By Reginald Johnson
Peace activists from around the country will converge on Baltimore, MD this weekend to take part in a conference to discuss the vast array of American military bases around the world and how to shut them down.
The meeting, entitled “Conference on U.S. Foreign Military Bases” will take place Friday, January 12 until Sunday, January 14 at the University of Baltimore. The event will be live streamed at NoForeignBases.org/live-streaming/
The conference is being sponsored by a coalition of activists both from the peace movement as well as the environmental and social justice movements who are questioning why the U.S. needs so many bases around the world and are demanding they be dismantled.
“While we have our differences on other issues, we all agree that US 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 US foreign military bases is one of the first necessary steps toward a just peaceful and sustainable world,” reads the unity statement put together by the “Coalition Against US Foreign Military Bases.”
Probably most Americans have no idea just how many military bases the U.S. maintains.
People are certainly aware we have bases in the United States itself, that there are some in Europe, some in Japan and Korea, and a few in the Middle East. But that’s about it.
In reality, the U.S. has a huge network of 1,000 military bases around the world, according to the coalition. There are U.S. installations in some 80 countries on every continent as well as some bases located on islands in the major oceans.
In Europe alone, there are hundreds of military installations, with 200 located just in Germany, according to David Vine, professor of anthropology at American University and the author of “Base Nation, How US Military Bases Overseas Harm America and the World.” Vine said another 100 bases are in Japan and 120 in South Korea.
The cost of maintaining this far-flung American military empire is huge. By some estimates, the U.S. spends $156 billion a year to fund the bases, where tens of thousands of American troops and other military personnel are stationed.
In the years following World War II, during the period of the Korean and Vietnam wars and throughout the Cold War with the Soviet Union, few people, if any, questioned the need for American bases. But times may be changing.
A growing number of activists and others people are raising their voices against the presence of all the bases, saying that with the Soviet Union gone and the Cold War over, they are no longer justified for national security. They maintain, further, that the spending to keep the bases open (not to mention the rest of the gargantuan US defense budget) represents a huge drain on the federal budget, diverting badly needed financial resources away from funding domestic needs, such as education, housing, health care and infrastructure.
In the view of many, the bases today simply provide a means for America to exact military and economic control over countries around the globe.
“These bases are hubs of warmaking, bombing countries like Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen,” said Henry Lowendorf, Chairman of the Greater New Haven Peace Council and one who’s attending this weekend’s conference.
Lowendorf added that the bases “send drones to spy and to slaughter. They house regular and special forces whose role is to ensure US corporate domination of the globe. They protect the financial and political interests of the 1%, not the 99%, in the US or anywhere else. They prop up unpopular governments. They threaten the citizens of the country that houses them and its neighbors. The wars fought from these bases not only kill huge numbers of civilians but generate hatred and fanaticism that lead to reprisals, retaliation and terrorism.”
For a number of years ---- since the days of broad opposition to the Iraq War --- the peace movement has been divided, with groups taking differing approaches on U.S. involvement in crisis spots like Ukraine, Syria and Libya.
It’s hoped that the conference on bases may heal some of the divisions.
“We expect that this conference will unify the peace movement to action – educating and mobilizing the public, forcing a discussion that is all but censored in the US about the nature, function and cost – in lives, dollars, assaults on people and the environment, in preventing peace and justice – of the 1000 or more military bases the US maintains on foreign soil,” said Lowendorf.
Keynote speakers at the conference will be Professor Vine; Ajamu Baraka, 2016 Green Party vice presidential candidate and president of the Black Alliance for Peace; and Ann Wright, retired US Army Colonel, former diplomat and leading member of CODE PINK and Veterans for Peace.
For more information on the conference, go the coalition website at noforeignbases.org