ACTION ALERT / VIDEOS: Uncovering and Opposing the Pentagon's Global Empire of Bases
January 18, 2018 No Foreign Bases Coalition & World Beyond War & Popular Resistance
Unknown to most Americans, the Pentagon operates a vast, global empire of military bases that circles the planet. This hidden empire consists of nearly 562,000 facilities worth more than $585 billion located on more than 4,800 sites in 42 nations and covering over 24.9 million acres -- equal in size to the entire state of Kentucky. The US cannot be a moral or ethical country until it faces up to the realities of US empire and the destruction it causes around the world.
Uncovering and Opposing the
Pentagon's Global Empire of Bases No Foreign Bases & World Beyond War
The United States cannot be a moral or ethical country until it faces up to the realities of US empire and the destruction it causes around the world.
-- Popular Resistance
(January 16, 2018) -- A major, three-day No Foreign Bases conference (hosted by 17 charter organizations) was held in Baltimore, Maryland on January 12-14, 2018. World Beyond War was one of many organizations that convened this new No Foreign Bases coalition. Decisions were made to organize a global coalition and conference on closing US foreign military bases. Already groups in Ireland, Iran, and Okinawa have proposed their countries as locations for the global conference on closing bases. If you have another idea, let us know.
In addition, the participants agreed to organize a national day of action in the US this spring against all wars and to mark February 23rd as 115 years since the theft of Guantanamo from Cuba. Look for updates here.
(January 17, 2018) -- The United States cannot be a moral or ethical country until it faces up to the realities of US empire and the destruction it causes around the world. The US undermines governments (including democracies), kills millions of people, causes mass migrations of people fleeing their homes, communities and countries and produces vast environmental damage.
A new coalition, The Coalition Against US Foreign Military Bases, held its inaugural event January 12-14, 2018 at the University of Baltimore in Maryland. The meeting was framed by a Unity Statement that brought together numerous peace and justice organizations.
The basis for unity was:
"US FOREIGN MILITARY BASES ARE THE PRINCIPAL INSTRUMENTS OF IMPERIAL GLOBAL DOMINATION AND ENVIRONMENTAL DAMAGE THROUGH WARS OF AGGRESSION AND OCCUPATION, AND THAT THE CLOSURE OF US FOREIGN MILITARY BASES IS ONE OF THE FIRST NECESSARY STEPS TOWARD A JUST, PEACEFUL AND SUSTAINABLE WORLD."
Responsibility to End Global Empire of Bases
Ajamu Baraka of the Black Alliance for Peace and the vice presidential candidate for the Green Party in 2016 opened the conference, describing the responsibility of the people of the United States (USians) to protect the world from US aggression.
"THE ONLY LOGICAL, PRINCIPLED AND STRATEGIC RESPONSE TO THIS QUESTION IS CITIZENS OF THE EMPIRE MUST REJECT THEIR IMPERIAL PRIVILEGES AND JOIN IN OPPOSING RULING ELITES EXPLOITING LABOR AND PLUNDERING THE EARTH. TO DO THAT, HOWEVER, REQUIRES BREAKING WITH THE INTOXICATING ALLURE OF CROSS-CLASS, BI-PARTISAN 'WHITE IDENTITY POLITICS.'"
This reality conflicts with one of the excuses the US uses to engage in war -- so-called 'humanitarian wars', which are based on the dubious legal claim that the US has a "responsibility to protect." The United States is viewed as "the greatest threat to peace in the world today" by people around the world. Thus, "USians" need to organize to protect the world from the United States.
US empire is not only a threat to world peace and stability but also a threat to the United States. Chalmers Johnson, who wrote a series of books on empire, warned in his 2004 book, The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic, that there were four "sorrows" the United States would suffer.
