BASES OF EMPIRE: The Global Spread Of US Military And Intelligence Bases

Peace Researcher 37 – November 2008

           

-     Cora Fabros

 

Article prepared for Cora’s speaking tour of New Zealand in July 2008, sponsored by the Anti-Bases Campaign.

 

 

 

Map courtesy of www.fas.org

 

Introduction

 

The United States is the world's remaining superpower. By the end of the 20th Century, it had been struck hard by the global crisis of overproduction and by financial crisis of unprecedented proportions. The Bush regime launched its wars of aggression, in Afghanistan and Iraq, to acquire sources and supply routes of oil and other raw materials, markets, fields of investment and spheres of influence. History will tell us how the United States committed far worse acts of terrorism than those of September 11, 2001 in carrying out their continuing global War on Terror against the people of the world. The US does everything to maintain its superpower status through its high technology and high tech weaponry.  Its history will indicate how it acquired its military bases as spoils of wars throughout the world to protect its own economic and political interests.

 

US Military Overseas Deployment, Bases And Access

 

The US has the highest military expenditures in the world. It spent over 3.7% of its gross domestic production on its military ($US478.2 billion) in 2000.This is half of the $US1 trillion of military expenditures worldwide, more than double the budget of the European Union combined ($US217 billion) and nearly five times larger than the budget of China $US80 billion (2005 estimate). [1] There are 386,000 troops or 27% of all US military personnel deployed outside US territory. The US maintains a military presence in more than 155 countries and territories (30 of which have 100 or more US servicemen and 14 with more than 1,000). [2] Under the new Unified Command Plan instituted in 2002, the US has five geographical commands to cover and direct the US military forces overseas: the EUCOM for Europe, CENTCOM for the Middle East, PACOM for Asia-Pacific, SOUTHCOM for Latin America, and NORTHCOM for North America. The STRATCOM or the US Strategic Command covers space and missile early warning systems. [3] The various commands supervise and are responsible for military relationships with countries in their respective regions in areas of security cooperation and military coordination. The commands also ensure interoperability of existing military and defence alliances with allies overseas. Recently, the African Command (AFRICOM) for Africa has been established, further strengthening the US influence in that part of the world

 

The US maintains the most extensive foreign basing structure in the world. The US Department of Defense itself acknowledged the extent of their domestic bases assets in 2005 (buildings, structures and utilities): more than half a million facilities (571,900) on more than 3,740 sites occupying nearly 30 million acres (over 12 million hectares). Overseas (in territories and foreign soil), there are 117,951 facilities occupying 318,819 hectares. These are in 769 sites in 39 foreign locations and seven US territories [4] not including those in Iraq and Afghanistan.

 

For the period covering 2003-2005, an average of around 390,000 overseas US troops were deployed around the world. This number was double that of 1993-2002, when overseas troops were lowest, and were at levels similar to those of 1970-1992. [2] Clark Air Base in the Philippines, Bitburg Air Base in Germany and Howard Air Force Base in Panama are examples of bases that were closed during the early 1990s together with the reduction of around 300,000 military personnel. [5] For 2003-2005, the US negotiated 20 treaties and/or agreements covering military deployment and personnel through Status of Forces agreements (SOFA), Access and Cross-Servicing agreements (ACSA) and/or Mutual Logistics Support agreements (MLSA), collectively known as S/A/M agreements.

 

We note that in 1993-2002 when US troop deployments were reduced, there were 62 such treaties/agreements that were newly signed between the US and other countries, either by adding on access and cross-servicing and status of forces to existing agreements or by signing new pacts. In all, the US has military, logistics and status agreements with at least 129 countries as of 2005. [6] More and more of the S/A/M agreements are being signed or negotiated by the US.

 

Table I. Access And Status Of Forces Treaties By The US And Historical Deployment Of The US Military

 

1945-1970

1971-1992

1993-2002

2003-2005

SOFA/ACSA/MLSA

[S/A/M] Total treaties in force: 129

 

23

 

24

 

62

 

20

Overseas military

Deployment

(yearly average)

752,686

462,249

212,277

389,026

 

Overseas Bases

(average) (582-1139)

886

 

830

800

769

 

Data collated from [3],[4] and [6]

 

Two things are noteworthy from Table 1: the reduction of US overseas military deployments during 1993-2002 and the closure of some of its bases were offset by the increased access due to the S/A/M treaties negotiated during that same period. More of these access and status of forces agreements or treaties are being negotiated by the US with other host or potential host countries. The number of troops stationed overseas has been reduced by more frequent but shorter deployments of troops. Furthermore, advances in transportation, communications and military technology have maintained the productivity and effectiveness of overseas bases despite the relative reduction in numbers.

