Spreading the Message of "No US Military Bases in the World"
November 2, 2017
Ann Wright / OpEd News & Ann Wright / Consortium News & Ann Wright / CODEPINK
Though the US government denies that it runs an empire, the truth is it maintains a bristling global network of more than 800 overseas military bases in more than 80 foreign countries -- a global empire unprecedented in world history. In many cases, these costly installations give rise to local anger because of displacement, pollution, prostitution and abuse of the local populations. Retired Col. Ann Wright discusses the problem based on her 40 years of experience in the Army and State Department.
International Peacemakers Say No to Foreign Military Bases
Ann Wright / OpEd News
GUANTANAMO, Cuba (June 21, 2017) -- There were 217 delegates from 32 countries who attended the Fifth International Seminar on the Abolition of Foreign Military Bases held in Guantanamo, Cuba May 4-6, 2017. The theme of the seminar was "A World of Peace is Possible."
The focus of the conference was the impact of the 800 military bases the United States and other countries, including the United Kingdom, France, China, Russian, Israel, Japan have around the world. The US has the overwhelming number of military bases in the lands of other countries -- over 800.
Speakers included the President of the World Peace Council Maria Soccoro Gomes from Brazil; Silvio Platero, President of the Cuban Peace Movement; Daniel Ortega Reyes, Member of the National Assembly of Nicaragua; Bassel Ismail Salem, representative of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine; representatives of the Okinawan movement against US military bases at Takae, Henoko and Futemna and Ann Wright of Veterans for Peace.
Ian Hansen, President of the Psychologists for Social Responsibility, spoke about US psychologists who had participated in torture of prisoners at Guantanamo and black sites, and the decision of the American Psychologists Association to renounce its previous acceptance of unethical language, which allowed psychologists participation in interrogations for "national security."
The symposium included a trip to the village of Caimanera which is located on the fence-line of the US military base at Guantanamo Bay. It has been in existence for 117 years and, since the Cuban Revolution in 1959, the US has issued a check each year for $4,085 for annual payment for the base -- checks which the Cuban government has not cashed.
To prevent any pretext for US violence against Cubans, the Cuban government does not permit Cuban fishermen to go out of Guantanamo Bay past the US Naval Base to fish in the ocean. In 1976, the US military attacked a fisherman who subsequently died from his injuries. Interestingly, Guantanamo Bay is not closed to Cuba commercial cargo freighters.
With coordination and authorization with the US military forces, cargo ships carrying construction supplies and other merchandise for the village of Caimanera and for Guantanamo City can transit past the US Naval Base. Other Cuban government coordination with the US Naval Base authorities include response to natural disasters and for wildfires on the base.
Canada, the United States and Brazil had the largest delegations at the conference with representatives from Angola, Argentina, Australia, Barbados, Bolivia, Botswana, Chad, Chile, Colombia, Comoros, El Salvador, Guinea Bissau, Guyana, Honduras, Italy, Okinawa, Japan, Kiribati. Laos, Mexico, Nicaragua, Basque region of Spain, Palestine, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Seychelles, Switzerland and Venezuela.
Veterans for Peace and CODEPINK: Women for Peace had delegations attending the conference with other US citizens representing the Women's League for Peace and Freedom, the US Peace Council, and the Socialist Workers Party.
Challenging US Overseas Military Bases
Ann Wright / Consortium News
OKINAWA (December 19, 2015) -- I am honored to speak at this symposium in Okinawa about the need to abolish United States military bases around the world, and particularly here in Okinawa where you have been subjected to these bases for over 70 years following World War II.
From the beginning, let me state that I apologize for the continuing presence of some many US bases on Okinawa and the trauma they have caused to the people of Okinawa.
I worked for nearly 40 years in the United States government. I served 29 years in the US Army/Army Reserves and retired as a Colonel. I was also a US diplomat for 16 years and served in US Embassies in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia, Afghanistan and Mongolia.