In the 14 years since they have all come true:
"IF PRESENT TRENDS CONTINUE, FOUR SORROWS, IT SEEMS TO ME, ARE CERTAIN TO BE VISITED ON THE UNITED STATES. THEIR CUMULATIVE IMPACT GUARANTEES THAT THE UNITED STATES WILL CEASE TO BEAR ANY RESEMBLANCE TO THE COUNTRY ONCE OUTLINED IN OUR CONSTITUTION. FIRST, THERE WILL BE A STATE OF PERPETUAL WAR, LEADING TO MORE TERRORISM AGAINST AMERICANS WHEREVER THEY MAY BE AND A GROWING RELIANCE ON WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION AMONG SMALLER NATIONS AS THEY TRY TO WARD OFF THE IMPERIAL JUGGERNAUT. SECOND, THERE WILL BE A LOSS OF DEMOCRACY AND CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS AS THE PRESIDENCY FULLY ECLIPSES CONGRESS AND IS ITSELF TRANSFORMED FROM AN "EXECUTIVE BRANCH" OF GOVERNMENT INTO SOMETHING MORE LIKE A PENTAGONIZED PRESIDENCY. THIRD, AN ALREADY WELL-SHREDDED PRINCIPLE OF TRUTHFULNESS WILL INCREASINGLY BE REPLACED BY A SYSTEM OF PROPAGANDA, DISINFORMATION, AND GLORIFICATION OF WAR, POWER, AND THE MILITARY LEGIONS. LASTLY, THERE WILL BE BANKRUPTCY, AS WE POUR OUR ECONOMIC RESOURCES INTO EVER MORE GRANDIOSE MILITARY PROJECTS AND SHORTCHANGE THE EDUCATION, HEALTH, AND SAFETY OF OUR FELLOW CITIZENS."
The footprint of US empire are what Chalmers Johnson called an "empire of bases." David Vine, the author of Base Nation, put US empire in context by describing 800 US bases in 80 countries and US military personnel in more than 170 countries.
Bases range from so-called Lily Pad Bases of hundreds of troops to town-sized bases of tens of thousands of troops and their families. He noted many bases have schools and they do not need to worry about heating or air conditioning, unlike schools in Baltimore where parents bought space heaters to keep children warm and where schools were closed due to lack of heat.
The contrast between Baltimore schools and military base schools is one example of many of the heavy price "USians" pay for the military. Vine reported that $150 billion is spent annually to keep US troops on bases abroad and that even a Lily Pad base could cost $1 billion. More is spent on foreign military bases than on any agency of the federal government, other than the Pentagon and Veterans Administration.
The Pentagon is not transparent about the number of US foreign bases it manages or their cost. They usually publish a Base Structure Report but have not done so in several years. The Pentagon only reports 701 bases, but researchers have found many, even significant bases, not included in their list of bases.
According to the No Foreign Bases Coalition:
"95% OF ALL FOREIGN MILITARY BASES IN THE WORLD ARE US BASES. IN ADDITION, [THERE ARE] 19 NAVAL AIR CARRIERS (AND 15 MORE PLANNED), EACH AS PART OF A CARRIER STRIKE GROUP, COMPOSED OF ROUGHLY 7,500 PERSONNEL, AND A CARRIER AIR WING OF 65 TO 70 AIRCRAFT -- EACH OF WHICH CAN BE CONSIDERED A FLOATING MILITARY BASE."
The military footprint of the United States shows it is the largest empire in world history. In our interview with historian Alfred McCoy, author of In The Shadows of the American Century, he describes how some of the key characteristics of US empire are secrecy and covert actions.
These are some of the reasons why it is rare to ever hear US empire discussed in the corporate media or by politicians. McCoy told us this was true for some other empires too, and that it is often not until the empire begins to falter that their existence becomes part of the political dialogue.
Strategies for Closing US Foreign Military Bases
David Vine described an unprecedented opportunity to close bases abroad, to do so we need to build a bigger movement. We also need to elevate the national dialogue about US Empire and develop a national consensus to end it.
Vine pointed to Donald Trump's campaign rhetoric about pulling back from US involvement abroad and focusing on the necessities at home as indicative of the mood of the country.
In fact, a recent survey found that "78 percent of Democrats, 64.5 percent of Republicans, and 68.8 percent of independents supported restraining military action overseas."