 

The relative increase in troop deployments in 2003-2005 is due to the nearly 150,000 US troops in the Middle East that are currently engaged in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, and Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq.  The massive introduction of US troops into the Middle East that started during the 1991 Gulf War and the continuing deployment of US troops for the Iraq and Afghanistan occupation spawned new bases in these countries as well as those nearby. This is in line with the Project for the New American Century in which the personnel strength was to be restored to levels anticipated in the “Base Force” outlined by the Bush Administration. [7]

 

Repositioning To Meet “21st Century” Realities

 

In the same document, the need to reposition US forces to respond to “21st Century” strategic realities was enunciated by shifting permanently-based forces to Southeast Europe and Southeast Asia reflecting strategic concerns of the US in these areas. Geographically, Europe remains the largest concentration of main operating bases outside the United States mainland. In 2004, European bases hosted over 116,000 troops, their 125,000 dependents, and 45,000 support personnel, plus their dependents. The key countries are Germany with air and ground troops, the UK with air and naval personnel, Italy with air and naval bases and Turkey with air bases. US documents indicate a planned force reduction to 60,000 and a shift to lighter ground forces and adding Romanian and Bulgarian bases to US force posture (in 2005, US troops in the European Command numbered around 98,000).

 

In Asia, there are over 67,000 overseas troops in around 225 bases in Japan, South Korea and Indonesia. There are forces in Thailand, access agreements with Singapore and military exercises in actual combat zones in the southern Philippines. Guam remains the most important place outside the US mainland where new air, naval and ground facilities are being slated to be added.  Guam is also set to receive redeployments of 7,000 Marines from Japan (Okinawa) while South Korea also faces significant redeployments and consolidations.

 

Using China as a pretext, US, as well as Taiwanese, military officials are pushing for a theatre missile defence (TMD) system installation in Taiwan as part of the US dual encirclement and engagement policy towards China. The absence of a US military base or deployment in Taiwan does not deter large arms sales to Taiwan. US arms sales to Taiwan have been significant at $US71 billion for 1999-2005 alone, third after Japan and South Korea. In his confirmation hearing to become Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates said: "We should maintain our capabilities to resist China's use of force or coercion against Taiwan and assist Taipei in maintaining its self-defence”. Regular defence dialogues between defence officials of Taiwan and the US are also held regularly.

 

In the Middle East, bases in Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen and Oman in the south; in Lebanon, and Turkey in the north; and Pakistan and Afghanistan in the east form a partial ring around oil rich countries such as Saudi Arabia and Iraq and the critical sea lanes in the Persian Gulf. The Middle East has the largest number of US troop deployments with approximately 218,000 (but frequently changing). There are a number of bases in Iraq in the ongoing effort to conduct “stability operations” that serve as bases of power projection against Iran and Syria. There are also new bases in Afghanistan, which flank western China and provide control and protection of pipelines from the Caspian Sea basin through Central Asia. This economic aspect underlies the increasing importance of the bases in Central Asia in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Pakistan where around 70% of the world's oil reserves and natural gas lie. In Iraq in 2005, the US military maintained 106 forward operating bases with 14 "enduring" bases. There were around 40 large bases (2005) and 110 small to medium bases in Iraq. The reduction of base infrastructure brought the total number of bases down to around 75 in 2006. [8]

 

In 2006, US troop deployment at sea was about 127,000. Sea-based forces include those aboard ships such as aircraft carriers, destroyers and submarines. These carriers serve as moving centres of projected strength through their strike capabilities. These ships can also contain sea-launched cruise missiles such as the Tomahawk which are part of the existing triad of strategic nuclear force projection.  In Asia, the US Third Fleet covers the Eastern and Central Pacific while the Seventh Fleet based at Yokosuka covers the length of the Western Pacific to the Indian Ocean. There are around 35 submarines (nine SSBN, two SSGN, 24 SSN) deployed in the region, some of which are capable of launching submarine-launched Trident and Poseidon ballistic missiles. SSBN – Ship Submersible Ballistic missile Nuclear powered. SSGN – Ship Submersible Guided missile Nuclear powered. SSN – Ship Submersible Nuclear powered. Ed.

Through the US Navy Sea Power 21 [7a] and Marine Corps Strategy 21, the US Navy introduces new concepts of maritime prepositioning: high speed sea lift, new amphibious capabilities of Marine Corps and training for littoral warfare in Western Pacific.  It has three prongs according to Sea Power 21:

·         Sea Strike - Projecting Precise and Persistent Offensive Power. Expanded power projection that employs networked sensors, combat systems, and warriors to amplify the offensive impact of sea based forces; 

·         Sea Shield - Projecting Global Defensive Assurance. Provided by extended homeland defence, sustained access to littoral [coastal] zones and the projection of defensive power deep over land;

·         Sea Basing - Projecting Joint Operational Independence and support for joint forces provided by networked mobile, and secure sovereign platforms operating in maritime domain.

 

 

 

The US Quadrennial Defense Review Report in 2001 [9] called for an increased naval presence in the Pacific as well as prepositioned equipment and contingency basing assets in the Persian Gulf and Indian Ocean. These are in four forward regions: Europe, Northeast Asia, the East Asian Littoral regions and the Middle East-Southwest Asia. [10] Overseas base structures and facilities are now classified into three types: Main Operating Bases (MOB), Forward Operating Locations (FOL), and Cooperative Security Locations (CSL).

 

Main operating bases (MOB) are US bases with permanently stationed forces with their families. Rearrangement of forces in European and Asian MOBs such as Ramstein (Germany) will result in relative force reductions: 65,000 troops are planned to be removed from Europe and one brigade from South Korea. These forces are to be deployed to other locations where they are needed. Forward operating bases or locations (FOB/FOL) include the sprawling Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo and Manas in Kyrgyzstan as well as the vast Grafenwoehr/Vilseck/Hohenfels complex in Germany. These FOL are bases with pre-positioned equipment and small military support groups.