However, in March 2003, I was one of three US government employees who resigned in opposition to President Bush's war on Iraq. Since then, I, as well as everyone on our Veterans for Peace delegation, have been publicly challenging policies of the Bush and Obama administrations on a variety of international and domestic issues including extraordinary rendition, unlawful imprisonment, torture, assassin drones, police brutality, mass incarceration, and US military bases around the world, including of course, the US military bases here on Okinawa
I was last here on Okinawa in 2007 with a delegation from the Japan chapter of CODEPINK: Women for Peace, a delegation that went first to Guam to witness the US military build-up on that island and then here to Okinawa to join with the citizen protest against the US proposal to build the runway of the US Marine Base into the South China Sea.
Today I want to speak about the need to abolish foreign military bases around the world.
I returned two weeks ago from an international conference called "Abolition of Foreign Military Bases" in Guantanamo, Cuba. As you may know, the oldest foreign military base in the world is the U. S. Naval Base in Guantanamo, Cuba. The US has maintained control of this military base for 112 years and claims the rights to the land in "perpetuity" through a lease obtained from a US puppet government. The US sends a check for $4,085 per year for this lease, checks that the Cuban government has never cashed.
US Military bases on soil other than the United States, provides the US the cover to conduct illegal and criminal actions on those bases that violate US law using the excuse that US law does not apply.
The sordid history of the past 14 years of the United States imprisoning 779 persons from 48 countries on a US military base in Cuba as a part of its "global war on terror" reflects the mentality of those who govern the United States global intervention for political or economic reasons, invasion, occupation other countries and leaving its military bases in those countries for decades.
The infamous US prison on the US Naval Base has imprisoned detainees beginning in January 2002. After nearly 14 years of imprisonment in Guantanamo prison, 107 prisoners remain, 47 of them were cleared for release years ago and are still held, and incomprehensibly, the US maintains that another 46 will be imprisoned indefinitely without charge or trial. Only 8 have been convicted of any crime.
(Because of US government secrecy, precise numbers and details regarding Guantanamo prisoners have been hard to nail down. On Thursday, the White House said 48 of the remaining 107 prisoners can be "safely transferred," but declined to comment on reports that the transfer of 17 may be imminent.)
Let me assure you, we in the United States continue our struggle demanding a trial for all prisoners, the closing of the prison in Guantanamo and the return of the land to the people of Cuba. The US military base is of no strategic importance to the United States, but instead is used as the symbol of US imperialism to the revolution of Cuba and the US attempts over the past 60 years to overthrow the revolution.
Over the past 100 years, Cuba, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Grenada, Haiti, Germany, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Somalia, Djibouti, Diego Garcia have had the presence of US military in their countries.
Today, the United States empire has over 800 US military installations around the world. In his excellent, recently released book Base Nation: How US Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World, David Vine documents that even after hundreds of bases in Iraq and Afghanistan have been closed, the US still has bases ranging in size from mega "Little Americas" to small radar facilities in more than 80 countries.
The United States has 95 percent of the world's foreign bases. Although few Americans realize it, but certainly people outside the US do, the United States likely has more bases in foreign lands than any other people, nation or empire in history. Currently, the United States has about half as many bases as it had in 1989, but the number of countries with US bases has roughly doubled from 40 to 80.
When the Cold War temporarily ended with the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, there were 300,000 US military personnel in Europe alone, and about 1,600 US bases worldwide. In the 1990s, the US military closed about 60 percent of its overseas bases in the 1990s, yet the overall base infrastructure stayed relatively intact.
Despite additional base closures in Europe and to a lesser extent in East Asia over the last decade and despite the absence of a superpower adversary, nearly 250,000 military personnel are still deployed on installations worldwide.
Other countries have a combined total of about 30 foreign bases. Great Britain has seven bases and France five bases in their former colonies. Russia has eight military bases in the former Soviet republics and one in Syria.