McCoy argued that after the globalization of President Barack Obama, which included the Asian Pivot and efforts to pass major trade agreements, in particular the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), created a backlash desire to focus on "America First." Both trade agreements, the TPP and TTIP, failed as a result of a political shift in the country, in part created by grassroots movements.
McCoy describes Obama as one of three "Grandmasters of the Great Game" (the other two being Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter's National Security Adviser, and Elihu Root, former Secretary of War and Secretary of State at the beginning of the 20th Century) who excelled in being strategic on behalf of US empire.
In addition to trade agreements and the Asian Pivot, Obama built on the intelligence apparatus of the George W. Bush era. Even though Obama was a "grandmaster," he did not slow the weakening of US empire. McCoy sees the inability to account for the unpredictable complexities of US and global political developments as a common weakness of empire strategists.
The conference was divided into regions of the world (with the exception of one session on the impact of military bases on the environment and health). There will be reports and videos published on each section of the conference on the No Foreign Bases webpage.
One common denominator around the world is opposition to US military bases.
According to the Unity Statement of the coalition:
"MANY INDIVIDUAL NATIONAL COALITIONS -- FOR EXAMPLE, OKINAWA, ITALY, JEJU ISLAND KOREA, DIEGO GARCIA, CYPRUS, GREECE, AND GERMANY -- ARE DEMANDING CLOSURE OF BASES ON THEIR TERRITORY. THE BASE THAT THE US HAS ILLEGALLY OCCUPIED THE LONGEST, FOR OVER A CENTURY, IS GUANTÁNAMO BAY, WHOSE EXISTENCE CONSTITUTES AN IMPOSITION OF THE EMPIRE AND A VIOLATION OF INTERNATIONAL LAW. SINCE 1959 THE GOVERNMENT AND PEOPLE OF CUBA HAVE DEMANDED THAT THE GOVERNMENT OF THE US RETURN THE GUANTÁNAMO TERRITORY TO CUBA."
One important strategy for success is for US activists to work in cooperation with people around the world who want US military bases to be closed and for the US military to leave their country. Attendees at the conference had traveled to South Korea, Okinawa and other places to protest in solidarity with US activists.
Another strategy that many in the conference urged was the need for education about US imperialism and to tie US militarism abroad with militarized police at home. Similarly, the reality of the US military focusing on black and brown countries abroad highlights a white supremacy philosophy that infects foreign policy and domestic policy. Members of the No US Foreign Bases coalition also engage in domestic efforts for racial and environmental justice.
Further, the no bases coalition highlights the environmental and health damage caused by foreign and domestic military bases. As the Unity Statement notes, "military bases are the largest users of fossil fuel in the world, heavily contributing to environmental degradation."
Pat Elder and David Swanson described the degradation in and around the Potomac River, writing:
"THE PENTAGON'S IMPACT ON THE RIVER ON WHOSE BANK IT SITS IS NOT SIMPLY THE DIFFUSE IMPACT OF GLOBAL WARMING AND RISING OCEANS CONTRIBUTED TO BY THE US MILITARY'S MASSIVE OIL CONSUMPTION. THE US MILITARY ALSO DIRECTLY POISONS THE POTOMAC RIVER IN MORE WAYS THAN ALMOST ANYONE WOULD IMAGINE."
People can find information about the environmental damage being done by the military in their community on the Bombs in Your Backward webpage. World Beyond War held a conference on War and the Environment in 2017. You can view video and summaries from the conference on their site.
The conference attendees decided on some next steps. A national day of action against foreign military bases is being planned for February 23, the anniversary of the US seizing Guantanamo Bay, Cuba through a "perpetual lease" that began in 1903. Activists are encouraged to plan local actions. If you plan an event, contact email@example.com and we'll post it on the events page. The demands will include closing the base and prison in Guantanamo, returning the land to Cuba and ending the US blockade.
The conference also decided to hold a conference outside of the United States in one of the countries where the US has a foreign military base within the next year. People from some countries were not allowed to attend the inaugural conference this weekend.