 

Cooperative security locations or CSLs are facilities occupied only for training, exercises and other military interactions (e.g., rest and recreation activities) with regional partner countries. Examples of these locations are those where joint Balikatan (Shoulder to Shoulder) exercises in the Philippines and Cobra Gold in Thailand are usually held. New CSLs are being developed in Africa, South Central Asia and East Asia that do not require permanent basing structures such as the carrier pier in Singapore. Recent US military aggression in Iraq, Afghanistan and in the Balkans has brought about new military bases and control over oil resources.  But over the long term the US aims to increase its reach while keeping the profile of its intervention small. This is evident in the problems highlighted by the report of the 2006 Iraq Study Group. [11]

 

This is but a recipe for neo-colonialism: intervention or direct aggression in a country, rapid stabilisation of the state or area using the force required; a shift to a minimum US military presence as rapidly as possible; rapid creation and training of effective local security and intelligence forces; reduction of forces to a required minimum to encourage “sustained reform”. However, “…the more that local government and security forces are seen as proxies or subordinates of the US, the more difficult it will be for them to establish legitimacy. [12]

 

As Khair al-Din Hasib, the "father" of pan-Arab nationalism, stated: "Whenever, wherever there is occupation, there will be resistance". The US has relearned this the hard way in Iraq with now almost 5,000 American servicemen dead, about 40,000 officially wounded and more than half a million civilians killed. Direct occupation in Iraq for the US has had many serious consequences. With the escalation of resistance, the casualty figures will increase. It has been recommended by the 2006 Iraq Study Group Report that the United States should “…provide additional political, economic, and military support for Afghanistan, including resources that might become available as combat forces are moved out of Iraq” and that “the primary mission of US forces in Iraq should evolve to one of supporting the Iraqi Army”. [12] This shift is not surprising because the US failed in stabilising the region despite the large number of troop deployments during the continuing occupation of Iraq. It failed miserably to establish the legitimacy of its local partner state and army. 

 

The Role Of US Bases And Their Impact On People’s Lives And Environment

 

“The presence of American forces overseas is one of the most profound symbols of the US commitments to allies and friends. Through our willingness to use force in our own defence and in defence of others, the United States demonstrates its resolve to maintain a balance of power that favours freedom. To contend with uncertainty and to meet the many security challenges we face, the United States will require bases and stations within and beyond Western Europe and Northeast Asia, as well as temporary access arrangements for the long-distance deployment of US forces” George Bush, National Security Strategy, 2002.

 

US overseas military bases reflect the need for the United States to project a visible and psychological presence and commitment to a country or region. US bases are stark reminders and real sources of control over a nation without necessitating formal political control over its territorial sovereignty. It can be likened to a loaded gun pointed at the government and peoples of its host country. Its mere presence intimidates and gives coercive power for the US to gain concessions from the host and allows it to interfere, in most cases with impunity, in internal affairs, commit crimes and violence on local people, and wreak grave social costs and environmental destruction.

 

US military bases serve as surveillance and data centres. These bases, such as those within the NSA ECHELON network [13], provide intelligence gathering functions for the US. The data collected from these activities are not necessarily limited to those with military use but also extends to economic surveillance as well. [14] In terms of surveillance and data centres – we see this as a vital function taken on by host countries like the Philippines (until the US bases were booted out in 1992 after almost a century of military occupation).  Currently, major US military facilities in Japan and Okinawa, in Guam and in Australia take on this function of surveillance and data gathering. Which makes me ask the question – how much of the surveillance and data gathering work done at Waihopai as well as at Tangimoana contribute to this global surveillance and data gathering work for the United States? While they are technically New Zealand facilities, as the New Zealand and the United States governments have consistently claimed, one can’t help but ask the question how much of their work contributes to US capability and military strength in its global posturing. These are new issues I have encountered on my speaking tour of New Zealand with the Anti-Bases Campaign. It would be very interesting and useful to know the truth behind these facilities in New Zealand and how they contribute to the United States’ wars of aggression in the Middle East and its expanding military presence in Asia and the Pacific. [15] [16]

 

US bases also serve as locations for prepositioning supplies. Even before September 11, 2001, in the “Project for a New American Century” and in the 2001 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR2001), the Pentagon was reconfiguring its forces to become smaller, more flexible, and better able to respond to sudden events, thus necessitating prepositioned supplies and war materiel. In situations lacking established bases, the US has entered into more than 80 bilateral agreements since 1992 to provide it with a range of access and status of forces agreements that it can call on depending on the need of the situation. In addition, through its use of advanced military technology, these agreements allow the US to apply greater amounts of military force over greater distances in shorter periods of time. The 2004 National Military Strategy [17] outlines how expanded bases can increase the ability of the US military to rapidly deploy, employ, sustain and redeploy capabilities in geographically separated and environmentally diverse regions. These bases serve as launch pads for the pre-emptive strikes including nuclear attack, “peace-enforcement” and “constabulary” functions that the QDR 2001 has called for.

