Baleful Imperial Power

What do the following places have in common — Afghanistan, Belgium, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Germany, Italy, Iraq, Japan, Macedonia, Kosovo, Serbia and South Korea?

They all have US army bases. There are dozens of them. To which add enjoyment or otherwise of the presence of US Navy headquarters and warships by the Bahamas, Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, El Salvador, Cuba (Guantanamo Bay), Greece, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Spain, United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom, plus another score of ports worldwide where USN ships are welcomed by permanently-based staffs who are guests of host governments. These places are not bases. They are not counted in the officially admitted 780 (or so) colonial-style military encampments that Washington has imposed on inferior nations. The US military presence round the world is enormous. It is greater than any other country or empire has ever had. The most expansionist days of Rome and the British Empire, Hitler’s assault on Europe, and Stalin’s domination of the countries on Russia’s borders pale in comparison with the global embrace of what has become a sinister force for destabilisation.

Although it is unlikely that any more South American countries will allow the US to establish military bases (Ecuador will cancel its airbase agreement next year, being so fed up with the arrogance of the northern imperialists), the newly-created US Fourth Fleet is now patrolling off the shores of Venezuela, menacing its democratically elected leader, Hugo Chavez, who has incurred the wrath of US business interests by running his country more efficiently without their presence.

Mr Chavez doesn’t like the idea of giving his country’s natural resources to US companies and he won’t be bribed by them. This is absolutely unforgivable in the eyes of the Cheney-supported Friedmaniac freaks who nearly ruined Russia – and would have done so, had it not been for President Putin taking charge and restoring his country to economic sanity. Little wonder President Chavez has been attacked so viciously by the US and British media, parroting the Right Wing mantra that privatisation might reduce millions to poverty, but that it’s really a good thing in the long run. (Providing you aren’t one of those who have died from starvation meantime, of course.)

Venezuela has lots of oil, which may have added to Washington’s priority in creating a 12 ship fleet to “build confidence and trust among nations through collective maritime security efforts that focus on common threats and mutual interests.” But it isn’t clear what confidence and trust can be created by a nuclear aircraft carrier and amphibious assault ships whose ostensible mission involves countering drug smuggling and, inevitably, taking part in the absurd “War on Terror.”

President Chavez said words to the effect that he wondered what US reaction be if a South American nation sent a fleet to patrol the coast of Virginia, and of course he is perfectly right in fearing the baleful American presence. America sends hundreds of ships, many nuclear-armed and equipped with fearsome missile, to roam the coasts of foreign countries, but imagine the screams of shock, horror and astonished indignation if Russia or China sent a battle group to stroll nautically up and down the coast from Seattle to San Francisco.

As to Venezuela – who knows what special forces knuckle-draggers and CIA psychotics are deployed to assist the US-supported anti-Chavez underground that already exists. (The Fourth Fleet is commanded by Admiral Joseph D Kernan, a former special forces commander ; the signal could not be clearer.) In May a US Navy Viking electronic warfare aircraft “accidentally” flew into Venezuelan airspace, which doesn’t provide much confidence in a navy operating a super-sophisticated plane, with every up-to-date navigation device, that can lose its way so easily. What a load of nonsense. So it can be deduced that the plane was deliberately trailing its coat to assess the effectiveness of Venezuela’s defence radar system – just as is done every day in the Persian Gulf by US aircraft and ships closing up to Iran’s coastline to plot radar and other defence facilities in order to be able to bomb them if Bush decides to encourage Israel to attack Iran.

There is also a US navy, Marine and air force base in Diego Garcia, a British territory, in which there is a CIA prison to which prisoners have been delivered by the wonderful process of “rendition.” (The British government denied knowledge of “rendition” through British territory but had to acknowledge that it lied, following production of evidence that it had lied. Can we trust anyone? Anyone at all?)

Diego Garcia was given to the US illegally, and Britain’s highest judiciary recently ordered that the original inhabitants should be allowed to return to their homes, but the ruling was ignored by the British government. The power of Bush Washington is such that the government of a sovereign nation considers it must put the interests of a foreign country above those of its people. The Islanders remain in poverty and squalor in fetid African slums while corrupt British politicians (which adjective fits most of them) revel in taxpayer-funded second homes in expensive London boroughs. They couldn’t give a damn about people.

Democracy, anyone?

The US Marines are democratically in force in Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay, Djibouti, Germany, the United Kingdom, Iraq, Japan (13 bases, around which protest is common as there have been several rape cases), and Kuwait, while the United States Air Force has bases in Afghanistan, Antigua, Aruba, Bulgaria, Colombia, Curacao, Ecuador, Germany, Greenland, Honduras, Italy, Japan, Kyrgyzstan, Netherlands, Netherlands Antilles, Panama, Qatar and Turkey as well as in US colonies such as Guam, where “The U.S. military maintains jurisdiction over its bases, which cover approximately 39,000 acres (160 km²), or 29% of the island’s total land area.”

The US has fourteen “overseas territories” in the Pacific, in which “US Naval Forces Marianas oversees the US Navy’s largest and most strategic island base located in the Western Pacific. It is home to over 160,000 residents and more than 12,000 military members and their families. Guam is the most populated island in the geographical area known as Micronesia,” and in milspeak is “Supporting Command to the Warfighter” – whatever that means, as there is no war going on in the region so far as one can make out.

Then there are US military bases in Australia (including an enormous complex that spies electronically on Asian communications) and in countless other countries. In addition to the admitted 780 major bases in all parts of the world, there is a significant US military presence in, for example, the Philippines (which chucked the US out of its many bases in 1992 because Washington would not tell its government whether or not there were nuclear weapons stored in Philippines’ territory) and several other countries. The one bright light is that the newly created US Africa Command is regarded with justifiable suspicion by African nations, who have refused to have the Command in the continent, making it necessary for the HQ to remain in Germany, of all places.

Washington intends to build anti-ballistic missile bases in Poland (missiles), the Czech Republic (radars), and in any other eastern European country whose governments can be bullied or bribed to take them. But it seems that the peoples of these countries, who will not benefit from the cosy arrangements made with senior government figures, are far from favouring close association with an imperial power. They had their fill of empire when under the yoke of Moscow, and the addled yolk of Washington has little appeal. Washington’s justification for establishing these bases is that Iran has missiles from which Europe must be protected, which is balderdash, as Iran poses no threat whatever to Europe. The reason for creating military bases so close to Russia is to keep Moscow on edge regarding US capabilities.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, NATO, was designed to combat the Soviet Union’s military power, which posed a threat to Europe. But when the Soviet Union collapsed, its military grouping, the Warsaw Pact, was disbanded. The threat disappeared. And NATO should have disappeared, too, as it is no longer relevant to North Atlantic or European defence. But the United States has made it a priority to antagonise Russia and menace it militarily, just as it is threatening Iran by surrounding it by military bases. Washington encouraged expansion of NATO to include ten countries along or close to the Russian border.

Russia has shown independence by controlling and disciplining western oil interests whose idea of deal-making was in classic colonial tradition, and this, combined with growing economic and military self-confidence in Moscow, is deemed unacceptable by Washington and London. (For example, BP’s idea of arranging contracts with a foreign company is consistent with its being registered in the Virgin Islands tax haven, and thus being immune from the laws of a host nation. Why they thought Russia would accept such arrogance is not clear.) Hence the US and British determination to discourage and curb Russian economic growth and re-establishment of national confidence. The western media’s assault on Putin was only part of the campaign.

The US commentator Chalmers Johnson summed up his country’s foreign policy by observing that “Once upon a time, you could trace the spread of imperialism by counting up colonies. America’s version of the colony is the military base.” Quite so. Which is all the more reason for Pakistan and others to resist establishment of US bases in their territory.

American withdrawal from all these places would be welcome but will never happen. The world is stuck with a baleful military superpower, intent on continuing imperial domination. Little wonder Russia and China – and Osama bin Laden – are popular in so many countries.

BRIAN CLOUGHLEY lives in France. His website is

A shorter version of this piece appeared in The Nation (Pakistan) on July 30.





Brian Cloughley writes about foreign policy and military affairs. He lives in Voutenay sur Cure, France.