And, the coordinating committee will reach out to other peace and justice groups to select a date and place for a national mass action against US wars. This will be organized as quickly as possible because the threat of more wars is high.
This is a key moment for the antiwar movement in the US to make itself more visible and to demand the closure of US foreign bases.
In this report on living in a post-primacy world, even the Pentagon recognizes what many commentators are seeing -- the US empire is fading. One great risk as the empire ends is more wars as the US tries to hang on to global hegemony. We must oppose war and work for the least damaging end of empire.
Indeed, if the US becomes a cooperative member of the global community, rather than being a dominator, it would be a positive transition. Imagine how much better it would be for everyone in the world if the US collaborated on addressing the climate crisis in a serious way, obeyed international law and invested in positive programs to solve the many crises we face at home and abroad.
During the Baltimore conference, World Beyond War sponsored a billboard nearby that read, "3% of US military spending could end starvation on Earth."
Imagine what a peace budget could look like. The US could invest in domestic necessities including rebuilding infrastructure, a cleaner and safer public transportation system, education, housing and health care. The US could provide aid to other countries to repair the damage it has caused. Members of the US military could transition into a civilian jobs program that applies their expertise to programs of social uplift.
It is imperative that as the US Empire falls, we organize for a smooth transition to a world that is better for everyone. The work of the new coalition to end US foreign military bases is a strong start.
Kevin Zeese is an American political activist who has been a leader in the drug policy reform and peace movements and in efforts to ensure a voter verified paper audit trail.
Margaret Flowers, M.D., is a Maryland pediatrician seeking the Green Party nomination for the US Senate. She is co-director of PopularResistance.org and a board adviser to Physicians for a National Health Program and is on the Leadership Council of the Maryland Health Care Is a Human Right campaign. New Global Campaign:
Close All US Military Bases on Foreign Soil Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers / Popular Resistance & Global Research
The Coalition Against Foreign Military Bases is a new campaign focused on closing all US military bases abroad. This campaign strikes at the foundation of US empire, confronting its militarism, corporatism and imperialism. We urge you to endorse this campaign.
On the occasion of its announcement, the coalition issued a unity statement, which describes its intent as "raising public awareness and organizing non-violent mass resistance against US foreign military bases." It further explains that US foreign military bases are: "the principal instruments of imperial global domination and environmental damage through wars of aggression and occupation, and that the closure of US foreign military bases is one of the first necessary steps toward a just, peaceful and sustainable world."
While the US sought to be an imperial force beginning just after the US Civil War and then escalated those efforts at the turn of the 20th Century, it became the dominant empire globally after World War II. This was during the time of de-colonization, when many traditional empires were forced to let their colonies become independent nations.
So, while the US is the largest empire in world history, it is not a traditional empire in which nations are described as colonies of the US empire. Nations remain independent, at least in name, while allowing US bases on their soil and serving as a client state of the United States.
They are controlled through the economic power of the US, World Bank and International Monetary Fund. The US has used regime change tactics, including assassination and military force, to keep its empire intact.
Commentators have described the United States as an "empire of bases." Chalmers Johnson wrote in 2004: As distinct from other peoples, most Americans do not recognize -- or do not want to recognize -- that the United States dominates the world through its military power. Due to government secrecy, our citizens are often ignorant of the fact that our garrisons encircle the planet.
This vast network of American bases on every continent except Antarctica actually constitutes a new form of empire -- an empire of bases with its own geography not likely to be taught in any high school geography class. Without grasping the dimensions of this globe-girdling Baseworld, one can't begin to understand the size and nature of our imperial aspirations or the degree to which a new kind of militarism is undermining our constitutional order.
Our military deploys well over half a million soldiers, spies, technicians, teachers, dependents, and civilian contractors in other nations. To dominate the oceans and seas of the world, we are creating some thirteen naval task forces built around aircraft carriers whose names sum up our martial heritage -- Kitty Hawk, Constellation, Enterprise, John F. Kennedy, Nimitz, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Carl Vinson, Theodore Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, John C. Stennis, Harry S. Truman, and Ronald Reagan.