You here in Okinawa already know that for the first time since World War II, Japan's "Self-Defense Forces" have a foreign base -- in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa, as does the US and France. South Korea has a military base in the UAE; India has a base in the Andaman Islands; Chile has a base in Antarctica; Turkey and Israel reportedly have access to air bases in Azerbaijan.
There are also reports that China may be seeking its first base overseas, also in Djibouti, as it builds bases on manmade islands in disputed atolls in the South China Sea, logically in response to the Obama administration's "pivot" to Asia.
According to US Department of Defense records, 70 years after World War II and 62 years after the Korean War, there are still 174 US "base sites" in Germany, 113 in Japan, and 83 in South Korea. The US has hundreds of smaller military installations in over 80 countries including Aruba and Australia, Bahrain and Bulgaria, Colombia, Kenya, and Qatar, among many other places.
The United States has built permanent base infrastructure in every Persian Gulf country except one Iran. The US government gets agreements with undemocratic and often despotic states like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Bahrain to build bases and in return remains silent to their human rights violations.
US military bases in Iraq, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia have contributed greatly to increases in the radicalization of youth in those countries. Osama Bin Laden cited the US bases near Muslim holy sites in Saudi Arabia as a reason al-Qaeda attacked US embassies in East Africa, the Kobar towers in Saudi Arabia, the USS Cole warship in Yemen and the Twin Towers in New York City.
The smaller bases are known as "lily pads" (or more formally as "cooperative security locations") now found in Africa and Eastern Europe and which may provide a base for drones, surveillance aircraft, or pre-positioned weaponry and supplies.
US military ports and airfields, repair complexes, training areas, nuclear weapons installations, missile testing sites, arsenals, warehouses, barracks, military schools, listening and communications posts, and drone bases, military hospitals and prisons, rehabilitation facilities, CIA paramilitary bases, and intelligence facilities (including former CIA "black site" prisons) are key parts of the US government presence in other countries.
There are US military personnel in about 160 countries, including Marines who guard US embassies and deployments of trainers and advisors in many countries each year, including 10,000 US trainers still in Afghanistan and 3,500 in Iraq.
Additionally, the United States is capable of moving a large mobile presence to any country with a shoreline. The US Navy's 11 aircraft carriers are a floating military base of 5,000 personnel, dozens of aircraft, helicopters and landing craft.
As you know so well, President Obama's "Pacific pivot" has included convincing the South Korean government, which already has 83 US military bases, to construct a naval base in the pristine waters off Jeju Island, South Korea, to homeport destroyers carrying the US Aegis missile system, despite huge continuous citizens protests.
Your struggle here in Okinawa which has 7 percent of the 113 US military bases in Japan to stop the US construction of a runway at Henoko into coral heads in the waters off Okinawa, is an epic citizen struggle in which our Veterans for Peace organization joins.
The cost to the US taxpayer for installations and military personnel overseas in 2014 was at least $85 billion which is more than the discretionary budget of every government agency except the Defense Department itself. Adding the US military presence in Afghanistan and Iraq, the US spends over $156 billion in overseas programs.
You well know that here in Japan, you the taxpayers pay for the majority of US forces stationed in Japan. As you know so well after 70 years of US military bases, these bases bring into a community weapons of killing and destruction, and the mentality to use them.
With that mentality comes increased rates of domestic violence with all too many families enduring a mentality of violence within the home brought back from the battlefield.
That violence is seen in the numbers of victims of sexual assault in the community as well as on the military base. On Okinawa, the incidence of rape of Okinawan girls and women has brought tens of thousands of citizens out to protest the US military presence.
During their time in the military, an incredible 30 percent of women in the US military are sexually assaulted by fellow service members. Additionally, prostitution around US military bases is rampant.
Besides violence toward humans, military bases contribute strongly to violence toward our planet. Military weapons and vehicles are the most environmentally dangerous systems in the world with their toxic leaks, accidents, and deliberate dumping of hazardous materials and dependence on fossil fuels.