 

US bases also serve as sites for training & munitions testing.  US Navy weapons testing was carried out in Vieques, Puerto Rico, for over 60 years (ended in 2003) and included testing for operations in the Persian Gulf region. Vieques also hosted a US Navy listening post for underwater tracking of submarines and an electronic warfare range for testing new weapons systems. Crow Valley in Clark Air Base in the Philippines was used as a practice bombing site before the removal of the bases in 1992.

 

US bases provide medical and R & R facilities (rest and recreation) inside or around the bases for troops. These auxiliary functions are almost always a source of serious social problems arising from the interaction of US troops with the local population. Most of the support services in these bases have been subcontracted to private firms such as Kellogg, Brown & Root, DynCorp, and the Vinnell Corporation thus making the bases a lucrative area for service providers whose owners can be traced to favoured US corporations. Most of the Iraq overseas contract workers recruited post-2003 are stationed on US bases to provide security, food, cleaning and other services. However, these civilian contractors are not immune to the dangers created by the US occupation of Iraq.

 

US military presence in bases or in exercises and training is usually seen as a precursor to intervention and war. In East Africa, where around 30 US National Guard soldiers from Guam have been training Ethiopian commandos in supposed “anti-terrorism” exercises, tensions flared up over a long standing border dispute with Somalia. It is not an accident that the US has been conducting this training near the border and that the Islamic Somali leadership has resisted this presence.

 

US bases are bases for counter-insurgency in the host country and surrounding regions. So-called “stability operations” are venues for political and military intervention in domestic affairs and excuses for US military presence. In performing “peace-enforcement” and “constabulary” functions, such as that in Iraq, the US has shown its willingness to directly intervene to allow US companies and firms free rein in the plunder of Iraq's resources. In Mindanao, southern Philippines, the US military has provided training, war materiel, logistic support and “advice” to Special Forces of the Armed Forces of the Philippines as part of its War on Terror. 

 

The forward positioning of US bases serves as forward tripwires, guaranteeing timely and rapid US intervention in a crisis situation as in the case of the function of US bases in the Korean peninsula. That the US calls the Philippines its “second front in the War on Terror” is not an accident.  The US, through its periodic and overlapping joint exercises with the Philippine military, is able to strengthen its position in the Philippines for the purpose of ensuring its control over oil resources in Southeast Asia.

 

US bases serve as launching pads for US aggression. Clark Air Force Base, Subic Naval Base and other military installations in the Philippines were used for launching wars of intervention from the 1950s until 1991. Clark was used to send bombing missions during the Korean War of 1950-1953 and in the bombing of Sumatra during a rebellion by the Indonesian army in 1958. Clark also figured in the deployment of US forces in the area of the Taiwan Strait islands of Quemoy and Matsu, which were militarily disputed by Taiwan and China. From 1955-1986, US military bases in the Philippines were used frequently for bombing missions in the wars, the training and deployment of US troops, and as communication links as well as for rest and recreation of tired US servicemen.

 

US bases serve to secure sea-lanes, oil pipelines and other economic interests of the US. To provide energy security, the US surrounds oil rich countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Kuwait with a US military presence through direct basing or access agreements in neighbouring countries. In the guise of counter-narcotics to straddle Venezuela, Bolivia and other Latin American oil rich countries, the US launched Plan Colombia and other exercises. It has occupied Afghanistan to secure pipelines from Central Asia. It has positioned itself in Singapore and has established a US base within a Philippine military base (Zamboanga), and consistently maintained US troops in the Philippines through military exercises to protect the sea lanes through which nearly 50% of world trade passes. Military deployment under the US war on terrorism through direct basing and/or access agreements ensures continuing expansion of the US Empire and protection of its political and economic interests.

 

In terms of social cost of US military bases and presence, violation of national sovereignty and territorial integrity of the host country has the greatest impact. The arrival of US forces invariably involves some form of military intervention including outright aggression, occupation and colonisation. This is aggravated by the US policy and practice of shielding its troops from criminal prosecution under the host’s judicial processes and system, oftentimes under the legal cover contained in access and status of forces agreements.

 

Rapes, Murders, Pollution

 

After Okinawa was annexed to Japan, crimes involving US military and civilian personnel totalled nearly 5,000 by the year 2000, including twelve murder cases and 110 rape cases. In 1995, the rape of a 12-year-old child in Okinawa triggered nationwide protests against the bases. In Korea, there were around 100,000 criminal cases involving US soldiers over the last 50 years with none convicted under Korean law.  In the Philippines, in the period from December 1985 to December 1986, 258 cases were filed against American servicemen in Olongapo courts where eventually 168 were dismissed, three were archived and one resulted in acquittal. For the same period in Angeles City, of 43 criminal cases three were dismissed while nine were classified as “pending arrest” since the accused were flown by US base authorities to another country. [18] Olongapo and Angeles were the cities which hosted the Subic Bay Naval Base and Clark Air Force Base, respectively. Ed.

 

In the Philippines, there is a general outrage over the transfer from Philippine custody to the US Embassy, in direct contravention of the orders of a Philippine court, of a convicted US serviceman who raped a Filipina in 2005. The US “blackmailed” the Philippine government by suspending the Balikatan joint war exercises over the custody issue. The US immediately announced the resumption of the war exercises when the Philippine government relented, citing the Visiting Forces Agreement.

