Tomgram: Nick Turse, Bases, Bases, Everywhere, and Not a Base in Sight

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November 5, 2019
Tomgram: Nick Turse, Bases, Bases, Everywhere, and Not a Base in SightIn January 2004, Chalmers Johnson wrote this about what he called America’s “empire of bases” or its “Baseworld”:

“As distinct from other peoples, most Americans do not recognize — or do not want to recognize — that the United States dominates the world through its military power. Due to government secrecy, our citizens are often ignorant of the fact that our garrisons encircle the planet. This vast network of American bases on every continent except Antarctica actually constitutes a new form of empire — an empire of bases with its own geography not likely to be taught in any high school geography class. Without grasping the dimensions of this globe-girdling Baseworld, one can’t begin to understand the size and nature of our imperial aspirations or the degree to which a new kind of militarism is undermining our constitutional order.”

Grimly enough, 15 years later, as TomDispatch managing editor Nick Turse makes clear today, not a word of what Johnson wrote isn’t applicable to this moment as well. The United States remains, in the phrase of another TomDispatch author, David Vine, a base nation. Millions of Americans have been to or served at one or more of those garrisons scattered in an historically unprecedented way across, as Johnson said, every continent but Antarctica. In recent years, in every size and shape those bases have, as Turse points out, only multiplied across the Greater Middle East and increasingly parts of Africa, thanks to Washington’s never-ending war on terror.  Yet coverage of them, discussion of them, debate about them in this country is essentially nil. America’s Baseworld, a looming reality of the twenty-first century, remains no part of any conversation, not in the mainstream media, not on cable news, nowhere — not, at least, until Donald Trump recently withdrew perhaps 1,000 U.S. military personnel from a number of small bases in northeastern Syria (even if new ones are soon to return to Southern Syria) to the shocked reaction of national security types everywhere.

In other words, an overwhelming fact that shapes the U.S. role in the world (and the forever wars that go with it) is generally absent from American thinking about that very role, which is why today’s Turse piece couldn’t be more timely. Tom

Winter Is Coming
Castle Black, the Syrian Withdrawal, and the Battle of the Bases
By Nick Turse

They called it Castle Black, an obvious homage to the famed frozen citadel from the HBO series Game of Thrones. In the fantasy world of GoT, it’s the stronghold of the Night’s Watch, the French Foreign Legion-esque guardians of the northern border of the Seven Kingdoms.

This Castle Black, however, was all too real and occupied by U.S. Special Operations forces, America’s most elite troops. In its location, at least, it was nearly as remote as its namesake, even if in far warmer climes — not on the northern fringe of Westeros but at the far edge of eastern Syria.

Today, the real Castle Black and most of the archipelago of U.S. outposts only recently arrayed across the Syrian frontier are emptying out, sit abandoned, or are occupied by Russian and Syrian troops. At least one — located at the Lafarge Cement Factory — lies in partial ruins after two U.S. Air Force F-15 jets conducted an airstrike on it. The purpose, according to Colonel Myles Caggins, a spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR), the U.S.-led military coalition fighting ISIS, was to “destroy an ammunition cache, and reduce the facility’s military usefulness.”

Click here to read more of this dispatch.

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