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More than 1000 US foreign military bases but commotion more than Sri Lanka’s internal military

“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?
Europe
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.
Costs Incurred
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

Categories
Foreign Affairs

The Forgotten 4 Drivers Of Reconciliation

Salma

Salma Yusuf

Central to post-war reconciliation efforts is undoubtedly the political aspect. However, there exists in Sri Lanka, four key strategic points of intervention which ought to be mainstreamed into the national reconciliation project by all stakeholders involved in furthering the imperative of nation building.

Politics By Other Means

At a cursory glance, the links between sport and inter-state reconciliation seem abundant. Some pundits credit Ping-Pong Diplomacy with facilitating the subsequent thaw of U.S.-China relations in the 1970s. Others point to Table Tennis Diplomacy and the attempted Olympic Diplomacy as effective difference-bridges between the two Koreas in the latter decades of the 20th century. More generally, there has been a widely held sense that sports, as Jeremy Goldberg states in his ground-breaking work titled ‘Sporting Diplomacy: Boosting the size of the Diplomatic Corps,’ serve as “a ‘safe’ way to ease a country out of isolation, acting as a first step of engagement.”

This transformation of conflict-laden bonds is not limited to inter-state rivalries. In 2007, the apparent success of the Côte d’Ivoire’s national men’s football team in rallying the country and ending a five-year long civil war between Northern rebels and the government-controlled South was hailed as a testament to the remarkable power of sport in peace-building.

Judging from both the Ivorian example and the images of a celebrating multi-ethnic Iraq following that country’s victory in the Asian Football Confederation Championship, it would seem that sport has at least a temporary ability to create intra-state linkages between conflicting factions.

In both Côte d’Ivoire and Iraq which experienced either “cold” (potential) or “hot” (open and violent) inter-state and intra-state conflicts, there have been concrete examples in which at least a segment of those involved point to sport as a significant factor in obtaining reconciliation.

Acknowledging the power of sport as both a strategy and tool for healing and reconciliation, national cricketing heroes in Sri Lanka came forward last year, in what was hoped would provide impetus for further and future sports for reconciliation projects in the country. The Murali Harmony Cup 2012 got underway on the 8th of September 2012 and concluded on the 12th of September 2012 ahead of the International Cricket Council ( ICC ) World T20 Series in Sri Lanka.

All matches were played at five post-conflict school venues across Sri Lanka’s northern regions of Mankulam, Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Vavuniya and Mullaitivu and were actively supported by the presence of Sri Lanka’s star national cricketers.

The event was designed as a catalyst for much-needed cricket development in the under-resourced schools of the war-affected northern and eastern provinces which will serve as a platform for involvement in national sporting events.

While sports by itself cannot start the process of reconciliation, it can prove invaluable in a broader programme of national reconciliation that is robustly supported by favourable governmental policy.

An example of such is seen in the recent work of the Department of Sport and Recreation of the Government of Western Australia which is the lead agency responsible for putting into practice government policy and initiatives relating to sport and recreation. Accordingly, the Reconciliation Action Plan 2008 – 2009 which specifically supports the development of a diverse sport and recreation system that encourages participation, develops talent and contributes to the health and wellbeing of marginalized communities and people with the intent of contributing to reconciliation in the country, has been promulgated. Sri Lanka, not unlike Australia, is a sports loving nation. What is required, therefore, is to harness the spirit and enthusiasm for sport that exists across ethnic and communal divides, and channel it into avenues that can foster collective healing and nation-building.

Has the time come for Sri Lanka to use the unifying power of sport to devise a reconciliation plan, similar to models used in countries such as Australia, which would in turn fit into the broader framework of national reconciliation efforts?

A Social Conscience While Generating Profit

In Sri Lanka, there has begun a national momentum to raise awareness on the need to develop the social conscience of the private sector, following the conclusion of the three-decade war that ravaged the country. In this context, what is required is a more radical reprioritizing of the national agenda in the post-war situation to socio-economic and political aims to facilitate such a progressive movement.

What must be recommended is the adoption of investment in four areas as critical to a strategy for contributing to reconciliation and peace-building: First, livelihood and income generation activities; second, training and empowerment through capacity building in soft-skills including those that increase innovation, entrepreneurship and employability; third, a need to engage directly with individuals and communities in war-affected regions of the country and finally, to ensure that all endeavours undertaken embrace the vision of preventing economic stagnation which has been at the root of most political conflicts.

The attractiveness of investing in the north of the country must not be forgotten in this endeavour. The availability of rich natural resources in the region such as limestone, land, groundwater, sea salt, fisheries and agriculture could be tapped into in order to create industries, income generation and livelihood opportunities.

Additionally, the market demand for produce and jobs is increasing with the return of formerly displaced persons to their original habitats. Further, there exists potential for development of tourism-related infrastructure as Jaffna is gaining increasing currency as a tourist destination, both by locals and foreigners.