We operate numerous secret bases outside our territory to monitor what the people of the world, including our own citizens, are saying, faxing, or e-mailing to one another.
We do not know the exact number of US military bases and outposts throughout the world. The Unity Statement says: "the United States maintains the highest number of military bases outside its territory, estimated at almost 1000 (95% of all foreign military bases in the world) . . . . In addition, the United States has 19 Naval air carriers (and 15 more planned), each as part of a Carrier Strike Group, composed of roughly 7,500 personnel, and a carrier air wing of 65 to 70 aircraft -- each of which can be considered a floating military base."
The annual Department of Defense (DoD) Base Structure Report says the DoD manages a massive: "global real property portfolio that consists of nearly 562,000 facilities (buildings, structures, and linear structures), located on over 4,800 sites worldwide and covering over 24.9 million acres."
They value DoD property located in 42 nations at over $585 billion. It is difficult to tell from this report the number of bases and military outposts, which has led analysts like Tom Engelhardt to describe US empire as an "invisible" empire of bases. He points out the US military bases are rarely discussed in the media. It usually takes an incident, like US soldiers being attacked or a US aircraft being shot down, for them to get any mention in the media.
Many of the bases remain from previous wars, especially World War II and the Korean War: According to official information provided by the Department of Defense (DoD) and its Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC) there are still about 40,000 US troops, and 179 US bases in Germany, over 50,000 troops in Japan (and 109 bases), and tens of thousands of troops, with hundreds of bases, all over Europe. Over 28,000 US troops are present in 85 bases in South Korea, and have been since 1957.
The number of bases is always changing as the US seeks to continuously expand its empire of bases. Just this week the US is opening a military base in South Korea, which is described as a city of 25,000 people. The Washington Post reports: "We built an entire city from scratch," said Col. Scott W. Mueller, garrison commander of Camp Humphreys, one of the US military's largest overseas construction projects. If it were laid across Washington, the 3,454-acre base would stretch from Key Bridge to Nationals Park, from Arlington National Cemetery to the Capitol.
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Now, the $11 billion base is beginning to look like the garrison that military planners envisaged decades ago.
The Eighth Army moved its headquarters here this month and there are about 25,000 people based here, including family members and contractors.
There are apartment buildings, sports fields, playgrounds and a water park, and an 18- hole golf course with the generals' houses overlooking the greens. There is a "warrior zone" with Xboxes and Playstations, pool tables and dart boards, and a tavern for those old enough to drink.
Starting this August, there will be two elementary schools, a middle school and a high school. A new, 68-bed military hospital to replace the one at Yongsan is close to completion.
Also this week, it was reported that the United States has created ten new military bases in Syria. This was done without permission of the Syrian government and was exposed by Turkey in protest against the United States.
There is a cost to these bases, not only the $156 billion in annual funds spent on them, but also the conflicts they create between the United States and people around the world. There have been protests against the presence or development of US bases in Okinawa, Italy, Jeju Island Korea, Diego Garcia, Cyprus, Greece, and Germany.
Some of the bases are illegal, as the unity statement points out, "The base that the US has illegally occupied the longest, for over a century, is Guantanamo Bay, whose existence constitutes an imposition of the empire and a violation of International Law." Cuba has called for the return of Guantanamo since 1959.
David Vine, the author of Base Nation, describes how these bases, which seek to project US power around the globe, create political tensions, are a source for military attacks and create alliances with dictators. They breed sexual violence, displace indigenous peoples, and destroy the environment.
The unity statement of the Coalition Against Foreign Military Bases concludes by urging all of us to unite to close US bases around the world because: US foreign military bases are NOT in defense of US national, or global security. They are the military expression of US intrusion in the lives of sovereign countries on behalf of the dominant financial, political, and military interests of the ruling elite.
Whether invited in or not by domestic interests that have agreed to be junior partners, no country, no peoples, no government, can claim to be able to make decisions totally in the interest of their people, with foreign troops on their soil representing interests antagonistic to the national purpose.