The U.S. Southern Command & the 4th Fleet

by RAY DEL PAPA

Starting October 6 thousands of people will gather for three major actions, in Washington DC, at the Creech Air Force Base in Nevada and in Miami Florida, at the US Southern Command in Miami. These events all target U.S. militarism, and directed toward but not limited to: the 10th anniversary of the War in Afghanistan; the use of armed drone aircraft, as well as the use of nuclear weapons, including space; and, the U.S. Southern Command/ U.S. 4th Fleet, and its effects on the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean. The organizers of these three events have joined in solidarity, proclaiming that- these three events are: “Three Strikes Against the Empire”!

The United States has a long and very ugly history in Latin America and the Caribbean. For so many years and in so many countries she supported “the Dirty Wars “, of the 1970’s-early 1990’s. It was during this time that both the Southern Command and the School of the Americas were born in Panama. There is a long list of SOA graduates who have gone on to commit some of the worst human rights atrocities in this region. Behind the SOA is the Southern Command, orchestrating these dirty wars, coups, and direct U.S. military interventions. Both are still very active in the region, however, SOA is now called WHINSEC, or the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security and Cooperation.  Now the Southern Command has a new arm to swing, the U.S. Navy’s 4th Fleet.

The United States resurrected the Navy’s Forth Fleet in the summer of 2008. It had been originally established in 1942 to combat the German U-boat, and surface raider activity in the waters of the Caribbean, and the South Atlantic. Once World War II was over, the fleet was decommissioned in 1947. Now, in the second decade of the twenty-first century why does the U.S. need a fleet in a region of the world that poses no serious military threat? In fact not one country in Latin America or the Caribbean, including Cuba or Venezuela-has high seas navy’s.

Perhaps the U.S. is fearful of the threat of both Bolivia, and Paraguay, both “land locked” countries with out navy’s. A more reasonable explanation is that old axiom: “Gun Boat Diplomacy”. The U.S. influence on the region has greatly diminished over the last decade and a half. It can no longer influence and dominate many of the governments in the region the way it did for 200 years. Now, the United States has to revert to bulling the weaker countries, such as Haiti, and Honduras.  When they try to free themselves from the same U.S. domination, the U.S. reacts either directly, as in Haiti, or covertly, as in Honduras. One just needs to look at where the last two successful coups took place to prove that fact. Both Haiti and Honduras were a bastion for U.S. and Canadian corporations needing very cheap labor. So when they tried to reverse those conditions, their leadership was overthrown. Both coups had some type of support from the U.S. government, military, or NGO’s.

Here is what deposed Honduran president Manuel Zelaya had to say on Democracy Now about the role of the United States and the U.S. Southern Command in the coup (led by School of the Americas graduates) that over threw his presidency.

MANUEL ZELAYA: [translated] After eight days of my becoming president of the country, the ambassador, Charles Ford, asked me if I could give political asylum to Posada Carriles in Honduras. And of course, I sent him to outside. He spoke to my foreign minister, my secretary of state, about that — the same ambassador who prohibited me from becoming a member of the ALBA. And this ambassador, who just left Honduras, who left the country with a political profile of myself, the ambassador, Ford, left this letter as a profile of the president, and when you read it, you can tell that it is the precursor of the coup itself. WikiLeaks published this document. They published the profile that Ambassador Ford made of me to give to Hugo Llorens, saying that the United States needs to make decisions about what it will do the following year in order to detain me, because I am tied to narcotrafficking and to terrorism and to many, many other things. So, he prepared the ambiance, situation. And he was transferred from the embassy to the Southern Command. And that is the tie. And if you ask today, where is this Ambassador Ford? He is in the Southern Command. And so, he left here in order to prepare the coup d’état.

Let us not forget the similarities between both coups in Honduras and Haiti.. Presidents, Manuel Zelaya and Jean-Betrand Aristde were awakened in the early morning hours at gun point. They were placed under arrest and flown out of their county to another location. In the case of Aristide it was the U.S. military that both removed him from the presidential place and flew him to the Central African Republic. President Zelaya was flown to Costa Rica with a stop at the U.S. air base at Palmerola Honduras for refueling, even thou the flight to Costa Rica is very short!

When Honduras held a new presidential election in December of 2009, the U.S. Navy sent an amphibious assault ship to the waters in and around that country. As of this writing the 4th Fleet has no ship permanently assigned to it; it relies on ship being loaned from both the 2nd and 3rd Fleets. However, if Ileana Ros- Lehtinen, the Chair of the House Foreign Relation Committee, gets her way, that will change. She is in favor of assigning an aircraft carrier battle group to the fleet, and stationing it at the naval base at Mayport Florida. As of now the navy has 11 active carriers, and will soon have a new 9 billon dollar addition, the USS Gerald R. Ford. A full carrier battle group is an investment of 20 billion dollars, and it is the most powerful surface naval warfare system in the world. Once again where is the threat in this region to justify such expenditures?

The truth is that no country in Latin America or the Caribbean has ever fired a shot in hostility toward the United States. Even the infamous war cry prior to the start of the Spanish American War, “Remember the Maine “, was in reality, an accident. On the other hand, U.S. intervention in Latin America and the Caribbean, ether openly or covertly, exceeds 100. With this back ground, and the fact that more and more countries are liberating themselves from United States dominance, it is clear that the U.S. will push back. This is the real reason why the U.S. Navy reactivated the 4th Fleet; it will give the United States the option to use “gun boat diplomacy” whenever it seems fit.

There is no other country in the world, including the combined navies in the world that has the ships of the U.S. Navy. In all the history of world empires, you cannot exceed to that level without a massive navy.  We the Greeks needed to invade Troy they built a fleet of a thousand ships. The British Empire was built on the backs of its Navy. Up until World War II, it was Great Brittan who owned the world’s largest Navy. And now, since the end of World War II, the United States rules the seas with its Navy.

In this time of alleged budget crises, we can no longer afford (or Need?)We don’t need 20 billion aircraft carrier battle groups, or the total 149 billion navy budget, we must reconsider our entire 685.1 billion military budget, (based on the 2010 budget). We need to demand an end to building more of the new Ford class carriers, at 9 billion each. The countries of Latin America and the Caribbean are no threat to our security; we don’t need a Navy fleet in their waters. However, we must go even further; we must end our wars in the Middle East and withdraw our troops. We must also dismantle our nuclear arsenal and stop the use of the Predator Drones.  It is time we realize it is cheaper to build bridges and not bases or ships, or nuclear bombs. We need books, food and social services in this country, not bombs!

Will Falk moved to the West Coast from Milwaukee, WI where he was a public defender.

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