Thursday, June 02, 2005

Bases, Bases Everywhere

Tomgram: It’s a Pentagon World and Welcome to It
Bases, Bases Everywhere

Pentagon Planning in Iraq, 2003-2005By Tom Engelhardt (tomdispatch.com )

The last few weeks have been base-heavy ones in the news. The Pentagon's provisional Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) list, the first in a decade, was published to domestic screams of pain. It represents, according to the Washington Post, "a sweeping plan to close or reduce forces at 62 major bases and nearly 800 minor facilities" in the United States. The military is to be reorganized at home around huge, multi-force "hub bases" from which the Pentagon, in the fashion of a corporate conglomerate, hopes to "reap economies of scale." This was front page news for days as politicians and communities from Connecticut (the U.S. Naval Submarine Base in Groton) and New Jersey (Fort Monmouth) to South Dakota (Ellsworth Air Force Base) cried bloody murder over the potential loss of jobs and threatened to fight to the death to prevent their specific base or set of bases (but not anyone else's) from closing -- after all, those workers had been the most productive and patriotic around.

These closings -- and their potentially devastating after-effects on communities -- were a reminder (though seldom dealt with that way in the media) of just how deeply the Pentagon has dug itself into the infrastructure of our nation. With over 6,000 military bases in the U.S., we are in some ways a vast military camp.

But while politicians screamed locally, Donald Rumsfeld's Pentagon never thinks less than globally; and, if you throw in the militarization of space, sometimes even the global has proven too small a framework for its presiding officials. For them, the BRAC plans are just one piece of a larger puzzle that involves the projection of American power into the distant lands that most concern us. After all, as Chalmers Johnson has calculated in his book, The Sorrows of Empire, our global Baseworld already consists of at least 700 military and intelligence bases; possibly -- depending on how you count them up -- many more. Under Rumsfeld's organizational eye, such bases have been pushed ever further into the previously off-limits "near abroad" of the former Soviet Union (where we now probably have more bases than the Russians do) and ever deeper into the Middle Eastern and Caspian oil heartlands of the ! planet.

The Bush administration's fierce focus on and interest in reconfigured, stripped down, ever more forward systems of bases and an ever more powerfully poised military "footprint" stands in inverse proportion to press coverage of it. To the present occupants of the Pentagon, bases are the equivalent of imperial America's lifeblood and yet basing policy abroad has, in recent years, been of next to no interest to the mainstream media.
Strategic Ally

Just in recent weeks, however, starting with the uproar over the economic pain BRAC will impose (along with the economic gain for those "hubs"), bases have returned to public consciousness in at least a modest way. This month, for instance, the Overseas Basing Commission released a report to the President and Congress on the "reconfiguration of the American military overseas basing structure in the post-Cold War and post-September 11 era." The report created a minor flap by criticizing the Pentagon for its overly ambitious global redeployment plans at a time when "[s]ervice budgets are not robust enough to execute the repositioning of forces, build the facilities necessary to accommodate the forces, [and] build the expanding facilities at new locations…"

In other words, the global ambitions of the Pentagon -- and the soaring budgets that go with those ambitions -- are beyond our means (not that that means much to the Bush administration). The report's criticism evidently irritated Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and so the report, already posted at a government website, was promptly taken down after the Defense Department claimed it contained classified information, especially "a reference to ongoing negotiations over U.S. bases in Bulgaria and Romania." (As it happened, the Federation of American Scientists had posted the report at its own site, where it remains available to all, according to Secrecy News.)
Click here to read more of this dispatch.

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