 

Around US bases, the development of an “entertainment” and “service” industry prompted by the presence of US troops leads to a rise in the number of sex workers who are exposed to venereal disease, AIDS and abuse by US servicemen. Young girls have been subjected to sexual battering. In the Philippines, one such girl died when a vibrator wielded by a US GI broke off and left a part of the vibrator inside her body. Around 17,000 women were prostituted in bars and nightclubs around Olongapo City alone during the long tenure of the US military base in Subic. The women of the Philippines have been forced to “entertain” US troops for four decades. These same “gentlemen's bars” exist in most major overseas bases. In other areas where the US military "practiced" its war games, sexual assaults were par for the course. In 2001, five young girls and one woman were gang raped by US soldiers in the Australian towns of Darwin, Hobart, and Perth. [19]

 

Environmental damage due to military activities has detrimental effects on the surrounding residential areas. The Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines, through the conduct of numerous studies and investigations, is known to have toxic PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) that were left in corroding power transformers after 1991. This pollution has been revealed as the probable cause of many of the surrounding population's illnesses.  In Subic, Filipino workers at the former base were forced to handle toxic waste, including burying it, and swimming through sewage to unclog pipes. Subsequent deaths of these workers and children near the area have called attention to the effects of these wastes. Recent Study by KALIKASAN-People's Network for the Environment revealed that 800 out of 4,000 residents near Subic Base are afflicted with asbestosis. Women have experienced spontaneous abortion and increased rates of childhood leukaemia, and incidence of morbidity and mortality have risen. The two former military bases contain high levels of heavy metals (such as lead) and other pollutants.  While the US government acknowledged contamination in the former bases in 1992, the US has failed to clean up or rehabilitate the bases and the communities around them. [20] In South Korea, the Ministry of Environment has discovered soil and water contaminated with various nuclear wastes in 14 of 15 former US military camps. The US government refused to compensate the people of the Philippines for the estimated $US100, 000, 000 cost for the clean-up.

 

In all of the US military facilities in the Asia and Pacific region, military pollution is a common problem. In most cases, the levels of toxic contamination are in the Superfund category (defined by the US Environmental Protection Agency for seriously contaminated domestic US sites). In most cases, the United States denies any responsibility for the cleanup and continues to deprive victims of toxic contamination of desperately needed treatment, care and compensation.

 

US war exercises have killed a number of civilians, mostly children. In the August 2000 Flash Piston exercise in Cebu, US Navy SEALs (Sea, Air, Land Special Forces) and their Philippine Navy counterparts held a secret exercise in the former Atlas Mine at Toledo where they left an unexploded rocket launched grenade. It blew up when local kids were playing with it, killing two and injuring another. In March 2000, three US sailors were arrested and charged with bashing up a Cebu City taxi driver in a dispute over his fare. War games in Central Luzon including the Crow Valley gunnery range have displaced several indigenous Aeta communities.

 

US servicemen also mistakenly fire on civilians around bases. In the past, there had been several accounts of US servicemen shooting to death a Filipino child by mistaking him for “a wild pig”. In Iraq in 2005, US soldiers fired on a civilian vehicle they feared might hold a suicide bomber, killing at least two adults and a child. On July 25, 2002, Philippine newspapers reported the shooting of an unarmed Filipino civilian Buyong Isnijal by a US soldier during a raid of Isnijal’s house. The US military denied the allegation despite the testimony of the victim’s wife. Since the 1940s, the Puerto Rican island of Vieques, two thirds of which was seized by the US Navy for US military purposes, was used for target practice for munitions. People in Puerto Rico protested the Navy exercises saying that the explosions were killing the fish on which local people depended to survive.  Local and international opposition finally succeeded in ending the military occupation of Vieques in 2003. The atrocities committed by US forces on people, often women and youths, and environment, have ignited the people’s rage against the continued foreign presence. The calls for their immediate pull out and subsequent punishment for the crimes they have committed add to the growing global campaign to stop US wars of aggression, occupation and military intervention.

 

US Bases In The Asia Pacific Region

 

“The presence of 100,000 US military personnel is not arbitrary—it represents the formidable capabilities of the US Eighth Army and Seventh Air Force in Korea, III Marine Expeditionary Force and Fifth Air Force in Japan, and the US Seventh Fleet, all focused on shaping, responding and preparing as necessary to achieve security and stability in the region.” [21] These forces in the Asia Pacific region are mainly in these positions: Japanese bases which maintain the US Fifth Air Force, including 18th Wing, 35th Fighter Wing and 374th Airlift Wing; the Navy Seventh Fleet, including USS Kitty Hawk Carrier Battle Group (which was replaced  by the US nuclear aircraft carrier USS George Washington on September 25, 2008); USS Belleau Wood Amphibious Ready Group; III Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF); Ninth Theater Area Army Command (TAACOM); and First USA Special Forces Battalion. South Korea hosts the US Seventh Air Force, including the Eighth and the 51st Fighter Wings, and the Eighth Army, including the Second Infantry Division.

