ARTICLES & SPEECHES, 2001 - Present
Denounce and Dismantle US Military Bases
By Prof. Jose Maria Sison
20 September 2003
I extend my warmest greetings of solidarity to all the participants of the conference against US overseas military bases to be held from 20 to 21 September 2003 in Chania, Greece. For taking up the issue, I congratulate the organizers of this conference under the auspices of the International League of People’s Struggle.
This issue is of crucial importance to the people of the world who cherish national sovereignty and independence, aspire for development, social justice and peace and who necessarily struggle against US imperialism, the terrorist hyperpower and No. 1 enemy of the people of the world.
As the crisis of the US and world capitalist system continues to worsen, we can expect the US to become even more aggressive and use its overseas military bases to bully, blockade, intervene in, attack and invade countries and peoples that oppose the rising levels of oppression and exploitation. But we have the utmost confidence in struggling against the US military bases as we are already in the flow of growing popular struggles against neoliberal globalization and imperialist war.
We must do everything possible and necessary to arouse, organize and mobilize the broad masses of the people to condemn the US military bases and demand their immediate dismantling. These US air, naval, army, marine and communications bases are the infrastructure of US hegemony over countries, global regions and the whole world. They are the evil fruit of aggression and they are the factors for further aggression.
The US has acquired its current military bases from wars, such as the Spanish-American War, the Filipino-American War, the Second World War, the Cold War in general, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the wars in the Middle East, the Gulf War, the Balkan wars, the war against Afghanistan and the second war against Iraq.
The end of the Cold War, upon the collapse of the Soviet Union, has left the United States as the sole superpower. The full restoration of capitalism in countries previously ruled by revisionist cliques and the cooptative and destructive consequences of neocolonialism have buttressed the US policy drives for "free market" globalization and monopoly of the latest and most powerful high tech weaponry.
In the first war of aggression against Iraq in 1991, the US acted arrogantly as the sole superpower. But it took full advantage of multilateral support from the UN Security Council decision to force out Iraqi military forces from Kuwait. It also profited from the multilateral financing of the war. It calculated that a military victory over Iraq would shake off the "Vietnam syndrome". The US was hard pressed by the need to assure the American public that it had an exit strategy for avoiding a Vietnam War type of quagmire.
On its first term, the Clinton regime under the theme of "reaping the peace dividend" at the end of the Cold War reduced spending for overseas military bases and cut down by half the average of 520,000 US military personnel abroad. However, it increased spending for research, development and stockpiling of high tech weaponry. On its second term, the regime increased spending for overseas military bases, especially in connection with the NATO expansion into Eastern Europe, the Balkan wars and the continuance of economic sanctions and military operations against Iraq. In 1998 the US made it starkly clear that "maintaining an overseas military presence is a cornerstone of US national security strategy and a key element of US military policy".
In connection with certain unilateral actions of the US in the Balkans, the Middle East and Africa, the US through State secretary Madeleine Albright began to express the arrogant view that it has the option to take military action either unilaterally or multilaterally, depending on what suits US interests best. But the Clinton regime went multilateral under the banner of the NATO in big campaigns in the Balkan wars and declared that it had a clear mission and an exit strategy to be accomplished within a short period of time.
Soon after the September 11, 2001 attacks, Bush declared that "the presence of American forces overseas is one of the most profound symbols of US commitment to its allies and friends" and that "through its willingness to use force in its defense and in defense of others the US demonstrates its resolve to maintain a balance of power in favor of freedom". The US took advantage of worldwide sympathy for the American victims of the 9/11 attacks and used the multilateral support it got from the UN Security Council to launch a war of aggression against Afghanistan in 2001 under the pretext of anti-terrorism and hunting down Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda.
All the way to the second war of aggression against Iraq in 2003, the US showed its meanness and barbarism by proclaiming the doctrine of preemptive war and the line of going to war in complete disregard of the UN Charter and the UN Security Council. There was no US official talk about exit strategy but there was a lot of US optimism about grabbing all the spoils (the oilfields, reconstruction contracts and the military bases) in the guise of bashing France and the "old Europe".
The "neoconservative" ideologues of the US have interpreted the situation as one for realizing the Project for a New American Century, with the US having unchallenged political and military supremacy in the world. They frankly speak of building the greatest empire ever and enforcing the Pax Americana. From a policy of deterrence and containment during the Cold War years, the current Bush regime has embarked on a more aggressive foreign policy that rests on three main pillars: a doctrine of unrivaled military supremacy, the concept of preemptive or preventive war, and a readiness to act unilaterally if multilateral cooperation cannot be achieved for the benefit of the US.
