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US Military Bases: the Spoils and Deceptions of War

US Military Bases

by KURT NIMMO

Donald Rumsfeld says the US does not want its troops in countries where they are not welcome. "You want to be someplace that people want us, you really do," he admitted in an interview. "We don’t want to be places that we’re not wanted. We simply don’t."

No word if the interviewer laughed or even scoffed. What Rumsfeld said is so deceptive that it transcends absurdity. He said the size of the US military force in the Gulf region would likely shrink now that the Iraqi military no longer poses a threat to its neighbors. "With the absence of the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq, the need for a US presence in the region would diminish rather than increase," he said. The US has troops in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, and the United Arab Emirates.

So, will the US simply yank up its tent stakes and go home?

Consider the investments. The United States spent a bundle on a state-of-the-art air command center at Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia. It recently shelled out $1.5 billion for an air base at Al-Udeid in Qatar. In Central Asia, the US acquired the Manas Air Base in Kyrgyzstan last year. It concluded US base agreements with Pakistan and two former Soviet republics, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Many of these agreements are classified — contained within documents known as "status of force agreements" — in order to prevent opposition on the part of the locals. Secret agreements and local opposition aside, Russian journalists reported that the United States and Uzbekistan signed an agreement leasing the Khanabad base for 25 years.

Before the invasion of Iraq Deputy Defense Secretary and neocon Paul Wolfowitz discussed US bases in an interview with the New York Times. "Their function may be more political than actually military," he explained. US bases "send a message to everybody, including important countries like Uzbekistan, that we have a capacity to come back in and will come back in."

Is it possible Rumsfeld is telling a lie — hardly a rarity for the duplicitous Bushites — in order to mask the Pentagon’s true intentions? Last Sunday the New York Times quoted unidentified Bush administration officials as saying the United States wants to keep four permanent military bases in Iraq. More than likely these bases will be situated at the international airport, the H-1 airfield, Tallil airfield near Nasiriya, and Bashur airfield. "The impression that’s left around the world is that we plan to occupy the country, we plan to use their bases over the long period of time, and it’s flat false," Rumsfeld said about the New York Times story.

"Whenever America goes to war, the spoils of victory invariably include more US military bases overseas," writes Ian Traynor of the Guardian. "The Iraqi deployment plans fall into the century-old pattern of US foreign bases being built on the back of military victory. They are also the latest episode in an extraordinary surge in America’s projection of military muscle since September 11… From Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo, a result of the 1999 Nato campaign, to the Bishkek airbase in Kyrgyzstan, appropriated for the Afghanistan war, the Americans are establishing an armed presence in places they have never been before."

Either Rumsfeld falls asleep during Pentagon meetings, or he is smoking crack on his lunch break. As head honcho at the Pentagon, Rumsfeld should know about the upgrades to the Krzesiny air base at Poznan in western Poland. He should be aware of the visit of General Gregory Martin, the top US air force officer in Europe, to Bulgaria and Romania where Martin checked out real estate for a move into the Balkans. "All of those places now represent opportunities for us to create relationships that some day will allow us the access we need," Martin told the Stars and Stripes.

"In every meaningful sense, the reach and spread of the US bases is growing very strongly, alarmingly from the point of view of the rest of the world," Marcus Corbin, a security analyst at the Center for Defense Information think tank in Washington, told the Guardian. "The big thing to come out of Iraq is that the US will redouble its efforts to diversify its assets and potential."

It’s helpful to read between the lines when Rumsfeld and the neocons speak. Obviously, a large and undisguised presence of US troops in the Middle East and Central Asia would make the locals nervous — and has the potential to destabilize governments in the neighborhood. The Bushites are looking for permanent access, not permanent basing. "Our basic interest is to have the ability to go into a country and have a relationship and have understandings about our ability to land or over-fly and to do things that are of mutual benefit to each of us," Rumsfeld said last year aboard an Air Force C-32 bound for Central Asia. "But we don’t have any particular plans for permanent bases."

If not for permanent bases, and thousands of obtrusive and resented US troops, how will the Bushites impose "democracy, development, free markets, and free trade to every corner of the world," as the neocon national security strategy characterizes it?

Think Reza Pahlavi, the shah of Iran. Think Suharto, the brutal dictator who ruled Indonesia for 32 years. Think General Castillo Armas in Guatemala, General Joseph Mobutu in Zaire, General Pinochet in Chile, or Jonas Savimbi in Angola. In fact, think of Saddam Hussein, the obscure Ba’ath Party hit man who eventually "came to power on a CIA train," as Ali Saleh Sa’adi, the Baath Party secretary general, described it. All of these dictators were catapulted to power by the US with the covert and often not so covert help of the CIA. No invasions were necessary, no conspicuous "footprint" was required.