 

In addition to the forces above, visiting forces allow additional routine combined exercises and training, and ship visits. Changi Naval Station in Singapore accommodates US naval combatants and includes a pier which can accommodate US aircraft carriers. Thailand is an important refuelling and transit point for operations in the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Gulf. Australia has long provided key access to facilities for US unilateral and combined exercises. The US makes 60-80 port calls per year to Hong Kong for minor maintenance and repair of transiting ships. Access agreements have become increasingly important as US forces and bases have been reconfigured and plans to downsize its forces in the region are underway.

 

In South Korea, Japan, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, and Australia, access to key host nation facilities, ports and airfields are critical to the US security objectives in the Asia-Pacific. Access agreements such as Mutual Logistics Support Agreements and Acquisition Cross-Servicing Agreements make available the use of host nation resources to support day-to-day and future operational requirements. They also enable joint training and exercises, “constabulary” operations, humanitarian and disaster relief operations. These provide the US access to basing and infrastructure necessary for its force projection without the need for a permanent presence. The US offers these countries money to upgrade and maintain infrastructure, bases and airfields. In addition, the US spent $US265.7 million for 2001-2004 in training 4,000 Indonesian, 1,200 Filipino, and 700 Thai police. Taiwan is also one of the region's largest weapons buyers from the US while the Philippines has been its largest recipient of military aid.

 

Under its global War on Terror, the Bush Administration deployed over 1,200 troops, including 150 US Special Forces, to the southern Philippines to advise the Philippine military in their pursuit of the Abu Sayyaf Group.  It also increased intelligence sharing operations, restarted military to military relations with Indonesia and provided or requested from the US Congress over $US1 billion in aid to Indonesia and the Philippines. [22]

 

Guam: The New Key Hub For Pacific Power Projection

 

There are important developments in the region that we need to keep a close watch on. The Pacific island of Guam is being transformed into a key hub for American maritime power in the western Pacific. The strategic importance of Guam to Washington's long-term presence in East Asia was a point hammered home by US Defense Secretary Robert Gates in Singapore recently. Gates' speech to the Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual gathering of Asian defence ministers and military chiefs, was his most complete exposition of future US defence strategy in the region since he took over from Donald Rumsfeld at the Pentagon in early 2007. [23]

 

The US was not about to begin a long, slow, historic withdrawal from the region. Instead the US Defense Secretary outlined the concept of the US as a 'resident power' in addition to its longstanding roles as an ally, partner, friend and routine offshore presence. Critical to its long term focus as a resident power will be Guam, the site of the largest US military build-up in the Mariana Islands since World War II. As the Pentagon chief pointed out, sovereign US territory in the western Pacific stretches all the way from the Aleutian Islands to Guam. For US defence planners aiming for a mobile, more flexible US global military posture across the globe, Guam is an ideal staging post. And for close allies of the US in the western Pacific, led by Japan and Australia, Guam promises to become a vital facility as it hosts exercises and trains with allied air and naval forces.

 

Secretary Gates also made a flying visit to Guam, 6, 000km west of Hawaii and 2, 000km southeast of Japan, to look at planned defence infrastructure. Acquired from Spain in 1898 following the Spanish-American War, Guam became a refuelling station for the US Navy. Guam has long been an important logistics base. Over the next six years the Pentagon will spend billions on a new port capable of berthing a nuclear powered aircraft carrier, and will build air bases, schools, hospitals and housing for US military personnel and their families. Guam's Andersen Air Base will soon be home to a detachment of unmanned, long-range Global Hawk surveillance aircraft able to track Chinese warships and submarines emerging from their home ports into the Pacific Ocean or the South China Sea.

 

The US Air Force's newest fighter, the F-22 Raptor, will also be periodically flying on exercises from the island. By 2014 Guam will receive about 8, 000 US Marines who will transfer from their present base in Okinawa, the Japanese Government helping pay the $US10 billion-plus relocation costs. With a population of about 170,000 Guam is already home to 12,000 US military personnel and the heavy build-up promises to put further strain on local communities. Its naval base hosts three attack submarines and the Air Force rotates its strategic bombers through Guam. [24]

 

As the island's new facilities take shape in coming years, they will be increasingly multilateral in orientation, with training opportunities and possible pre-positioning of assets. Clearly, a message designed to convey a reassurance to the US's close allies in East Asia that talk of the gradual diminution of the US's military posture in the face of a renascent China was misplaced. The Defense Secretary argues forcefully Washington's presence has been an essential element in assisting Asia's economic revival, “opening doors, protecting and preserving common spaces on the high seas, in space and more and more in the cyber world”. “This presence has offered other nations the crucial element of choice and enabled their entry into a globalised international society,” he said. “As someone who has served seven US Presidents, I want to convey to you with confidence that any future US Administration's Asia security policy is going to be grounded in the fact that the United States remains a nation with strong and enduring interests in the region, interests that will endure no matter which political party occupies the White House next year”. Gates went on to say that any speculation in the region about the US losing interest in Asia struck him as “preposterous or disingenuous, or both”.  He stressed US military ties with East Asia, even with its operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, were more constructive than at any time in US history.