The "neo-conservatives" aim to build a force structure that will allow the US to fight simultaneously and win decisively in two different global regions, such as one in the Middle East and another in Northeast Asia. In this connection they favor a strategy of forward stationing and forward deployment rather than of the previous US strategy of rapid deployment.
The current bias is to have as many military footholds in the world through basing and access rights and to pre-position basic forces that can be beefed up anytime for war. Of course, the "neoconservatives" still avail of rapid deployment of US military forces from the most secure US bases. But they do not want any strategy that implies or suggests the reduction of US military bases abroad. They are for imperial overreach.
The US now has more than 800 overseas military bases, stations and installations, including 80 major ones, and more than 350,000 troops abroad. It can augment its forces and facilitiies by using those of other countries through so-called visiting, training, peacekeeping and peace-enforcement, access or mutual logistical support agreements.
The US has military presence in more than 140 countries, including dozens with significant deployment of troops in multiple hundreds or thousands. To cover and direct the US military forces overseas, the US maintains several US regional commands, such as the Eucom for Europe, Centcom for the Middle East, Pacom for Asia-Pacific, Southcom for Latin America and Northcom for North America (including Canada).
During the Cold War, the US regarded its military bases in Western Europe within the framework of the NATO as strategically the most important for reasons including the following: confronting the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact under a policy of containment and securing the largest combined US and West European economic interests.
After the end of the Cold War, the US still considers the US military bases in Europe as next in strategic importance only to those in mainland USA. The reasons are obvious: the US has expanded its economic and security interests in Europe, now extending to the territory of the former Warsaw Pact countries. Thus it also has to maintain enough US military forces in both Western and Eastern Europe to keep control over the NATO and to discourage France and Germany from building a superior European security force. The US military bases have been tremendously useful in the US and NATO wars of aggression against Iraq, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and in the recent Anglo-American war against Iraq.
These wars of aggression have allowed the US to tighten its control over sources of oil and gas, expand its regions of exploitation in general and establish more military bases in the Middle East and Central Asia. US military forces from bases in England, Germany, Italy, Greece and Turkey, which are components of NATO, have constituted the main prong in projecting US military power to the Middle East and Central Asia, while those from US military bases in the Asia-Pacific region, the secondary prong.
The first US war of aggression against Iraq in 1991 allowed the US to establish military bases in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar and grab a large part of their annual oil income through payments for their share of war costs and for military and other contracts to the extent that the people in these countries now suffer drastically lowered standards of living. The war further allowed the US to isolate the Palestinian Liberation Organization and draw it to the shadow of the Israeli slaughterhouse.
In line with the reunification of Germany and integration of East European countries in NATO, the US stirred up the Balkan wars and took full advantage of the disintegration of Yugoslavia and the counterrevolution in Albania. It used its military bases in old NATO territory as well as the transit bases provided by its new East European allies. As a result of the Balkan wars, the US was able to establish US bases and stations in Macedonia, Bosnia, Albania, Kosovo, Hungary, Georgia and Bulgaria, to control the southern flank of Russia and prevent the flow of oil to Central Europe via Russia or the Danube from the Caspian Sea region. There are now some 35,000 US troops in the Balkans.
The war of aggression in Afghanistan in 2001 allowed the US to set up so many military bases and stations in Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Sixty-thousand US troops are now in these bases. These former Soviet republics in Central Asia are geographically close to China. Under US hegemony, they are strategic US positions of strength against both China and Russia. With US bases to the east in Japan, to the south in South Korea, and Washington’s military support for Taiwan, China is virtually encircled. Russia also feels threatened by these new US bases in the former Soviet Republics and has publicly expressed its displeasure.
The real objective of the war in Afghanistan was to secure US political and economic interests in the area. US companies have long wanted to build a secure corridor for US-controlled oil and natural gas pipelines from the Caspian Sea region and Central Asia through Afghanistan and Pakistan to the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. The US realized the scheme under the pretext of punishing Al-Qaeda and the Taliban regime for the 9/11 attacks. The nearby sources of energy supply are estimated to contain more than 6 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves and 40 percent of its gas reserves.
As a consequence of its conquest and occupation of Iraq, the US has taken over all the Iraqi military bases and has converted most of them into US military bases. These are right at the heart of the entire Middle East. They carry 140,000 US troops, on top of the US troops in the priorly established US bases in Saudi Arabia, the Arab emirates, Egypt and Jordan. The US now directly controls the Iraqi oil facilities and resources. It is encumbering them with contracts with US corporations (Bechtel and Halliburton) thereby setting them up for bargain sale to the US oil companies. It is in a position to control the whole of the OPEC more than ever before. It has reinforced the privileged position of the US dollar as the currency of oil transactions.
