Monday, 29 May 2017

Russia accuses the US and NATO of "covering up their own support for terrorists, primarily ISIS militants" in Afghanistan

The Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) has quietly admitted to Congress that there is "no physical evidence" to back up the claim that Russia is arming the Taliban—but it appears that Moscow still has a few bones to pick with its wrongful accusers. 
The Russian Foreign Ministry's Information and Press Department released a statement on Tuesday which accuses the of US of supporting terrorists in Afghanistan:
One gets the impression that to distract world public opinion from numerous mistakes made during the more than 15 year-long stay of the US and NATO contingent in Afghanistan, some people are trying to slander Russia, both on their own and with the help of their henchmen in Afghanistan, while covering up their own support for terrorists, primarily ISIS militants.
The statement cites a string of "strange" events in Afghanistan:
  • Reports of three US servicemen "with a consignment of arms" caught trying to sell weapons to ISIS fighters in the northern province of Sar-e Pol last January.
  • The US detained but then released the son of the head of the terrorist Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU); he is now an ISIS commander in Afghanistan.
  • The night landing of two helicopters without identification marks in extremist-controlled territory in the Sayyad District; the helicopters then flew back to a NATO base.
The full statement is below:
Despite the assurances of the Afghan authorities that they will curb groundless accusations of Russia for allegedly supporting the Taliban, some Afghan MPs and heads of provincial Afghan security agencies continue to repeat these insinuations. This time, police chief of Kandahar Province Abdul Raziq alleged that Russia is helping the Taliban with money and arms supplies in cooperation with other countries. In addition, Fox News Channel in the US resorted to a well-known trick of manipulating public opinion by presenting in the same context reports about the appearance of unidentified helicopters in Kunduz Province bordering on Tajikistan and the smuggling of goods across the Tajik-Afghan border with the latest fantasies of Afghan pseudo analysts on the possible arrival of Russian military advisors to organise financial and logistics support for the Taliban.
The facts we have at our disposal show that the reality is completely different. Earlier the Afghan website Payam Aftab carried an article about the detention of three US servicemen with a consignment of arms in the Kokistanat District of the northern province of Sar-e Pol last January. ISIS commandos who were going to buy these arms from the Americans were caught at the same time with a huge sum of money. However, later on the US servicemen were released from custody and transferred to their command, while all documents, including interrogation records, money and arms mysteriously disappeared.
Even stranger is the release of Azizullah from the US Bagram Prison near Kabul in the autumn of 2016. He is the son of Tahir Yuldashev, head of the terrorist Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU). Later on Azizullah was moved to the Darzab District of the Jowzjan Province in the north of Afghanistan, where he headed a unit of 25 militants that left the IMU for ISIS. As a result, Azizullah’s unit subjugated armed formations of the Taliban in some districts of the provinces of Jowzjan, Faryab and Sar-e Pol, compelled the local population to swear loyalty to ISIS and established a second open bridgehead of ISIS in the north of Afghanistan (after the first one in Nangarhar).
Finally, Sar-e Pol Governor Mohammad Zahir Wahdat confirmed on the record information about the night landing of two helicopters without identification marks in extremist-controlled territory in the Sayyad District. They went to the government air force base in Mazar-e-Sharif that also accommodates the NATO military base Camp Marmal.
One gets the impression that to distract world public opinion from numerous mistakes made during the more than 15 year-long stay of the US and NATO contingent in Afghanistan, some people are trying to slander Russia, both on their own and with the help of their henchmen in Afghanistan, while covering up their own support for terrorists, primarily ISIS militants.
Moscow has never shied away from speaking openly about what's really happening in Afghanistan. Back in March, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov accused NATO of indirectly supporting the Afghan drug trade.

‘Fact of life’: Civilian casualties inevitable amid US tactics of ‘ISIS annihilation’ – Mattis