As former CIA agent John Stockwell has noted, after successful coups in the Third World, the US went about setting up and training secret police. "We created and left behind [in Nicaragua] a National Guard with officers trained in the United States who would be loyal to our interests. This arrangement was the decisive feature of the new era of neocolonialism… The CIA was, in fact, forming the police units that are, today, the death squads in El Salvador. The leaders were on the CIA’s payroll, trained by the CIA in the United States. We had the public safety program going throughout Central and Latin America for twenty-six years, in which we taught them to break up subversion by interrogating people: interrogation, including torture, the way the CIA taught it."

In post-invasion Iraq, however, the CIA appears to building a complete "intelligence service" from the ground up. "You really want whatever emerges on Iraq to reflect favorably on the CIA," Vincent Cannistraro told the Newhouse News Service. "That almost certainly means, in this case, starting over with new people. You’re going to have to start from scratch." Cannistraro is probably best known as the man in charge of the CIA’s collusion with the contras in Nicaragua in the early 1980s.

More than likely the "new people" mentioned by Cannistraro will be former Ba’athists who worked for Saddam Hussein and Mukhabarat, or the Department of General Intelligence or the General Directorate of Intelligence (Al-Mukhabarat Al-A’ma). Chances are the US will get a better understanding of how Mukhabarat operated so effectively — creating, in essence, a hermetically sealed dictatorship and, as Pepe Escobar of the Asia Times writes, "a parallel state in Iraq" — now that Farouk Hijazi, the former operations director for Saddam Hussein’s secret police, was allegedly captured near the Syrian border.

A new CIA-fashioned Mukhabarat, working undetected deep within the inscrutable domain of spooks and secret police to circumvent political movements unacceptable to the US-imposed government of Iraq, may reduce the US military "footprint" so abhorred by Iraqis and other Arabs, but ultimately, if the tenacity of the Shi’ites are any indication, it will fail. If the Bush neocons need an example of what very well may happen in Iraq sooner before later, they need look no further than Iran where demonstrations against a pro-US government in 1978 eventually resulted in the downfall of the shah and Khomeini’s declaration of an Islamic republic. "The radical fundamentalist regime that rules Iran today," writes Mark Zapezauer, "could never have found popular support without the CIA’s 1953 coup [against democratically elected prime minister Dr. Mohammed Mossadegh] and the repression that followed."

Even as the Bushites have demonstrate their ability to engage in pathological lying (most notably in regard to WMD and attempting to finger Saddam as a supporter of al-Qaeda), they cannot deny or easily paper over the current situation — Iraqi Shi’ite demands for a dominant role in Iraq’s future, a future many of them want to be dictated by the precepts of religion.

In Washington, policy hacks and Pentagon officials are now beginning to realize the Shi’ites are far more organized and dedicated than previously believed. Last Monday, according to the Washington Post, "one meeting of generals and admirals at the Pentagon evolved into a spontaneous teach-in on Iraq’s Shi’ites and the U.S. strategy for containing Islamic fundamentalism in Iraq." In fact, the Bushites are so clueless about the influence of Shia Islam in Iraq that Rumsfeld made himself look foolish by blaming it all on the Iranians. Attempts to ""transform Iraq in Iran’s image will not be permitted," Rumsfeld blustered. "We will not allow the Iraqi people’s democratic transition to be hijacked by those who might wish to install another form of dictatorship."

Moreover, as if to send the message that he is not only an ignoramus, but a racist as well, Rumsfeld said the "Shias in the country are Iraqis and the Shias outside the country from Iran are Persians. My guess is that the Iraqi people would prefer to be governed by Iraqis and not Persians… The government of Iran has encouraged people to go into the country [Iraq] and… they have people in the country attempting to influence the country." Rumsfeld seems incapable, or unwilling, to accept the fact Islam refuses to be contained by borders — borders, incidentally, established by the British and French — or is Islam circumscribed by race.

As the journalist Robert Fisk told Amy Goodman of Democracy Now, Bush’s plans for Iraq are doomed to failure. "I think a war of liberation will begin quite soon, which of course will be first referred to as a war by terrorists, by al Qaeda, by remnants of Saddam’s regime… but it will be waged particularly by Shi’ite Muslims against the Americans and the British to get us out of Iraq and that will happen… We now have American troops occupying the wealthiest Arab country in the world. And the shockwaves of that are going to continue for decades to come, long after you and I are in our graves, if that’s where we go. And I don’t think we have yet realized — I don’t think that the soldiers involved or the Presidents involved have yet realized the implications of what has happened. We have entered a new age of imperialism, the life of which we have not attempted to judge or assess or understand."

KURT NIMMO is a photographer and multimedia developer in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Visit his excellent online gallery. He can be reached at: nimmo@zianet.com

We highly recommend regular visits to Nimmo’s website, Another Day in the Empire