Our Veterans for Peace delegation appreciates the opportunity to be here in Okinawa with you. We have been inspired by the citizen activists who daily go to Camp Schwab, Futenma and Takae to challenge the Japanese and United States governments.
We are deeply concerned about US military bases here in Okinawa and we pledge our continued efforts to stop the US construction of the runway at Henoko into the South China Sea, and to abolish US military bases around the world.
Ann Wright served in the US Army/Army Reserves for 29 years and retired as a Colonel. She was a US diplomat for 16 years and resigned in 2003 in opposition to the war on Iraq. She is the co-author of Dissent: Voices of Conscience.
Spreading the Message of
No US Military Bases in the World
Ann Wright / CODEPINK
TOKYO, (June 12, 2016) -- My name is Ann Wright and I served 29 years in the US Army/Army Reserves and retired as a Colonel. I was also a US diplomat and served in US Embassies in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia, Afghanistan and Mongolia. However, in March 2003 I resigned from the US government in opposition to President Bush's war on Iraq.
Since my resignation from the United States government, I have worked with peace groups in the United States including Veterans for Peace, CODEPINK: Women for Peace and United for Peace and Justice, a coalition of over 800 peace groups in the United States.
Today at the 7th Okinawa Op-Ed Advertisement Symposium, "No need for new base for preparation for war!", I have been asked to speak about how we can build upon citizens networking, solidarity and joint action beyond national borders in order to remove the US military bases from Okinawa.
Apologies for Continued Sexual
Violence Against Women by US Military
But, first, as a 29-year veteran of the US Army, I want to deeply apologize for the horrific criminal actions by US military personnel assigned in Okinawa in the past two months. The perpetrators of the rape and murder of Rina Shimabukuro and the rape of another woman and injuries caused by drunken driving by yet another US military person are inexcusable.
I was in Okinawa for the past 4 days. Suzuyo Takazato of Okinawan Women Act Against Military Violence, an organization that has been documenting the violence of US military in Okinawa since World War II -- now 28 pages long -- took us to pay our respects to the memory of 20 year old Rina Shimabukuro.
We travelled to the area near Camp Hansen where her body was located by the admission of the perpetrator of her rape, assault and murder, a US military contractor and a former US Marine assigned in Okinawa. By his own admission to the Japanese police, he said that he had driven for several hours looking for a victim.
The mission of the military is to resolve international conflict with violence. Military personnel are trained to react to situations with violent actions. These violent actions can be used in personal life as military personnel attempt to resolve personal problems within the family, friends or strangers with violence. Violence is used to resolve anger, dislike, hate, feeling of superiority toward others.
Not only are communities around US military bases affected by this violence as we have seen erupt in the past two months in Okinawa, but violence occurs on military bases between members of the military community and families. Domestic violence within military families that are living on and off military bases is high.
Sexual assault and rape of military personnel by other military personnel is extraordinarily high. Estimates are that one in three women in the US military will be sexually assaulted or raped during the short time of six years that she is in the US military.
The Department of Defense estimates that over 20,000 military are sexually assaulted each year, women and men. Rates of prosecution for these crimes are very low, with only 7 percent of the cases reported resulting in prosecution of the perpetrator.
Yet President Obama did not express regrets for the continued US occupation of 20 percent of the land of Okinawa 70 years after World War II, nor for the environmental destruction of lands used by US military as evidenced by the recent release of 8500 pages of reports of pollution, chemical spills and environmental damage on US military bases most of which was never reported to the Japanese government.
Tragically, the 70-year history of the US military in Okinawa reveals that these criminal acts will continue as long as the US military is in Okinawa. Ending the horrific criminal actions wrecked upon the women and children of Okinawa is one of the overwhelming reasons that the US military bases in Okinawa must be closed.
The tremendous environmental damage created on the US military bases is another strong reason that the US military bases should be closed, and with the guarantee that the US will be responsible for the environmental clean-up.