 

New Spybase In Australia

 

In Australasia a very significant new initiative is the construction of a new top secret US military communications base in Western Australia. [25]   Australian Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon revealed recently that work would begin in July or August of 2008 on a satellite ground station for the US Mobile Users Objective System, a new satellite communications system being deployed by the US Navy. The new US defence facility will be located adjacent to the existing Australian satellite signals intelligence facility at Geraldton, Western Australia (the existing spy base is functionally equivalent to New Zealand’s Waihopai station and both are key facilities in the US Echelon global intelligence system). The base will be linked to a network of communications satellites that will provide frontline US military units with instant access to high grade intelligence and tactical information. Once operational, the new facility will automatically provide communications support for US military operations in Iraq and the Persian Gulf.  Indeed, it will also automatically provide communications support for US military operations in much of the Asia-Pacific region.

Australian defence officials announced late in 2007 that they had finalised an agreement with the US Navy for the new satellite communications centre. Mr Fitzgibbon's confirmation that construction would proceed came shortly after newly elected Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's withdrawal of the bulk of Australian combat troops from Iraq. The new Geraldton facility will be the first major US defence base to be established in Australia since the construction in the 1960s of the Joint Defense Facility at Pine Gap in the Northern Territory and the now closed early warning satellite ground station at Nurrungar in South Australia.

It was also revealed that the US Navy had contracted with Boeing Australia to provide construction services for the new Geraldton base. Boeing Australia already provides operational support for the existing facility at Geraldton, another Australian signals intelligence facility at Shoal Bay near Darwin, the Australian Navy's communication station at North West Cape near Exmouth, and the Defence Communications Network facility at Deakin. About 70 Australian contractors are working on the design of the new Geraldton building and up to 20 United States staff and 100 Australian contractors will be involved in the construction phase. The ground station will comprise three buildings housing sophisticated electronic infrastructure, three 18m satellite dishes and two smaller antennas. Once complete, the base will be fully automated and will require only call-out maintenance support. All costs will be carried by the US.  Informal discussions on the possible location of the facility in Australia began in 2003.

Australian Defence and the US Navy signed a classified memorandum of understanding setting out the governing arrangements for the station in November 2007. The conclusion of a secret memorandum of understanding rather than a formal treaty means the agreement has not been reviewed by Federal Parliament's Joint Standing Committee on Treaties. Mr Fitzgibbon has said the ground station will be operational by 2011.

 

There is also the new Hawaii Regional Security Operations Center complex at the US Naval Computer and Telecommunications Area Master Station Pacific. The $US318 Million, 250,000 square foot complex is the largest construction in Naval Engineering Facility Command and is scheduled for completion in late 2010. The new facility will be used to gather and analyse intelligence from US interest areas, such as the Middle East and South East Asia, allowing high ranking officials to make better tactical decisions.  Because of the tremendous changes in communications technology over the past two decades, coupled with the disturbing social and political dynamics, newer and better ways to process intelligence are needed. [26]

 

People's Resistance To US Military Occupation

 

In the 1960s, in the face of the threat of nuclear annihilation, the dangers of toxic waste and radioactive fallout in a worsening global environmental condition, the US military bases became a target of protests by anti-nuclear and non-proliferation movements and by environmental movements. The intimidation of the local population by the mere presence of US bases and personnel has generated a wide range of responses. Opposition to the bases has been similarly wide ranging from the environmental effects of the bases to crimes against the local population such as murder, rape, indiscriminate shooting, target practice on boys in Clark Air Base and others. The concomitant proliferation of prostitution and the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, drug use and other related vices directly linked to the presence of US military bases has also spawned protests from women's organisations. Many anti-bases action groups have sustained campaigns against the US military presence in their own regions: in Greece, Spain, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, Japan, Okinawa, Australia, Italy, Sardinia, Diego Garcia, Guam, Hawaii, South Korea, Ecuador, Czech Republic, Germany, Ecuador and in other parts of the world (such as New Zealand, where there have been anti-bases protests since the 1960s. Ed).

 

In Iraq, the Iraqi people are proving to the US, as they did to the British in the 1920s, that colonial occupation is no longer profitable. The disaster of the Iraq war directly contributed to the electoral defeat of US Republicans in mid-term congressional elections in 2006 as well as to the issuance of the Iraq Study Group Report which admitted the difficulties the US is facing in its occupation. Similarly, successes in the resistance of the Afghan people through guerrilla warfare has forced the US military to share the burden and responsibility of “peace keeping” with its NATO allies. The government of Hamid Karzai has not effectively stemmed the Taliban nor has it provided for the wellbeing of the Afghan people. Instead it is becoming more and more hated for serving US interests and making life more difficult for the people.

 

Through its military bases and access agreements, the US makes its presence felt in an ever-widening circle driven by its greed for resources and markets. However, as attempts are made to expand this circle, the US faces the resistance and condemnation of oppressed people of the world who continue to develop solidarity to strengthen their continued call for peace and justice. Nations have also stood firm in their assertion of sovereignty and independence against the US Empire’s never ending greed for power and dominance. 

 

No Bases! Network

 

Finally, let me just say a few words on the International Network for the Abolition of Foreign Military Bases or No Bases! Network. Formally launched in Ecuador in March 2007, the No Bases Network pursues a campaign focusing on the global military infrastructure with priority placed on bases of the United States and Europe. Network membership is part of the larger global struggle for peace and justice. It is steadily developing into a global network of predominantly local grassroots groups challenging the global expansion of hundreds of foreign military and intelligence facilities. [27] 

 

A review of recent initiatives and actions has shown us that organising our struggle on a global level has enhanced its effectiveness.  Local campaigners find moral support in the fact that many others around the world struggle for similar goals, facing similar obstacles; campaigners learn from each others’ experiences; and sharing information on specific bases, their functions and their legal status has improved our understanding of the whole network of military bases globally. Value added for the global No Bases! Network is found also in the ability to jointly fundraise, to build a knowledge base and to build international solidarity among fellow civil society campaigns, scholars and political actors.