As of now, it is more then ever in a strong position to manipulate the situation against the Palestinian people in favor of the Israeli Zionists. But the "neoconservatives" hold the view that the US can effectively reconfigure the Middle East only by subjugating Syria and Iran and "democratizing" even Saudi Arabia ultimately. The US is preparing for US aggression against Syria and Iran by accusing them both of sending in "terrorists" into Iraq to wage guerrilla war against the US occupiers. It also accuses Iran of engaging in the production of nuclear weapons. It is eager to gain control over Iranian oil resources.
US overseas military bases and forces in the Asia-Pacific region are next in strategic importance only to those in Europe. More than half of the world’s population, natural resources, social wealth and market are in this global region. There are huge US economic and other interests here. The US regards China as its potential chief rival. Thus, China is now its object of a dual policy of engagement and containment. The US is encouraging the development of a Chinese capitalist economy subordinate to it but at the same time encircling and surveilling it with US military bases.
In the whole of East Asia, there are 100,000 US military troops in US military bases. The most important ones are located in Okinawa, Japan. These were established after the Second World War during the US occupation of Japan. Twenty-nine thousand troops are still stationed in 39 US military installations in Okinawa. Major bases are also in other parts of Japan.
All US military bases in Japan, Taiwan and Philippines played a central role in the front line against the Soviet Union, China and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea during the Cold War. Japan was the most important supply base for the US in its wars of aggression against Korea and Vietnam. After the withdrawal of the US military bases from the Philippines, as result of the people’s demand, the US military bases in Japan gained in importance. To this day, the US-Japan Security Treaty and its latest adaptations to the current situation in Asia are a threat to the countries and peoples of East Asia.
Thirty-seven thousand US troops are stationed in South Korea against North Korea. They are in an echeloned chain of military bases, having the highest concentration close to the demilitarized zone. Their back-up bases are known to carry nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction. They play an important role in the US security strategy of discouraging and preventing the peaceful reunification of Korea. They are also aimed against China, which it presumes to be building up military capabilities.
The US has been the main force preventing the return of island province Taiwan to its motherland China. It has maintained US military bases in Taiwan. It has given technologically advanced aircraft and weapons to the puppet renegades and has boasted of providing Taiwan and Japan with an umbrella of nuclear weapons and missile defense system. And yet US propagandists always point to China as the No. 1 potential enemy of the US not only in East Asia but also in the whole world.
The US is deliberately cultivating fears of China among the countries of Southeast Asia. It has long been trying to frighten them with China’s claims over certain islands in the South China Seas, which some of these countries also claim. The US has already acquired military access rights in several Southeast Asian countries and is trying hard to acquire outright basing rights in the Philippines in order to build a front line against China. It considers Australia as the rear for its conventional and high tech military bases.
The US lays great importance on the Philippines as the Southeast Asian country most connected to the US historically, economically, politically and culturally. It is vigorously scheming to increase its military presence in the Philippines under the pretext of combating "terrorism". It wants US military bases in the Philippines to be at the center of a long front line, with one spread of bases in Northeast Asia and another spread in Southeast Asia. This front line is expected to stand against China and North Korea and to allow the reduction of US military forces in vulnerable positions in Korea and Japan.
The US has practically reestablished military bases in the Philippines under the Visiting Forces Agreement and Mutual Logistical Support Agreement, both of which allow US military forces to go to any part of the Philippines and occupy it for any length of time. Both agreements allow the US to use any seaport, airfield or military installations of the reactionary puppet government and acquire all kinds of supplies for US military forces.
The United States does not neglect its own backyard. It has formidable interests there and fears the rise of revolutionary movements in the ongoing crisis of the US and world capitalist system. It is busy increasing and strengthening its military bases in the Latin American and Caribbean region.
Puerto Rico has replaced Panama as the hub for the region. Aside from the bombing range in Vieques, the US operates an "outer range" of almost 200,000 square miles in waters near Puerto Rico that includes an underwater tracking station for submarines and an electronic warfare range. These are used by the US Navy and by military contractors to test new weapons systems.
Through Plan Colombia, the US is building military bases and is increasingly becoming more involved in counter-insurgency operations against the FARC. Four new military bases are being established in Ecuador, Aruba, Curaçao and El Salvador. US military expansion in Latin America and the Caribbean is aimed against the ongoing revolutionary armed struggles and the growing anti-imperialist and democratic mass movements in the midst of the grave all-round social crisis that is afflicting so many of the countries in the region.