It was recorded that with the removal of travel restrictions to the north of the country, a total of 31,000 persons had travelled to the north in 2012 alone. This in itself is a testament to the promise for both local and foreign tourism in the north of the country which would benefit immensely from private sector investment.

The business community is well placed for developing capacity of potential entrepreneurs by playing a major role in skill building. Hence, recognition of such a role for the private sector and business community must be taken seriously. Although engagement of the business community has been acknowledged as essential for peace-building by both the World Bank and the United Nations, a system of rewards to lure early private sector entry has yet to be devised, at the international and national levels.

In Sri Lanka, the need for economic prosperity or at least movement away from abject poverty and economic hopelessness is pivotal to moving towards reconciliation and peace building if the spirit of peace is to not falter and be extinguished. It is the private sector that can provide in the long-term economic growth opportunities, jobs and wealth creation.

The Future Has Arrived

Given that both the ignition of the ethnic conflict and the JVP insurrections have stemmed from our Universities as well as from other sections of the youth population, a national strategy for youth engagement in reconciliation must be considered.

Increased investment in the country’s most potent social capital becomes imperative in post-war efforts at development, security, and reconciliation and peace-building. In contrast to most countries in the developing world, the case for investment in youth is very strong particularly in a country like Sri Lanka which records a high literacy rate of over 90%. This means that there already exists a resource pool with a degree of skills and knowledge which is an ideal springboard to move society to a largely middle – income status.

There are more reasons why youth have special power and potential in peace-building. First, young people are more open to change – Young people are searching for new ideas and open to new challenges while adults have already formed their dogmatic discourses.

Second, young people are future-oriented. Since they have more time ahead, they are willing to try alternatives and are more bound to “forget” the past than those who were directly involved in a painful moment of history.

Third, many revolutions were started and led by young students or activists. Students often have more time to think, read, meet colleagues and develop ideas. They also have more time to engage different activists groups. Students historically have always been in the vanguard of social change.

Fourth, youth also create ideas that solve old problems in innovative ways. Youth seek for alternative roots of power and influence.

Fifth, young people are also less experienced and willing to try new adventures. This risk-taking nature combined with a belief in a cause and a situation that cannot get worse pushes them to be courageous, especially when others believe that change is impossible.

Sixth and perhaps the most important case for calling for a role for youth in peace building is because a peace agreement’s endurance depends on whether the next generations accept or reject it, how they are socialized during the peace process, and their perceptions of what that peace process has achieved. Child and youth dimensions are central to the structural issues of peace building – such as inequality, poverty, and unemployment.

In post-war Sri Lanka, youth experience a unique situation – they undergo a dual transition, that is, from youth to adulthood against a larger backdrop of the country’s conflict to peace transition. This dual transition is particularly challenging for the youth of our country and must be taken seriously in all national plans and programmes.

Five key areas need to be targeted for ensuring that youth are potent peace-builders in Sri Lanka in such a national strategy: The perception of youth as being granted equal opportunities and space for growth and development is critical.

In addition to job training and employment training for youth, young people should have access to training opportunities in conflict transformation, mediation, negotiation skills, facilitation of group decision making processes, project and organisational management and other themes of their interest and relevant to their social contexts.

Meaningful participation by the youth in political, inter-ethnic and cultural dialogue must be encouraged at all levels of social interaction. Youth should thereafter be given responsibilities according to their capacities and their contributions taken seriously.

Last and certainly not the least is the need for a sound value-based education for youth of the country. As famously said by the renowned educator Maria Montessori,’ Establishing a lasting peace is the work of education; All politics can do is keep us out of war’.

The X-Factor

The State has shown interest in working with war widows, female single headed households and military widows. These women need to be helped further with assistance to rebuild their lives, gain livelihood options and other basic amenities. They must also be empowered so that their voices are heard in the development drive taking place in the conflict affected areas.

Livelihoods are considered the most important issue in post-conflict Sri Lanka. The Giritale consultation held in 2010 recommended the following to strengthen livelihood options for women: skills training in non-traditional occupations for women; the Presidential Task Force in the Vanni to have a Gender Advisory Team; create networks for exchange and sale of seeds and farm produce among women’s groups working in agricultural and fisheries sectors; supporting traders in the north and east to carry out business and to travel and engage in trade and commerce outside of the north and east; and develop credit and loan services that will correspond to the specific needs of women in resettled communities and that will give them access to the material and financial resources they need to build up their livelihoods.

Ultimately, the call has to be for all stakeholders involved in rebuilding the country to accept and realize that women play an important role in structuring the very nature of peace. Women are not merely a vulnerable group, they are empowering as well. They can bring about change at local level through diverse means. What they now need is to be given the opportunity and space to do so.

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