The world today is defined by a new era of war and occupation. This is seen with foreign occupations like the U.S.-led occupations of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003, the U.S.-led war on Syria, U.S.-backed coups like the 2014 coup in Ukraine and the U.S./Canada/EU sanctions and economic war against Venezuela and Iran. This has also included dozens of U.S. special forces secret wars on all continents. Today, every region of the world is engulfed by U.S.-led military aggression and intervention.
U.S. Number One Warmonger Anywhere
How is the United States, the greatest imperialist force in history, able to reach so far and conduct so many military operations at one time? The map of the world that the U.S. government looks at is not the same that you and I look at. From the perspective of the U.S. Department of Defense, the world is a battlefield, on which every inch of the planet falls under six geographical “Areas of Responsibility” over which the U.S. has a “Combatant Command.” Each command is complete with a headquarters, a Commander and chain of command, and a collection of bases, military installments, or military agreements outside of U.S. borders. According to the U.S. Department of Defense website, the U.S. military operates in more than 160 countries, on all seven continents, with approximately 4,800 defence sites. An estimated 800 to 1000 of these bases are foreign bases, with approximately 450,000 soldiers stationed overseas according to Business Insider. These may be huge bases that mimic a U.S. town with McDonalds, American shopping centers and schools to cater to thousands or even tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers and their families, such as at the Ramstein Air Base in Germany and the Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan.
U.S. bases in Europe also serve to assist the U.S. imperialist interests in Africa. U.S. bases in Italy, Germany and the U.K., alongside NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) member state’s bases in the region, served as launching pads for the U.S.-promoted and the NATO-led war on Libya in 2011. From these bases, 26,000 aircraft sorties were launched over seven months, 42% of which resulted in airstrikes on Libya. Libya, which once had the highest standards of living in all of Africa, now seven years later is in chaos. As documented in a December 1, 2017 report by TIME magazine, Libya has become a haven for the slave trade and human trafficking. What else is USAFRICOM up to? A Military Times article on the most recent quarterly report from the Department of Defense Inspector General noted that during the summer of 2018, the U.S. military was conducting missions in at least 20 African nations!
Threatening Central and South America
Across the ocean, USSOUTHCOM covers the U.S. military command of South and Central America and much of the Caribbean. One of three task forces in the region operates out of Soto Cano Air Base in Honduras, the U.S. Joint Task Force Bravo. While the Honduran constitution prohibits a permanent foreign troop presence, the U.S. has circumvented this by declaring their presence on the base as “temporary”… since 1982! The U.S. base in Honduras is a good example of how dangerous the presence of U.S. troops are, and how difficult it is to get rid of U.S. foreign bases. In 2008 the democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya had proposed converting the Soto Cano Air Force Base into a civilian airport. In 2009 President Zelaya was overthrown in a coup which at best the U.S. government was complicit in, at worst directly involved. In a 2009 Associated Press report the Deputy Foreign Minister under Zelaya accused the U.S. of having involvement, including when the plane carrying Zelaya to exile against his will made a stop at the Soto Cano Base.
Occupying Guantanamo Base in Cuba
Another arm of USSOUTHCOM is the illegally occupied U.S. base in Guantanamo, Cuba. February 23, 2018, marked 115 years since the 120 square kilometres of Cuban territory was seized by the U.S., making it the oldest U.S. foreign base. While it retains use as a naval base, it is primarily, and infamously, used as an off-shore prison. On January 30th, 2018, U.S. President Trump signed an executive order to keep Guantanamo Bay prison open. The notorious prison, where the U.S. arbitrarily detains and tortures people, denying them of legal and human rights, has held close to 800 people under the guise of the U.S. so-called “war on terror.” The executive order signed by Trump is in line with statements that he made as a presidential candidate regarding Guantanamo Bay prison, that he would “load it up with some bad dudes.” While justice-minded people around the world have demanded the closure of the U.S. prison at Guantanamo, the Cuban people and government have also demanded the return of their illegally occupied territory. The occupation of Cuban territory is economically detrimental to Cuba and denies the full access to their strategic bay. As well, the U.S. continues to impose a cruel blockade on Cuba for over 55 years now and engages in subversive covert and overt actions against the sovereignty of Cuba. The fact that the U.S., a hostile force, is operating a military base on occupied Cuban territory presents a significant military threat to Cuba!
Military Threat to Venezuela
The U.S. has been steadily expanding its foothold in Latin America beyond the bases in Honduras and Cuba. In 2008 the Colombian government had agreed to grant U.S. access to seven bases, but this was struck down by Colombia’s constitutional court in 2010. However, through previous agreements, the U.S. military still can have a presence of up to 1,400 U.S. troops in Colombia. U.S. foreign military presence also takes place through military exercises. In September 2018 Colombia hosted the 11-country UNITAS Pacific multinational maritime exercise, which included U.S. forces. U.S. military operations in Colombia are particularly threatening to Venezuela, which borders Colombia. In the last 20 years, the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela has put the interests of the people of Venezuela first, improving the quality of life for Venezuelans. More than 2.7 million Venezuelans have become literate, and over 2 million homes have been given to low-income Venezuelans. In 2015 the United Nations announced that Venezuela had reduced malnutrition by 50%! Despite these and many other advances, the U.S. has led an economic war of sanctions on Venezuela and supports Venezuela’s right-wing violent opposition. Dangerous statements from U.S. President Trump have included that military intervention in Venezuela is an option that the U.S. "certainly could pursue” and that “we have many options for Venezuela including a possible military option.” With U.S. military operating in neighbouring Colombia and the U.S. participating in military exercises near Venezuela’s coast, the threat of U.S. intervention in Venezuela could not be closer.