The very unbalanced, unequal Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) allows the US military to pollute Okinawan lands and not be required to report the pollution to local authorities nor be required to clean up the damage. The SOFA does not require the US military to report criminal acts committed on US military bases thereby hiding the numbers of violent acts perpetrated there.
Now is the perfect time for the government of Japan to demand to have the SOFA renegotiated to force the US government to accept its responsibilities for damages done by the US military to its people and its lands.
The citizens of Okinawa and the elected leaders of Okinawa have accomplished an unprecedented event: the suspension, and hopefully, the end of construction of the runways at Henoko. What you have done to challenge both your national government and the US government's attempt to build another military base in the beautiful waters of Ora Bay is remarkable!
I have just visited activists on Jeju Island, South Korea where their 8-year campaign to prevent the construction of a naval base in their pristine waters was not successful. Their efforts were NOT supported by the prefecture government and now 116 of them and 5 village organizations are being sued for damages from costs incurred by the slow down of contraction by daily protests that closed the entrance gates to construction trucks.
Suggestions on Building
A Greater International Coalition
Now to suggestions on how to build a greater international coalition to support your efforts to close the US military bases on Okinawa, bases that take 20 percent of the lands of Okinawa and comprise a majority of all military bases in the entire country of Japan.
The recent book on US military bases around the world, Base Nation by Dr. David Vines states that the US has over 800 military bases around the world. Germany, Japan and South Korea have the most US bases. Germany has 174 US military bases, Japan 113 and South Korea 83. Eight other nations have a total of 30 military bases outside their countries. Great Britain has seven bases and France five bases in their former colonies. Russia has eight bases in the former Soviet republics and one in Syria.
In virtually every country where there are US bases we find citizens who are challenging those bases. They are your allies in the struggle in Okinawa.
I have worked with a variety of international coalitions on a variety of issues. I think you would find these coalitions very sympathetic with your struggle in Okinawa and would want to do what they can to assist. This assistance may be in the form of publicizing No Bases in Okinawa through their international newsletters and e-blasts to sending delegations to join in solidarity.
Some of these international coalitions anti-war, stop US military bases, stop assassin drones, include:
Australian Anti-Bases Campaign Coaltion
Stopp Ramstein--anti US Bases
DFG-VK: Krieg stoppen
Buchel Anti-Nuclear Camp
Faslane-Anti-nuclear weapons on submarines
Stop Wars Coaltion in the UK
Anti-War and Shannon Airport
X-Ban and MUOS
No Dal Molin--Stop Vicenza Air Base Expansion
Conference to Abolish Foreign Military Bases
Cuban Movement for Peace and Sovereignty of the Peoples (MovPaz)
Gaza Freedom Flotilla Coalition
International Women's Network Against Militarism
Stop the War Coalition Philippines
International Forum on Globalization
Mindano People's Peace Movement
Veterans for Peace--2015 delegations to Okinawa and Jeju Island
Voices of Creative Non-Violence--anti-war group in the US that has visited Jeju Island
CODEPINK: Women for Peace--with an new dynamic intern with Okinawan heritage and with a chapter in Japan, two members visited Okinawa with me
Women's International League for Peace and Freedom--chapters in many countries with study trips all over the world
United National Anti-War Coalition (UNAC)
World Beyond War
American Friends Service Committee--Quaker organization
International Action Center
Nevada Desert Experience
Women for Genuine Security
School of the Americas Watch
Pace e Bene
Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space
We are Guahan
Guahan Coalition for Peace and Justice
These are just a few of the more active organizations that work on an international bases and that I believe would be honored to receive an invitation to send a delegation to Okinawa.
Again, I want to express my deepest apologies for the actions of a few individuals in the US military for the criminal acts that have occurred, but more importantly tell you that many of us in the United States will continue our struggle to end the 800 US military bases the US has around the world.
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