In February 2007, the noted military analyst Chalmers Johnson’s then new book, Nemesis: the Last Days of the American Empire, claimed “Once upon a time, you could trace the spread of imperialism by counting up colonies. America’s version of the colony is the military base: and by following the changing politics of global basing, one can learn much about our ever more all-encompassing imperial ‘footprint’ and the militarism that grows with it.”
He added, “It is not easyto assess the size of exact value of our empire of bases. Official records available to the public on these subjects are misleading although instructive. According to the Defense Department’s annual inventories from 2002–2005 of real property it owns around the world, The Base Structure Report, there has been an immense churning in the numbers of installations.”
Back when Chalmers was writing, the official number of bases in other people’s countries was 737. After Bush and Iraq were over, the number had gone up significantly. A few pages of Chalmers book was excerpted in, 737 U.S. Military Bases=Global Empire from alternet.org and quoted Chalmers writing, “With more than 2,500,000 U.S. personnel serving across the planet and military bases spread across each continent, it’s time to face up to the fact that our American democracy has spawned a global empire.” (Italics mine.) I’ll say.
Chalmers repeated, just in case people wouldn’t believe it, “The total of America’s military bases in other people’s countries in 2005, according to official sources, was 737. Reflecting massive deployments to Iraq and the pursuit of President Bush’s strategy of preemptive war, the trend line for numbers of overseas bases continues to go up.”
He went on to say, “Interestingly enough, the thirty-eight large and medium-sized American facilities spread around the globe in 2005–- mostly air and naval bases for our bombers and fleets—almost exactly equals Britain’s thirty-six naval bases and army garrisons at its imperial zenith in 1898. The Roman Empire at its height in 117 a.d. required thirty-seven major bases to police its realm from Britannia to Egypt, from Hispania to Armenia. Perhaps the optimum number of major citadels and fortresses for an imperialist aspiring to dominate the world is somewhere between thirty-five and forty.” Keep that in mind. We’re way overachieving.
The fact is the number of bases is still growing through inaccurate or buried information or disinformation. All Bases Covered from original.antiwar.com had this to say, “Speaking before the Senate Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Military Construction, Veterans, and Related Agencies early last year, Deputy Under Secretary of Defense Dorothy Robyn referenced the Pentagon’s ’507 permanent installations.’ The Pentagon’s 2010 Base Structure Report, on the other hand, lists 4,999 total sites in the U.S., its territories, and overseas.” Totally mind-boggling!
Dorothy Robyn adds, “In the grand scheme of things, the actual numbers aren’t all that important. Whether the most accurate total is 900 bases, 1,000 bases, or 1,100 posts in foreign lands, what’s undeniable is that the U.S. military maintains, in Chalmers Johnson’s famous phrase, ‘an empire of bases so large and shadowy that no one—not even at the Pentagon—really knows its full size and scope.’” Great! Bases loaded and who’s on first? No, who’s on second. No second’s in right field. And right field is in Armenia. The veritable cities of nowhere.
Dorothy Robyn concludes, “All we know is that it raises the ire of adversaries like al-Qaeda, has a tendency to grate on even the closest of allies like the Japanese, and costs American taxpayers a fortune every year.” In 2010, according to Robyn, “military construction and housing costs at all U.S. bases ran to $23.2 billion. An additional $14.6 billion was needed for maintenance, repair, and recapitalization. To power its facilities, according to 2009 figures, the Pentagon spent $3.8 billion. And that likely doesn’t even scratch the surface of America’s baseworld in terms of its full economic cost.” Even more mind-boggling.
And then our politicians wonder why there’s no money for Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid or to capitalize new businesses, or even why the big banks are so skittish about lending, apart from wanting to guarantee their bonuses. Nevertheless, this black hole (base) in space is sucking every spare buck U.S. taxpayers are peeling off, and that loud sucking sound you hear is the call of war, from here, near and far away.
So, any accountant but the Fed’s (whose making money on every buck spent) will tell you something’s gotta go, either some bases, like those left over from World War II, or others in the very center of cities, in Japan or wherever, Bahrain, Baghdad, or Britain. The bases upkeep is the x-factor driving up the cost of the National Deficit, using up the lion’s share of our income streams.
It’s probably the misleading reason that Republicans have a choking fit if rebuilding infrastructure is mentioned to help expand employment and the economy with it. What’s more, the thought of raising taxes for the wealthy to catch up with the unreality of military spending bring paroxysms of liberal wantonness to their lips.
