecuador is one such success story.
The cost of running over 1000 military bases overseas is over $ 100billion annually and excludes costs for Iraq and Afghanistan.
Of the 2012 Federal Budget 59% – USD553billion has gone towards military and homeland security. 2% on Agriculture, Justice and Energy, 4% on Dept of State, Urban Development & Housing, 6% on education and healthcare &15% on other. In 1990 the national debt was $ 3.2trillion today it is a whopping $ 15.7trillion and counting (a 500% increase in 22 years).The next question is how or who has benefited from $ 11.5trillion spending on war?19 hijackers who pulled off 9/11 has resulted in US spending $ 3trillion on wars and denying the American people their own freedom and liberties. Yet the irony is that since 1941 the US has NOT being attacked by any foreign power to warrant spending on the military. It then appears that much of the hate the US administrations and its media enjoy promoting amongst the masses are self-created. With the creation of nuclear missiles that should be ample security! The current reliance of pre-emptive wars has made the US financially defunct and internationally mocked by those aware of the truth.
Meanwhile, globally the world spends $ 1.7trillion annually on designing new ways to kill, 13m die every year from starvation, 925m are undernourished, 1 child dies every 5 seconds due to hunger (16,000 daily deaths and 6m deaths cer year) – the cost taken to make a missile could give lunch to a school for 5 years! Does US elect representatives to allocate 44% of taxes towards killing?
It is the Politicians and not the military that start wars often coerced to do so by the super rich whose avarices and sadisms forces Governments to leave the fighting role to the poor. People are simply pawns and they die like dogs while millions is spent on devising lies to feed the world. Then comes the patriotic speeches for the bravery of the troops who had been sacrificed.
Over 6500 US soldiers have died while close to 50,000 are badly injured. Suicide rates of soldiers have increased by 80% – 300,000 that returned from Iraq and Afghanistan suffered post-traumatic stress disorders.
The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform has suggested to cut US troops in Europe and Asia by one-third which would save America $ 8.5billion in 2015 will the US close its bases?
The Violent Truth
What America needs to understand is that if it thinks the world hates America it is because American Governments are killing innocent people – none of them are “terrorists”. America is spending trillions for the past 11 years and who has benefited? American taxpayers are footing the bill, American soldiers are sacrificing their lives and body parts to enable a handful of companies to reap gigantic profits from drugs!
The US became the sole superpower in 1989 with the collapse of the Soviet Union – why would it want to go to wars without provocation and spend trillions? What kind of an acceptable excuse is it to argue that the US arms industry is employing millions and benefiting the US when all that they are doing is to make weapons that are meant to kill and create a supply for those weapons?
Invasions with military action has nothing to do with security of nations but everything to do with pilfering nations by a handful that uses politicians to order wars and invasions so that their corporations could walk in and plunder the natural resources of nations is what todays wars, terrorism and R2P is all about.
US tax payers are paying for numerous foreign invasions putting their country in debt while a handful of elite global powers are reaping the benefits and US envoys play puppet diplomatic dictators to former colonies!
We will bankrupt ourselves in the vain search for absolute security.”
Dwight D. Eisenhower
We know more about war than we know about peace, we know more about killing than we know about living. We need to now change.
by Shenali Waduge