Aggression and Resistance
As the crisis of the US and the world capitalist system continues to worsen, the Bush regime is frenziedly favoring the military-industrial complex and oil monopolies in the US economy. It is accelerating and increasing war production and military spending. It is whipping up "anti-terrorism" and war hysteria, jingoism, racism and fascism. It is promoting state terrorism on a global scale and unleashing wars of aggression. In this connection, the US is using its military bases and establishing new ones in accordance with the strategy of forward deployment. But having too many footholds and carrying out even only two blitzkrieg invasions within less than two years have brought up too many grave problems for the US.
The US has been so driven by imperialist greed that it has been monopolizing the spoils of war, whether the political, military and financial costs of the war are shared with imperialist allies. But in a situation, where France, Germany and Russia had already signed contracts with the government of Iraq and there was no valid cause for waging war against it, the US set itself up as being not only as a cruel plunderer of Iraq but also an intolerable robber without honor even among thieves by waging war on Iraq in violation of the UN Charter and scrapping all the contracts previously made by Iraq under international law.
Now, because American casualties and the costs of exploding pipelines are increasing, the US wants to share the casualties and costs of the war with its imperialist allies. At the same time, it wants to continue monopolizing the spoils of war. Thus, it insists on staying as the supreme political authority over Iraq and the UN agencies and supreme commander of the UN multilateral force. It continues to take advantage of its imperialist allies and make them look like perennial stupid losers. It is carried away so much by rapacity that it has no choice but to exacerbate inter-imperialist contradictions. It is highly probable that the US will have to suffer serious defeats first before it can get itself out of the quicksand in Iraq.
The US is facing effective popular resistance through guerrilla warfare. There is a broad united front of bourgeois nationalists, communists, Shiites, Sunnis, Kurds and other people. The Iraqi people are proving to the US as they did to the British in the 1920s that colonial occupation is no longer profitable. The demand of the American people and the peoples of the world for US military withdrawal from Iraq can be expected to prevail over the Bush regime as soon as the US troop casualties rise to some 500 to 1000 and the damage to the pipelines renders the occupation unprofitable.
Successes in the resistance of the Afghani people through guerrilla warfare will also help to force the US military withdrawal from the Middle East and Central Asia. Right now, the Taliban is reported to be actively fighting in 40 percent of Afghanistan, while the puppet government is becoming more and more hated for serving US interests and making life more difficult for the people. The worst mistake that the US can do is to invade Syria and Iran or try to change the regimes there by some other way. The US would thus create a large battlefield that would be more favorable than ever to the people’s revolutionary forces. Right now, the threats of the US against Syria and Iran have motivated their people to give more help to the Iraqi people.
The case of Iraq, now called by Bush the "central front of the war on terrorism", demonstrates that the blitzkrieg use of cruise missiles and other high tech weapons can destroy fixed structures, bring down urban-based governments, kill so many people and pave the way for US occupation. But subsequently, the US aggressors must occupy the land to make the aggression profitable. It is their turn to be at the receiving end of rifle fire, rocket-propelled grenades, land mines, improvised bombs and knives.
The people start their armed resistance for national liberation with guerrilla warfare and take as much time as necessary to develop their armed revolutionary forces through stages. They use time and the wide expanse of their country, especially the rural areas, to conduct a war of fluid movement. At their own choosing, the people’s fighters deal deadly blows on their enemy anywhere and at any time while not offering any fixed target for the enemy to attack.
In so many countries in the world today, the US and the local reactionaries are responsible for the intolerable oppression and exploitation of the people. In some of these countries, such as the Philippines, India, Nepal, Turkey, Peru and Colombia, national liberation movements have arisen and have developed in accordance with the strategic line of protracted people’s war. As the crisis of the world capitalist system worsens, these revolutionary wars will intensify and will spread.
US military bases are always involved in armed counterrevolution. They are already in countries or in global regions where there are armed conflicts. US military forces use them to engage in military intervention or aggression. Where there is yet no blatant aggression, the US military bases are sources of US military advice and weapons against the revolutionary forces and people. But the supply of US weapons to the reactionary forces in those countries also leads to the seizure of the same weapons by the revolutionary forces. Thus, the Pentagon remains the biggest supply and transport agency of armed revolutions.
I hope that this conference under the auspices of the International League of People’s Struggle can launch and develop a powerful mass campaign to expose and denounce the hundreds of US military bases around the world and demand their dismantling. We must encourage all forms of struggle to oppose and get rid of these bases for the sake of advancing the cause of national and social liberation, development and a just peace.
The campaign deserves the resolute and militant
participation and support of all democratic, progressive and
peace-loving peoples of the world. I am confident that your
conference will be successful in clarifying the rationale and
making the plans for the campaign. May the campaign coordinate
many organized forces along a broad united front, mobilize great
numbers of people and win great victories on a global scale! ###