Civilian casualties in the war against terrorism is a “fact of life,” US Defense Secretary James Mattis has said, insisting the US are the “good guys” doing everything “humanly possible” to annihilate ISIS with minimal collateral damage.
The US’s highest military official made the comments during a CBS ‘Face the Nation’ program, where he spoke about “accelerating the tempo” of the anti-terrorist campaign and using “annihilation tactics” against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).
“We have already shifted from attrition tactics, where we shove them from one position to another in Iraq and Syria, to annihilation tactics where we surround them. Our intention is that the foreign fighters do not survive the fight to return home,” Mattis outlined.
“What about civilian casualties as a result of this faster tempo?” program host, John Dickerson asked.
“Civilian casualties are a fact of life in this sort of situation, Mattis replied. He however insisted that the US military tries to “avoid civilian casualties at all costs,” doing “everything humanly possible consistent with military necessity.”
Earlier this week, the Pentagon released the results of its probe into the deadly March 17 airstrike in which over 100 civilians were killed.
The report stated that air support was called in against two snipers firing at Iraqi forces from a rooftop. The US, however, shifted the blame for the massacre on IS terrorists, claiming that the airstrike caused a secondary explosion of their munition stockpiles which led to a collapse of the building.
“The American people and the American military will never get used to civilian casualties. And we will – we will fight against that every way we can possibly bring our intelligence and our tactics to bear,” Mattis told CBS, while commenting on the March incident.
Mattis then reiterated the US military findings about the “secondary explosions” and blamed IS terrorists holding civilians hostage in the crossfire.
“We are the good guys,” he added. “We’re not the perfect guys, but we are the good guys. And so we’re doing what we can.”
While holding local residents hostage and using them as human shields in Mosul is indeed a brutal, yet common tactic of Jihadist militants, several international human rights groups have also noted that the Iraqi forces themselves repeatedly told Mosul civilians to stay at homes in order to be “safer.”
“They did not try to flee as the battle got underway because they received repeated instructions from the Iraqi authorities to remain in their homes,” a recent Amnesty International report said, citing survivors of the airstrikes which killed civilians.
“Evidence gathered on the ground in East Mosul points to an alarming pattern of US-led coalition airstrikes which have destroyed whole houses with entire families inside,” Amnesty International official Donatella Rovera said.
While the official civilian death toll of the US-led campaign aimed at “annihilating” IS in both Iraq and Syria amounts to 352, not counting the victims of March 17 airstrike, independent observers say actual figures are several times higher.
Airwars, a UK-based charity-funded NGO which conducts its own detailed reviews of strike reports, gives a minimum estimated figure of 3,681 civilians killed in the US-led coalition’s air campaign. The organization further notes that civilian deaths have been spiking to their highest levels ever in recent months, corresponding with the intensified operation to recapture the western part of Mosul.

No more dependence on allies, Europe should take its fate into own hands – Merkel after G7

While Britain and America remain friends, European nations must rely more on themselves, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told a rally of voters in Munich. She said she got this feeling after meeting world leaders at the recently concluded G7 summit in Italy.
While Britain and America remain friends, European nations must rely more on themselves, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told a rally of voters in Munich. She said she got this feeling after meeting world leaders at the recently concluded G7 summit in Italy.
“The times in which we could completely depend on others are on the way out. I've experienced that in the last few days,” she told the crowd Sunday, a day after attending the G7 summit.
At the summit, G7 leaders failed to secure a pledge from US President Donald Trump to keep America in a key climate change accord, the Paris Agreement. The chancellor described the talks on the issue as “very difficult, not to say very unsatisfactory” afterwards.
In her Sunday speech, Merkel said: “We Europeans must really take our destiny into our own hands, of course in friendship with the United States, in friendship with Great Britain, with good neighborly relations wherever possible, also with Russia and other countries – but we have to know that we have to fight for our future and our fate ourselves as Europeans."
She added that good relations with France’s newly elected President Emmanuel Macron is necessary to cement European ties.
The chancellor appeared a festival tent in the Bavarian capital alongside the state’s Minister-President, Horst Seehofer, according to Focus. He leads the Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian sister party of Merkel’s ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU).
Mekel and Seehofer’s meeting, aimed at renewing the alliance of the two parties after some policy squabbles, was scheduled for Tuesday but was canceled due to the suicide bombing in Manchester, UK. According to polls, the sister parties are expected to win the upcoming general election, securing Merkel a fourth term as Germany Chancellor.
Some 2,300 people showed up for the festivities, filling up the tent despite hot weather while several hundred enjoyed the weather outside.