The reality is that we have been at war almost non-stop since 1941, not counting World War I from 1914–18. It’s as if we have two countries here, the first in which the hawks live, and the second in which the liberals live, yet each blaming the other basically for what an improperly (or backroom) controlled military-political mania to dominate the world has done to us. And these are just costs that are known. Black ops conducted out of black outposts are off-limits and are generally funded, like the war against the Nicaragua’s Sandinistas, by black money from the sale of drugs and arms or both.
One of All Bases Covered authors, Nick Turse writes, “Like all empires, the U.S. military’s empire of bases will someday crumble. These bases, however, are not apt to fall like so many dominoes in some silver-screen last-stand sequence. They won’t, that is, go out with the ‘bang’ of futuristic Alamos, but with the ‘whimper’ of insolvency.” Yes. And with that sucking sound of U.S. dollar bills so will the economy. So this is just not a matter of cutting DOD/Pentagon annual budgets, but of scaling down our world-size, base-building and the military culture it houses, feeds, and sustains. In a word, we can’t afford an “empire.”
Nick Turse goes on to say, “Last year, rumbling began even among Washington lawmakers about this increasingly likely prospect. ‘I do not think we should be spending money to have troops in Germany 65 years after World War II. We have a terrible deficit and we have to cut back,’ said Massachusetts Democratic Congressman Barney Frank.” Similarly, “Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas announced, ‘If the United States really wants to assure our allies and deter our enemies, we should do it with strong military capabilities and sound policy—not by keeping troops stationed overseas, not siphoning funds from equipment and arms and putting it into duplicative military construction . . . ’”
Senator Hutchison concluded, “Whatever the decision, the clock is ticking, and before any withdrawals begin, the U.S. military needs to know exactly where it’s withdrawing from (and Americans should have an accurate sense of just where its overseas armies are). An honest count of U.S. bases abroad—a true, full, and comprehensive list—would be a tiny first step in the necessary process of downsizing the global mission.”
It’s impossible, too, that this huge drain of cash for base construction and maintenance is not an intrinsic part of the financial disaster in liquidity from 2008 on. Ironically, Daniel Estulin, best-selling author of The True Story of the Bilderberg Group, writes in his new book, Shadow Masters, that “the illegality of three plants—coca, cannabis and the opium poppy—creates the world’s largest ‘black’ marketplace: over one trillion annually of untaxed, cash dollars, supplying the Shadow Masters with funds to corrupt our financial and civic institutions.”
Estulin spells it out “ . . . The Shadow Masters’ secret piggy bank, black market drug money is used to boost profits, acquire industries, own media, buy governments, fund terrorism and bankroll wars.” So the crisis in U.S. liquidity, not only through the financial markets excesses, has to do with our empire-style, multi-base war-making. It’s curious that over 90% of the world’s opium trade comes from Afghanistan where it’s grown—as bad a reason as any to stock that nation with our bases and troops.
So, bases, like wars, cost in many ways. Supporting an empire takes more money than this United States can generate through its GDP of nearly $15 trillion. It is a fact that the DOD and Pentagon were demanding a base to be used as a staging area in Libya for Africa. But permission to build the AFRICOM base in Libya was repeatedly turned down by Gaddafi. Yet, after Libya and Gaddafi were torn down, we find out this from wiki: “The United States Africa Command (USAFRICOM or AFRICOM) is one of nine Unified Combatant Commands of the United States Armed Forces, headquartered at Kelley Barracks, Stuttgart, Germany. It is responsible for U.S. military operations and military relations with 53 African nations—an area of responsibility covering all of Africa except Egypt.
“The Combatant Commander of U.S. Africa Command reports to the Secretary of Defense, who in turn reports to the President of the United States. In individual countries, U.S. Ambassadors continue to be the President’s personal representatives in diplomatic relations with host nations.”
Somewhere I hear our national cash register kerchinging frantically to pay for this huge base and all the rest to help keep the empire glued together in Africa, as well as Europe and wherever else. Yet, the very real question is what is that base and the others’ collateral cost in helping to take down our consumer economy, throwing the political parties into budget stasis fits while helping us make hell for the world? And how about that hell those elites behind the Military Industrial Complex make, like the Bilderbergs and the Shadow Masters. And how bloody rich does it make them as well. That is the real bottom-line for loading the bases for empire.
Jerry Mazza is a freelance writer, life-long resident of New York City. An EBook version of his book of poems “State Of Shock,” on 9/11 and its after effects is now available at Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com. He has also written hundreds of articles on politics and government as Associate Editor of Intrepid Report (formerly Online Journal). Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.