Review: The bases of Empire
Edited by Catherine Lutz, Pluto Press $58
An empire cannot function without bases. Just as Britain created bases all the way to India—Gibraltar, Malta, Cyprus, Aden, Mauritius and Diego Garcia in the past, so the US has 909 “military facilities” in 46 countries around the world. Inside them are 190,000 military and 115,000 civilian employees.
And the US keeps creating more bases from Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo, the Balad Air Base in Iraq to Bagram in Afghanistan.
In 1938, the US had only 14 military bases outside its continental borders. Today, it seeks to have a physical presence in places as far flung as the former satellite states of the USSR, in a bid to further push back the Russians.
In the Czech Republic, campaigners, including socialists, organised a “No to Bases Initiative”, which has forced the US, temporarily, to drop plans for a “missile defence radar” at a base 60 kilometres from Prague. US Defence Secretary Robert Gates made clear that he wants plans for the base to be revived.
Contributors to this book write of the global resistance to US bases in the Philippines, Diego Garcia, Puerto Rico, Okinawa, Turkey and Hawai’i.
The US took control of Spain’s last colonial remnants, such as Cuba, in a war in 1898. When they tried to so in the Philippines it led to an all-out guerrilla war for independence that took 126,000 American troops to defeat.
The bombs that the US dropped on Vietnam were stored and loaded at the Naval Station in Guam for the B-52 bombers. Indigenous people in Guam, the Chamoru, are demanding control of a 30-mile island, of which the US occupies one-third.
The US acquired Diego Garcia (Chagos), in the middle of the Indian Ocean, from Britain, after the island was detached from British-controlled Mauritius and the Seychelles.
The local people were forcibly moved off the island in the late 1960s and have been campaigning to be allowed to return or for compensation ever since.
Australia houses US bases which contribute to US control of the air and spy-satellite photography, such as Pine Gap B in the NT, Omega in Victoria, North West Cape in WA and Delamare in the NT. The Pentagon wants “Full Spectrum Dominance” of land, sea, air, information—and space. Yes, the US military has a Space Command.
The anti-war movement’s aim here should be to force any Australian Government to close those bases down, and end their contribution to the Pentagon’s killing spree.
In late December 2009, the Australian Defence Department announced a four-year program to “upgrade the satellite antenna” at Pine Gap.
John Birmingham’s article “Looking West” in last August’s issue of The Monthly shows the inter-imperial rivalry between the US and China beginning to escalate in the Indian Ocean. Their mutual distrust and search for alliances with India and Pakistan will heighten tensions in the region and heighten the scramble for bases.
The struggles of people in this book are not only an inspiration to us, but they are an argument as to why the US bases in Australia should be closed.
By Tom Orsag