Bring War Dollars Home by Closing Down Bases

From Common Dreams:

by Christine Ahn and Sukjong Hong
Published on Friday, April 1, 2011 by Foreign Policy in Focus

On the eighth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, U.S. fighter planes took off to start yet another military action — this time, in Libya. A recent Gallup poll found that only 47 percent of Americans approved of military action in Libya, the lowest level of support for military intervention in 40 years. At the same time, U.S. President Barack Obama has sent Congress a budget that includes $1.2 trillion dollars for military and security expenditures. Clearly, Americans are weary of war, especially during an economic crisis that has threatened jobs, health plans, and pensions most families need to survive.

The hopeful news is that a grassroots movement of ordinary people across U.S. towns and cities has launched the New Priorities campaign, uniting under the demand to “bring the troops and war dollars home” by cutting defense spending instead of benefits, jobs, and basic government services. Worldwide actions are also being planned for the Global Day of Action on Military Spending on April 12th to shine a light on egregious amounts of military spending by the world’s governments. Central to these efforts must include demands to shut the 1,000-plus U.S. military bases in over 46 countries.

Bases are the most visible structures of the U.S. drive to maintain global military hegemony. Yet for most Americans, bases remain out of sight and outside the national discourse on war. Many don’t know about the enormous footprint of U.S. military installations around the world and how they undermine the lives and aspirations of the people who live directly in their shadow. Ending U.S. wars is essential, but closing down foreign bases is even more critical to dismantling U.S. militarism and global hegemony.

On the island of Cheju off the coast of South Korea, villagers are struggling to prevent the construction of a South Korean naval base intended for U.S. military use. In 2009, one of us traveled there and can still remember the tattered yellow flags lining the fence posts of homes, symbolizing the movement’s determination to stop the project. Walking along the endangered rocky coastline at the edge of this quiet village of farmers and fisherfolk, it was clear that Cheju Island and other sites of U.S. military bases in Korea have borne enormous costs to the people and to the future of peace in the region.

A Huge Financial Cost

Most figures used to estimate the cost of U.S. wars omit the global network of U.S. bases that provides vital resources and infrastructure to existing military conflicts. The Pentagon’s 2010 Base Structure Report, for example, lists 662 overseas bases but fails to include the 411 bases in Afghanistan, the 88 remaining bases in Iraq, or sites in Qatar and other countries where U.S. military personnel are stationed. Maintaining and constructing all U.S. bases cost American taxpayers $41.6 billion in 2010, according to Undersecretary of Defense Dorothy Robyn.

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