One chance to make a first impression – and Trump blew it

Finian Cunningham (born 1963) has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages. Originally from Belfast, Ireland, he is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in newspaper journalism. For over 20 years he worked as an editor and writer in major news media organizations, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent. Now a freelance journalist based in East Africa, his columns appear on RT, Sputnik, Strategic Culture Foundation and Press TV.
It was US President Donald Trump’s first foreign trip since his election six months ago. Perhaps his abiding “achievement” from the nine-day tour of the Middle East and Europe was to reinforce the unflattering stereotypes about himself.
His itinerary which began in Saudi Arabia and ended in Sicily at the weekend was a tale of two visits. Trump was feted like a hero by Saudi rulers and on his next stop in Israel. He was evidently comfortable there and gushed with praise for his hosts. By contrast, during the European leg of the tour, the American president was met with a mixture of scorn, grimaces, and derision.
What does that say about this president? He is warmly greeted and lauded in Middle Eastern states whose records on human rights and violations are a stain on the world. Anywhere else though, he comes across as an insufferable sociopath.
Even during his supposedly friendly meetings in Europe, there was awkward ambiguity. When he met with Pope Francis in the Vatican, Trump was beaming radiant smiles for the cameras, while the pontiff glared with a stony face as if the pair just had a spat during earlier discussions.
Later, during the G7 summit of top rich nations held in Sicily, Trump was seen giving newly-elected French President Emmanuel Macron an “alpha male” handshake in which he nearly yanked off the younger leader’s arm. Trump may have intended to fool around in friendly locker-room style, but his behavior came across as less amicable and more erratically insecure.
The European news media dubbed Trump’s general behavior as “boorish” and “rude.” He looked decidedly awkward among the other politicians, as if he wanted to get back on Air Force and enjoy the private comfort of munching on a ketchup-oozing hamburger, washed down with his favorite tipple of Coca-Cola.
A telling image was that of the other G7 leaders strolling amiably along the historic streets in the Sicilian resort town of Taormina. Trump held back and instead jumped into a golf cart to get to the lunch venue all the quicker.
At the G7 conference, there was no hiding the gaping distance between Trump and the other leaders, both in terms of policy and personal conduct. A communiqué consisting of just six pages – the briefest ever – was tangible proof that he found little to agree on with his counterparts from Canada, Germany, France, Britain, Italy, and Japan.
Trump’s egocentric view of the world as being always a “bad deal for America” ensured that there was no substantial agreement on issues of international trade, climate change, terrorism, and immigration. In the end, it was an embarrassing case of papering over the divergence between the US and other allies.
Stated commitments on countering terrorism and immigration, and on boosting economic trade were so vague in order to give the impression of common ground that such commitments will most certainly amount to more procrastination, and nothing practical.
On climate change, Trump persisted in hinting that he would rip up the US signatory to the 2015 Paris Accord, limiting greenhouse gas emissions. Granted, Trump moved significantly from his campaign rhetoric scoffing at the issue of climate change as a “hoax created by China” to disadvantage American economic competitiveness. At least in Sicily, he confined his skepticism to saying he would delay his decision to quit the Paris Accord.
German Chancellor Angel Merkel stretched diplomatic language to the limit, by describing the G7 talks on climate change as “very unsatisfactory.”
The low-point of Trump’s whirlwind tour was his stop in Brussels, where he addressed the 27 other leaders of the NATO military alliance. Speaking at an outdoor ceremony, Trump harangued the assembled leaders to cough up more military spending.
The US president said that if 23 out of 28 members were to meet a spending target of two percent of GDP on military – as previously agreed at a NATO summit held in Wales in 2014 – then that would generate a total extra $119 billion on defense spending. Only five NATO members make the two percent threshold: the US, Britain, Greece, Poland, and Estonia.
Several NATO states like Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Italy currently allocate about one percent of GDP to military expenditure.
Trump is not alone among Americans as seeing these European states as “freeloaders” on US military power. But this president expresses the irritation in a particularly unvarnished way.
As he addressed the other NATO leaders, there was much shuffling of feet, grimaces, and even contemptuous smirks among the Europeans as if they were being scolded like errant schoolchildren by a headmaster – or perhaps bully – whom they had no respect for.
The Europeans argue that the NATO spending figure is only an arbitrary guideline and not binding. It is also arguable that the US is pushing for the extra input because it would primarily benefit the American military industry from new orders of F-16 and F-35 fighter jets, Patriot missiles, and Abrams tanks. In other words, Trump is seen as demanding, in effect, a European subsidy for the American military-industrial complex.
Germany stands out as the bane of Trump’s grievances with the Europeans. While talking with European Union chiefs in Brussels ahead of the NATO meeting, Trump slammed German trade practice as “very bad.” He accused Germany of dumping car exports on the US, while seemingly unaware that German manufacturers have invested heavily in building factories in his country.
Notably, Trump was at his happiest during the earlier visits to Saudi Arabia and Israel where he signed off on weapons deals worth up to $350 billion for American exports over 10 years. He seemed unconcerned by the implications from fueling such massive amounts of weaponry to a tinderbox region, and to regimes that are up to their eyes in sponsoring terrorist networks.
That suggests Trump has a very limited understanding of intricacies in international relations and problems. If human rights-abusing regimes buy American weapons, then he’s happy and all is “successful.” On the other hand, dealing with other world leaders where it involves discussions and understanding, then Trump adopts a glowering, bullying position.
A fleeting moment at the NATO summit illustrated Trump’s character. At one point, he was making his way to a group photoshoot. Without as much as a polite request or apology, Trump is clearly seen shoving the Montenegrin Prime Minister Dusko Markovic to the side in order to get ahead. Trump didn’t even look at the bundled prime minister or at onlookers taken aback by his aggressive manner. There was not a hint of shame about his uncouth behavior. Instead, Trump puffed out his chest, buttoned his jacket and obviously felt self-satisfied to be a “winner.
It all comes down to a crude bottom line for Trump. Give me money, and you’re a fantastic guy. Anything less, and you’re an obstacle to be pushed aside.
This is just a guess, but when his wife Melania snubbed Trump’s hand at various times during the foreign visit, it was probably because he had been a huge, self-centered pain in the neck while traveling between stops on Air Force One.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Sunday, 28 May 2017

