Peace and inclusive development, elimination of hunger and misery require redistribution of spending for maintenance of military bases in favor of development needs, education and heath services. After the end of the Cold War the whole humanity expected stability, peace and justice in the world of equal states and nations. Such expectations, however, turned to be futile beliefs.
In the last two decades, instead of closing U.S. and NATO military bases in Europe, the continent has been surrounded by whole chain new U.S. military bases in Bulgaria, Romania, Poland, Baltic states. As a consequence there are today more U.S. military bases in Europe than at the peak of the Cold War. Peace and security have become more fragile and quality of life jeopardized.
This dangerous development was triggered in 1999 by NATO-US led aggression against Serbia (FR Yugoslavia). At the end of the aggression US established military base in the occupied part of the Serbian territory Kosovo and called Bondsteel, which is one of the most expensive and the largest USA military bases, established after the Vietnam War. It was not only illegal, but also a brutal act of disrespect of sovereignty and territorial integrity of Serbia and other basic principles of international law. Now, there is a plan to expand the base Bondsteel transforming it into a permanent location of American troops and a hub of U.S. military presence in South East Europe for geostrategic purposes and confrontations.
We demand that the Bondsteel military base be closed as well as all other U.S. military bases in Europe and in the World. Preparations for furthering confrontation and new wars are a senseless waste of money, energy and development opportunities.
The Belgrade forum as an integral part of the world peace movement, stands firmly by the initiative to close all military bases in the world and redirect resources to rising development needs and people yearnings for better life.
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:
“U.S. 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 U.S. foreign military bases is one of the first necessary steps toward a just, peaceful and sustainable world.”
You can endorse the statement here.
US foreign military bases as of 2015. (Source BaseNation.us)
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. He argued:
“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. This 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: