The conference stressed that in going forward, there is the need for unity in what is global strife and an international struggle; the need for networking, both at the conference and beyond; and education about U.S. military bases and militarism.
The slide show, prepared by Sue Ann Martinson, is an overview of the conference. For more detail, see below Sarah’s comments about the depth and breadth of US military bases and installations and Carol’s talk about expansion, and environmental and health impacts. Please note that the photos in the slide show were taken by several people: some by Sue Ann, some by conference participants who were recruited on the spot and names not recorded, and some by Ellen Davidson, the official photographer for the conference.
Click on the link here to view the slideshow, posted by Rise Up Times.
WAMM Newsletter Winter 2019 (Volume 37 Number 1)
Over 800 U.S./NATO Military Bases: the Resistance Builds
On January 20, Sarah Martin, Carol Walker, and Sue Ann Martinson from Women Against Military Madness delivered a report on the First International Conference Against U.S./NATO Foreign Military Bases that they attended this past November in Ireland. Approximately 300 participants from 35 countries participated in the conference, with speakers representing peace and justice movements from throughout the world, a first step in building a global network to oppose U.S./NATO bases.
Sue Ann Martinson: Resistance Begins in Ireland
The bases are seen as a symptom of U.S. domination, colonialism, and militarism. [That’s why the word “U.S.” is linked by a slash mark to “NATO,” the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which is the ever-expanding arm of the U.S. empire.]
According to Sue Ann, the conference stressed that in going forward, “there is the need for unity in what is global strife and an international struggle; the need for networking, both at the conference and beyond; and education about U.S. militarism.” The myths around NATO need to be debunked: that it exists to protect us and is necessary for our defense and the defense of small countries.
The conference opened at 3:00 p.m. on November 16th with a march from the conference site, Liberty Hall, to the General Post Office (GPO) in the heart of Dublin. Liberty Hall was a trade union center in 1916 and was the planning headquarters for the rebellion that eventually led to the creation of an Irish Republic independent of British rule. The march route was symbolic, as the Easter 1916 Rising had begun with a march from Liberty Hall to the GPO.
At the GPO, a traditional place of protest in Ireland, the contemporary resisters held a demonstration and bannering, asserting the need for getting rid of U.S./NATO military bases. The leaders of the 1916 Rising had taken over the GPO, making it the working headquarters of their rebellion: It was here that they read the famous proclamation declaring independence from Great Britain.
The Ireland of today is supposedly a neutral country, but it, too, is shamefully caught in the U.S./ NATO web. Shannon Airport, in the west of Ireland, was used for extraordinary renditions after 9/11 and as a transit point for soldiers and weapons in the 2003 U.S./UK war on Iraq. But to this day, U.S. soldiers pass through the airport (6,000 in 2017). Though the military is generally very secretive about its movements, more is known thanks to revelations from Wikileaks. The Irish people continue to resist this use of their airport. There are also protests at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, which launches killer drone flights. Typical of arrangements with other countries, bases belong to the host country but are used by the U.S. military.
You can see Sue Ann’s reflections on Dublin and the conference as we move forward to discuss what is being called one of the most deadly military alliances that the world has seen and steps being taken to dissolve the US military complex worldwide, plus articles by other writers about the conference on her blog, Rise Up Times (riseuptimes.org).
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Sarah Martin: The Extent of U.S. /NATO Bases
The U.S. and NATO have as many as 800 to 1,000 military bases and military installations and tens of thousands of troops in more than 170 foreign countries and maintain the highest number of military bases outside U.S. territory (95 percent of all foreign military bases in the world). In comparison, Russia has fewer than 20 bases, and China maintains one base in Africa, in Djibouti.
Seventy-two years after World War II and 64 years after Korean truce there are still scores of U.S. bases in Germany, Japan, and South Korea. Okinawa is forced to host U.S. bases on 70 percent of its land. Despite fierce resistance and calls for withdrawal by virtually the entire population and local leaders, the bases not only aren’t closed but continue to expand and be updated.
Presently, there are U.S. military bases in every Persian Gulf country except Iran.
In addition to land bases, the United States alone has 19 naval air carriers (and 15 more planned), each a part of a carrier strike group, composed of roughly 7,500 personnel and a carrier air wing of 65 to 70 aircraft. Each carrier strike group can be considered a floating military base.
These NATO military bases are the military expression of imperialist intrusion in the lives of sovereign countries on behalf of the dominant financial, political, and military interests of the ruling elite. Whether a base is invited into a country by domestic interests or not, no country, no people, no government can claim to be able to make decisions in the interest of its people – the foreign troops on its soil represent interests that are antagonistic to the local people.
NATO began in 1949 with eight countries on the pretext of protecting Europe from the Soviet Union after the Second World War. But if this pretext were sound, NATO would have disbanded in 1991 after the fall of the Soviet Union and the breakup of the Warsaw Pact (the defense treaty between the Soviet Union and seven Soviet satellite states of Central and Eastern Europe). Instead, at a time when there was the ability to eliminate poverty and hunger everywhere, the U.S. spent money not for human needs but for military buildup, including expanding NATO.
Western leaders, including U.S. Secretary of State James Baker, assured Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev in 1990 and 1991 around the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall that NATO would not move east toward Russia. But this pledge was broken, and NATO is now in most of the countries of the former Eastern Bloc, right on the border of Russia. How was this pulled off? A case can be made that NATO’s waging of a “humanitarian” war on Yugoslavia provided the organization with a rationale for continuing.
The reality is that as the armed wing of the United States and the European Union, NATO serves to safeguard control of energy resources and pipelines, spheres of influence, and markets for the sake of Western capital and transnational corporations.
The establishment of U.S. and NATO military bases would not be possible without the cooperation of host governments (though the citizens themselves may be opposed). Today there are 29 member countries in NATO. [In addition to members, NATO claims a network of regional partners: the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, the Mediterranean Dialogue, and the Istanbul Cooperative Initiative, in the Gulf region. NATO also claims bilateral relations with individual countries which it calls “global partners”: Afghanistan, Australia, Colombia, Iraq, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Mongolia, New Zealand, and Pakistan. See NATO’s website, “NATO Partners” tinyurl.com/y6vnctl7] (Rise Up Times editorial note: Also of interest, NUCLEAR WEAPONS: WHO HAS WHAT AT A GLANCE.)
Colombia can’t remotely be considered anywhere near the North Atlantic and Europe, but it recently became NATO’s partner in South America, despite the fact that the legality of this is still in Colombian courts. Colombia hosts nine U.S. bases, many pointed toward Venezuela.
Who knew that Italy had 10 percent of these bases — some secret, but many active in war? The extent, size, and importance of the U.S./NATO bases in Italy surprised many. U.S./NATO wars, including the wars against Yugoslavia, Libya, Afghanistan, and countries in the Middle East, have been waged from Italian bases. Two bases hold over 60 nuclear weapons in defiance of Italian law. One base holds the biggest arsenal outside the U.S. Another commands U.S. naval forces for Africa and Europe. Still another is a huge drone base and yet another is one of five bases in the advanced system of cyber global command and control.
Toward her conclusion, Sarah Martin said that “the absolute high point in a conference filled with dynamic, experienced, and well informed speakers was the keynote speaker, Dr. Aleida Guevara, member of the Cuban National Assembly and Che’s daughter. She reminded us that Guantánamo is the oldest U.S. base on foreign soil. 150 years ago the U.S. stole the land from Cuba to build it. Cuba is the one country in the world where both the people and the government oppose the base and its use for detention, rendition, and torture. The Cuban government has cut off all support to it, including electricity and water.”
As was said throughout the report, there is resistance to foreign bases among people everywhere. An inspiring victory was achieved in Czechoslovakia in 2009, when a huge movement was able to stop the building of a base.
Carol Walker: Expansion, Environmental and Health Impacts
Carol Walker supplemented her report on the Dublin conference with an important point made in Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World by David Vine (Skyhorse Publishing/Metropolitan Books, 2017), a book that she recommends reading for a fuller understanding of U.S. bases. Going back in history, Guantánamo Bay is generally identified as the first U.S. military base abroad, but 90 military bases – referred to as “forts” – were used in Western expansion for the conquest of indigenous people and their land. Vine wrote that “these bases were built on land that was very much abroad at the time.” In other words, these forts were foreign military bases.
At the end of the 19th century, but mostly in the 20th century, U.S. imperialism went global. Between 1946 and 1958, the U.S. Navy conducted 68 atomic and hydrogen bomb tests in the Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands. On March 1, 1954, the first U.S. hydrogen bomb test spread a cloud of radiation over 7,500 square miles.
“In Minnesota, we know how important water is to us. I wonder how we would have reacted if a foreign country chose to practice their bombing on Lake Superior,” Carol Walker said.
At the Dublin conference, statistics were given on the expansion of U.S. bases in Africa: Under G.W. Bush there were only three military bases in Africa; that number jumped to 84 under Obama. [This number may include Special Forces, joint bases with African countries, and “lily pads” – temporary bases.]
A plenary on Africa discussed the effect on the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Congo is one of the most mineral-rich countries in the world. If given a chance, it could produce electricity and food for all of Africa. Instead, its people are among the poorest. Googling “coltan mining Congo” brings up articles and video showing slave labor and child labor. In 2016, it was estimated that 40,000 boys and girls – some very young – are working in the mines. The metallic ore coltan (columbite-tantalite) is especially valued, as it is used in cell phones and in almost every electronic device. Sixty-five percent of coltan comes from Congo.
It is not much of a leap from this deplorable situation to realize that the staggering growth in military bases enforces an exploitative economic system for the benefit of extraction industries owned by multinational corporations. Health issues and environmental destruction go hand in hand.
We have all heard that the military is the biggest polluter, but it is less well-known that aside from all the destructive bombings, hazardous waste is dumped at sea, including materials associated with nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. According to Base Nation, an army spokesperson admitted that in waters off 11 states around the country, the Army “secretly dumped 64 million pounds of nerve and mustard gas agent in the sea, along with 400,000 chemical-filled bombs, landmines, and rockets, and more than 500 tons of radioactive waste.”
Pat Elder, an American activist, presented a talk about the chemical contaminates perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA), which are active ingredients in the foam routinely used to train soldiers to extinguish aircraft fires at U.S. military bases around the world. These toxic chemicals are allowed to leach into surrounding soil and poison groundwater.
The use of PFOS and PFOA results in one of the greatest water contamination epidemics in human history. The water in thousands of wells in and around U.S. military installations across the globe has been tested and shown to contain harmful levels. The health effects of exposure to these chemicals include tumors, organ damage, severe pregnancy complications, and miscarriages. The chemicals contaminate human breast milk and sicken babies. By 2001, the military fully understood the enormity of the problem. They knew these firefighting foams used at bases worldwide were poisoning streams and well water, but, concerned about the publicity and expense, they decided to keep quiet.
It’s not possible to cover all of the damaging effects of military bases on the environment in a conference, but these are just a few examples — and another reason to actively oppose military bases.
In Washington, D. C.: A Call to National Mobilization to Oppose NATO, War, and Racism. March 30, 2019. A broad coalition of antiwar groups in the U.S. and around the world is organizing a national and international mobilization beginning with a march in Washington, D.C., where NATO will be celebrating its 70th anniversary. More info: no2nato2019.org
In the Twin Cities: No to NATO: March and rally. March 30, 1:00 p.m., Minnehaha Ave. and Lake St., Minneapolis.
List of Anti-NATO Events in Washington DC, March 30 to April 4, 2019
Global Campaign Against U.S./NATO Military Bases: video of the entire conference, articles, photos. nousbases.org
Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World, a book by David Vine (Skyhorse Publishing/Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt, 2017)
Video of presentation at WAMM by Sue Ann Martinson, Sarah Martin, and Carol Walker:
REPORT FROM THE FIRST INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE AGAINST US/NATO MILITARY BASES, BY WAMM
Slide show prepared by Sue Ann Martinson for reports regarding the conference (link above).
If you are interested in having a presentation about the First International Conference Against US/NATO Military Bases and the No to NATO movement, please contact WAMM at 612-827-5364.