In 45 countries, U.S. military bases prop up undemocratic regimes of all sorts, while often interfering with local campaigns for democracy.

By ,

published in TomDispatch.


(Photo: U.S. Marine Corps / Flickr)
Much outrage has been expressed in recent weeks over President Donald Trump’s invitation for a White House visit to Rodrigo Duterte, president of the Philippines, whose “war on drugs” has led to thousands of extrajudicial killings.
Criticism of Trump was especially intense given his similarly warm public support for other authoritarian rulers, like Egypt’s Abdel Fatah el-Sisi (who visited the Oval Office to much praise only weeks earlier), Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan (who got a congratulatory phone call from President Trump on his recent referendum victory, granting him increasingly unchecked powers), and Thailand’s Prayuth Chan-ocha (who also received a White House invitation).
But here’s the strange thing: The critics generally ignored the far more substantial and long-standing bipartisan support U.S. presidents have offered these and dozens of other repressive regimes over the decades. After all, such autocratic countries share one striking thing in common. They are among at least 45 less-than-democratic nations and territories that today host scores of U.S. military bases, from ones the size of not-so-small American towns to tiny outposts. Together, these bases are homes to tens of thousands of U.S. troops.
To ensure basing access from Central America to Africa, Asia to the Middle East, U.S. officials have repeatedly collaborated with fiercely anti-democratic regimes and militaries implicated in torture, murder, the suppression of democratic rights, the systematic oppression of women and minorities, and numerous other human rights abuses.
Forget the recent White House invitations and Trump’s public compliments. For nearly three quarters of a century, the United States has invested tens of billions of dollars in maintaining bases and troops in such repressive states. From Harry Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower to George W. Bush and Barack Obama, Republican and Democratic administrations alike have, since World War II, regularly shown a preference for maintaining bases in undemocratic and often despotic states, including Spain under Generalissimo Francisco Franco, South Korea under Park Chung-hee, Bahrain under King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, and Djibouti under four-term President Ismail Omar Guelleh, to name just four.
Many of the 45 present-day undemocratic U.S. base hosts qualify as fully “authoritarian regimes,” according to the Economist Democracy Index. In such cases, American installations and the troops stationed on them are effectively helping block the spread of democracy in countries like Cameroon, Chad, Ethiopia, Jordan, Kuwait, Niger, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.
This pattern of daily support for dictatorship and repression around the world should be a national scandal in a country supposedly committed to democracy. It should trouble Americans ranging from religious conservatives and libertarians to leftists — anyone, in fact, who believes in the democratic principles enshrined in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. After all, one of the long-articulated justifications for maintaining military bases abroad has been that the U.S. military’s presence protects and spreads democracy.
Far from bringing democracy to these lands, however, such bases tend to provide legitimacy for and prop up undemocratic regimes of all sorts, while often interfering with genuine efforts to encourage political and democratic reform. The silencing of the critics of human rights abuses in base hosts like Bahrain, which has violently cracked down on pro-democracy demonstrators since 2011, has left the United States complicit in these states’ crimes.
During the Cold War, bases in undemocratic countries were often justified as the unfortunate but necessary consequence of confronting the “communist menace” of the Soviet Union. But here’s the curious thing: In the quarter century since the Cold War ended with that empire’s implosion, few of those bases have closed. Today, while a White House visit from an autocrat may generate indignation, the presence of such installations in countries run by repressive or military rulers receives little notice at all.
Befriending Dictators
The 45 nations and territories with little or no democratic rule represent more than half of the roughly 80 countries now hosting U.S. bases (who often lack the power to ask their “guests” to leave). They are part of a historically unprecedented global network of military installations the United States has built or occupied since World War II.
Today, while there are no foreign bases in the United States, there are around 800 U.S. bases in foreign countries. That number was recently even higher, but it still almost certainly represents a record for any nation or empire in history.
More than 70 years after World War II and 64 years after the Korean War, there are, according to the Pentagon, 181 U.S. “base sites” in Germany, 122 in Japan, and 83 in South Korea. Hundreds more dot the planet from Aruba to Australia, Belgium to Bulgaria, Colombia to Qatar. Hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops, civilians, and family members occupy these installations. By my conservative estimate, to maintain such a level of bases and troops abroad, U.S. taxpayers spend at least $150 billion annually — more than the budget of any government agency except the Pentagon itself.
For decades, leaders in Washington have insisted that bases abroad spread our values and democracy — and that may have been true to some extent in occupied Germany, Japan, and Italy after World War II. However, as base expert Catherine Lutz suggests, the subsequent historical record shows that “gaining and maintaining access for U.S. bases has often involved close collaboration with despotic governments.”
The bases in the countries whose leaders President Trump has recently lauded illustrate the broader pattern. The United States has maintained military facilities in the Philippines almost continuously since seizing that archipelago from Spain in 1898. It only granted the colony independence in 1946, conditioned on the local government’s agreement that the U.S. would retain access to more than a dozen installations there.
After independence, a succession of U.S. administrations supported two decades of Ferdinand Marcos’s autocratic rule, ensuring the continued use of Clark Air Base and Subic Bay Naval Base, two of the largest U.S. bases abroad. After the Filipino people finally ousted Marcos in 1986 and then made the U.S. military leave in 1991, the Pentagon quietly returned in 1996. With the help of a “visiting forces agreement” and a growing stream of military exercises and training programs, it began to set up surreptitious, small-scale bases once more.
A desire to solidify this renewed base presence, while also checking Chinese influence, undoubtedly drove Trump’s recent White House invitation to Duterte. It came despite the Filipino president’s record of joking about rape, swearing he would be “happy to slaughter” millions of drug addicts just as “Hitler massacred [six] million Jews,” and bragging, “I don’t care about human rights.”
In Turkey, President Erdogan’s increasingly autocratic rule is only the latest episode in a pattern of military coups and undemocratic regimes interrupting periods of democracy. U.S. bases have, however, been a constant presence in the country since 1943. They repeatedly caused controversy and sparked protest — first throughout the 1960s and 1970s, before the Bush administration’s 2003 invasion of Iraq, and more recently after U.S. forces began using them to launch attacks in Syria.
Although Egypt has a relatively small U.S. base presence, its military has enjoyed deep and lucrative ties with the U.S. military since the signing of the Camp David Accords with Israel in 1979. After a 2013 military coup ousted a democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood government, the Obama administration took months to withhold some forms of military and economic aid, despite more than 1,300 killings by security forces and the arrest of more than 3,500 members of the Brotherhood. According to Human Rights Watch, “Little was said about ongoing abuses,” which have continued to this day.
In Thailand, the U.S. has maintained deep connections with the Thai military, which has carried out 12 coups since 1932. Both countries have been able to deny that they have a basing relationship of any sort, thanks to a rental agreement between a private contractor and U.S. forces at Thailand’s Utapao Naval Air Base. “Because of [contractor] Delta Golf Global,” writes journalist Robert Kaplan, “the U.S. military was here, but it was not here. After all, the Thais did no business with the U.S. Air Force. They dealt only with a private contractor.”
Elsewhere, the record is similar.
In monarchical Bahrain, which has had a U.S. military presence since 1949 and now hosts the Navy’s 5th Fleet, the Obama administration offered only the most tepid criticism of the government despite an ongoing, often violent crackdown on pro-democracy protesters. According to Human Rights Watch and others (including an independent commission of inquiry appointed by the Bahraini king, Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa), the government has been responsible for widespread abuses — including the arbitrary arrest of protesters, ill treatment during detention, torture-related deaths, and growing restrictions on freedoms of speech, association, and assembly. The Trump administration has already signaled its desire to protect the military-to-military ties of the two countries by approving a sale of F-16 fighters to Bahrain without demanding improvements in its human rights record.