 

The Network works through:

 

1)       Communication strategies (Website, e-lists, teleconferences, face to face meetings)

2)       Research/Analysis (Global Observatory and outreach to researchers and analysts in the US and other continents working on bases related issues. The Network offers a pool of experts from the field to work with, and a platform for critical researchers to present their work on the Website and during its forums/seminars or roundtable discussions organised nationally or in the regions. 

3)       Outreach to new groups and to new allies

4)       Regional coordination, research and monitoring, strategic alliance building, lobbying and advocacy, public global actions and supporting local struggles. 

5)       Rapid response which may be crucial to win a political battle especially in countries that are for the first time “offered” a military base. Campaigning materials could be made available online, and the networks hope to provide some support for translation and production of campaign materials. Previous experiences show that organising visits and speaking tours of international no-bases campaigners can be very important tools for information exchange, organising, media and strengthening solidarity among network members and supporters. [27]

 

While much of the campaigning against foreign military bases is done on the ground, close to the existing or planned military facilities, the international network will engage in policy dialogues with governments and international institutions in the coming years, to table foreign basing and its effects on local populations at an international political level.  One of the outspoken strategies of the Network is to place the pervasive and expanding network of foreign military facilities and their impacts prominently on the United Nations’ agenda. The No Bases! Network will support and stand in solidarity with those who struggle for the abolition of all foreign military bases and military aggression worldwide.  

 

References And Notes:

 

1. Data from Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, www.sipri.org

2. Tim Kane, “US Troop Deployment Dataset” (March 1, 2006), Center for Data Analysis, The Heritage Foundation.

3. “Facing the Future: Meeting The Threats And Challenges of the 21st Century: Highlights Of The Priorities, Initiatives And Accomplishments of the US Department of Defense, 2001-2004”, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, February 2005.

4. Base Structure Report, 2005, US Department of Defense, 2005.

5. Adam J Herbert, “Presence, Not Permanence”, Air Force Magazine, August 2006.

6. Treaties in Force, US State Department, 2006.

7. “Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategy, Forces And Resources For A New Century”, 2000, in http://www.newamericancentury.org/RebuildingAmericasDefenses.pdf.

7a Sea Power 21   http://www.navy.mil/navydata/cno/proceedings.html.

8. Bases Realignment And Closure Report (BRAC) 2006, US Department of Defense.

9. US Quadrennial Defense Review Report 2001, US Department of Defense.

10. The National Defense Strategy Of The United States of America, US Department of Defense, March 2005.

11. James A. Baker III, Lee Hamilton, et.al, The Iraq Study Group Report, Random House, New York 2006.

12. Steven Metz and Raymond Millen, “Insurgency And Counterinsurgency in the 21st Century: Reconceptualizing Threat And Response”, Strategic Studies Institute, November 2004.

13. Paul Todd and Jonathan Bloch, “Global Intelligence”, Zed Books, London, UK, 2003.

14. Development Of Surveillance Technology And Risk Of Abuse Of Economic Information, European Parliament (Scientific and Technical Options Assessment), December 1999.

15. “Secret Power”, Nicky Hager, Craig Potton Publishing, New Zealand, 1996.

16. Anti-Bases Campaign, New Zealand Website: www.converge.org.nz/abc

17. National Military Strategy, US Department of Defense, 2004

18. Roland G. Simbulan, “A Guide To Nuclear Philippines”, 1988, Manila: IBON Primer Series in “A Century Of Crimes Against The Filipino People”, Attorney. Romeo T Capulong, World Tribunal for Iraq trial in New York City on August 25, 2004

19. GABRIELA Network statement, US TROOPS OUT OF THE PHILIPPINES! NO “SELF-DEFENSE” FOR AGGRESSORS! STOP KILLING FILIPINOS & FILIPINAS (2002).

20. Website: http://www.yonip.com/main/articles/environimpacts.html

21. The United States Security Strategy for the East Asia-Pacific Region 1998, Department of Defense.  Website: http://www.dod.mil/pubs/easr98/

22. Terrorism In Southeast Asia, 2004, CRS Reports for Congress, US Congressional Research Service.

23. Information on Guam is derived from a variety of sources including various clippings from newspapers, online news, alerts from contacts overseas, reports and updates from activist contacts, and information from discussions with anti-bases activists during meetings, forums and conferences. 

24. “The US is building a new permanent aircraft carrier and its name is GUAM”, The Australian, National Security Editor Patrick Walters, June 14, 2008

25. Canberra Times, June 17, 2008, Philip Dorling, “US spy base to be built in WA”.

26. Website: http://tpr.typepad.com/thepeacockreport/2006/04/nsa_seeks_to_po.html

27. International Network for the Abolition of Foreign Military Bases/NO BASES Network (Briefing Paper) 2007.

 

 

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