The Middle East
In the Middle East (or “USCENTCOM” as per U.S. Department of Defense), the U.S. has gone another step from having military bases in the region to the full-on occupation. For the last 17 years, Afghanistan has been under U.S.-led occupation with the help of NATO, and Iraq has now been occupied by the U.S. for over 15 years. In both of these countries, justifications of fighting “the war on terror” and promises of liberation have resulted in the self-determination of the Afghan and Iraqi people being denied under ongoing foreign occupation. Quality of life from education to healthcare has decreased, and poverty and unemployment have increased. In Afghanistan, 2018 has been the record highest year for civilian deaths, according to the UN. In Iraq, over 1 million Iraqis have been killed as a result of the war, according to British polling group Opinion Research Business. The U.S. has also been conducting a brutal war in Syria for the past seven years, which first consisted of arming, funding and directing so-called “moderate rebels” in Syria from their bases in the region, including in Jordan.
Since Iran’s 1979 revolution threw U.S. imperialism out of the country, the U.S. has been manoeuvring to regain control of Iran, at the expense of Iran’s independence and sovereignty. One can look at the map around Iran to see how U.S. foreign bases are closing in around Iran. The U.S. occupied Iraq and Afghanistan border the east and west of Iran, and Bahrain with U.S. naval and air forces are opposite Iran’s southern coast. Additionally, the U.S. has crippling sanctions against Iran, which have been reinstated and increased under U.S. President Trump. U.S. threats of intervention in Iran are no joke, as this field of war surrounds Iran.
Japan, China and North Korea
Looking to the Asia-Pacific region, this is what the U.S. Department of Defence calls “USINDOPACOM.” The U.S. has carried out their provocations and threats against North Korea with about 28,500 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea. The majority of troops in the region are stationed in Japan, with about 50,000 U.S. soldiers in the country. 73.9% of U.S. bases in Japan are in the small but strategic southern island of Okinawa, close to the Korean peninsula. For the people of Okinawa, Japan, the U.S. militarily presence is a very real danger to their day to day lives, and strikes against their self-determination as the U.S operates on their land with impunity. According to local police statistics in Okinawa, 741 serious crimes involving U.S. military personnel or civilian employees of the U.S. forces or their relatives were investigated between 1972 to the end of 2015. There were 574 convictions, including 129 for rape, 394 cases of burglary and 26 murders. These include the 1995 gang rape of a 12-year old Okinawa girl by three U.S. service personnel, and more recently in 2016 the rape and murder of a 20-year old Okinawa woman by a U.S. Army base worker.
Finally, USEUCOM operates in Europe as well as Israel and as already noted, serves as a launching pad for military operations in Africa. The USEUCOM’s prime goal is stated on the USEUCOM website, as “deterring Russia.” The defensive language doesn’t reflect the truth when it is U.S. and NATO bases, military exercises and weapons being built up on the borders with Russia. The U.S. is engaging in provocations against Russia! Although over 60,000 U.S. troops are operating in the region, the most being in around 30 bases in Germany, the U.S. relies on working within NATO. With this great division of labour being shared among the 29 NATO member countries, the U.S. is better able to stretch its own forces and imperialist ambitions. This has been the case when NATO took over the occupation of Afghanistan, freeing the U.S. up to focus on their war in Iraq. This was also the case when NATO took over the war against Libya.
U.S. Military Basis and Destruction of Environment
The U.S. government also disregards the environment while setting up their foreign military bases. As of 1992, the U.S. Army had identified more than 350 contaminated sites at its facilities in Germany and found that polluted wastes from these facilities had "begun to threaten the health of thousands of U.S. and German citizens” as documented by Michael Satchell in the 1992 report “The Mess We've Left Behind.” While Germany has more leverage to get the U.S. to clean up, the same is not true for many poor and oppressed countries. According to an Institute for Policy Studies report in 2005, in Vieques, Puerto Rico studies have found high rates of cadmium, lead, mercury, uranium, and other contaminants present in the soil, food chain, and human bodies of island residents due to U.S. military bases. Vieques residents have elevated rates of disease, including a 26.9% higher incidence of cancer than other Puerto Ricans. In Panama, the U.S. military left behind more than 100,000 pieces of unexploded ordnance on firing ranges in the fast-growing canal area, despite a Canal Treaty provision for removing such dangers. In Okinawa, Japan, environmentalists say the construction of two aircraft runways as part of a base relocation plan on will destroy the critical feeding grounds and habitat of the manatee-like dugong animal.
Coming back to the U.S. itself, another question is the cost of operating 800 – 1000 foreign military bases? Most U.S. taxpayers probably don’t know they are paying around $100 billion a year for the U.S. to operate all of these foreign bases, according to a 2016 report by The Economist. One must consider the astronomical cost while thinking how 12.2% of adults in the U.S. don’t have healthcare, or how U.S. students face $1.5 trillion in outstanding student loans. Just think of how all of this money that is going into war and the building of military infrastructure, when it could be used to better the lives of people in the United States.
No to U.S. Foreign Military Bases! No to NATO!
The list goes on and on, but it is a global movement that is necessary to bring an end to U.S. military bases worldwide. On February 23, 2018, a Global Day of Action was called by the Coalition Against U.S. Foreign Military Bases. Actions were held around the world, including here in Vancouver, Canada. With the upcoming International Conference Against U.S./NATO Military Bases in Dublin, Ireland this will be an important chance for worldwide coordination and collaboration to build a strong, united and effective movement against the U.S. as well as NATO foreign military bases.
Worldwide action can and will shed light on the wide net of U.S. foreign military bases, and worldwide action will bring an end to these bases and an end to U.S. military adventurism around the world.
Follow Janine on Twitter: @janinesolanki
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