And that’s typical of what base expert Chalmers Johnson once called the American “baseworld.” Research by political scientist Kent Calder confirms what’s come to be known as the “dictatorship hypothesis”: “The United States tends to support dictators [and other undemocratic regimes] in nations where it enjoys basing facilities.” Another large-scale study similarly shows that autocratic states have been “consistently attractive” as base sites. “Due to the unpredictability of elections,” it added bluntly, democratic states prove “less attractive in terms [of] sustainability and duration.”
Even within what are technically U.S. borders, democratic rule has regularly proved “less attractive” than preserving colonialism into the twenty-first century. The presence of scores of bases in Puerto Rico and the Pacific island of Guam has been a major motivation for keeping these and other U.S. “territories” — American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands — in varying degrees of colonial subordination. Conveniently for military leaders, they have neither full independence nor the full democratic rights that would come with incorporation into the U.S. as states, including voting representation in Congress and the presidential vote.
Installations in at least five of Europe’s remaining colonies have proven equally attractive, as has the base that U.S. troops have forcibly occupied in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, since shortly after the Spanish-American War of 1898.
Backing Dictators
Authoritarian rulers tend to be well aware of the desire of U.S. officials to maintain the status quo when it comes to bases. As a result, they often capitalize on a base presence to extract benefits or help ensure their own political survival.
The Philippines’ Marcos, former South Korean dictator Syngman Rhee, and more recently Djibouti’s Ismail Omar Guelleh have been typical in the way they used bases to extract economic assistance from Washington, which they then lavished on political allies to shore up their power.
Others have relied on such bases to bolster their international prestige and legitimacy or to justify violence against domestic political opponents. After the 1980 Kwangju massacre in which the South Korean government killed hundreds, if not thousands, of pro-democracy demonstrators, strongman General Chun Doo-hwan explicitly cited the presence of U.S. bases and troops to suggest that his actions enjoyed Washington’s support.
Whether or not that was true is still a matter of historical debate. What’s clear, however, is that American leaders have regularly muted their criticism of repressive regimes lest they imperil bases in these countries. In addition, such a presence tends to strengthen military, rather than civilian, institutions in countries because of the military-to-military ties, arms sales, and training missions that generally accompany basing agreements.
Meanwhile, opponents of repressive regimes often use the bases as a tool to rally nationalist sentiment, anger, and protest against both ruling elites and the United States. That, in turn, tends to fuel fears in Washington that a transition to democracy might lead to base eviction, often leading to a doubling down on support for undemocratic rulers. The result can be an escalating cycle of opposition and U.S.-backed repression.
While some defend the presence of bases in undemocratic countries as necessary to deter “bad actors” and support “U.S. interests” (primarily corporate ones), backing dictators and autocrats frequently leads to harm not just for the citizens of host nations but for U.S. citizens as well.
The base build-up in the Middle East has proven the most prominent example of this. Since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the Iranian Revolution, which both unfolded in 1979, the Pentagon has built up scores of bases across the Middle East at a cost of tens of billions of taxpayer dollars. According to former West Point professor Bradley Bowman, such bases and the troops that go with them have been a “major catalyst for anti-Americanism and radicalization.” Research has similarly revealed a correlation between the bases and al-Qaeda recruitment.
Most catastrophically, outposts in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Afghanistan have helped generate and fuel the radical militancy that has spread throughout the Greater Middle East and led to terrorist attacks in Europe and the United States. The presence of such bases and troops in Muslim holy lands was, after all, a major recruiting tool for al-Qaeda and part of Osama bin Laden’s professed motivation for the 9/11 attacks.
With the Trump administration seeking to entrench its renewed base presence in the Philippines and the president commending Duterte and similarly authoritarian leaders in Bahrain and Egypt, Turkey and Thailand, human rights violations are likely to escalate, fueling unknown brutality and baseworld blowback for years to come.
David Vine, a TomDispatch regular, is associate professor of anthropology at American University in Washington, D.C. His latest book is Base Nation: How U.S. Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World (the American Empire Project, Metropolitan Books). He has written for the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Guardian, and Mother Jones, among other publications. For more information, visit and