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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Akuffo Addo-USAfriCom Saga: Part One

Comment: Re: Akufo Addo Must Come Out Clear On USAfricom:
"Look at the other side of the argument like job creation that American military base in Ghana will bring to the teeming unemployed youth. If the youth have jobs, the raging arm robbery may be reduced to the barest minimum. Why have you preoccupied yourself with this issue? Will it be alright if the Russians or the Chinese establish a military base here in Ghana? Has it ever occured to you that a great number of Ghanaians will be too happy to have jobs that cannot be taken away from them whenever there is a change of Government? It is a shame that you and Kwesi Prat still live in the past. CPP is dead just as Nkrumaism."

-ALEX AMOAKO-ATTAH,


Date: 2010-03-02 08:19:15, Comment to: Akufo Addo Must Come Out Clear On USAfricom, Feature Article of Tuesday, 2 March 2010.


I know how close you are to Nana Akufo Addo that is why I am singling out your comment for a special treatment, in order to provide clear and correct information to the public, and help to counter disinformation.

You asked two main questions:

1. "Look at the other side of the argument like job creation that American military base in Ghana will bring to the teeming unemployed youth. If the youth have jobs, the raging arm robbery may be reduced to the barest minimum. Why have you preoccupied yourself with this issue?"

2. "Will it be alright if the Russians or the Chinese establish a military base here in Ghana? Has it ever occurred to you that a great number of Ghanaians will be too happy to have jobs that cannot be taken away from them whenever there is a change of Government?"

In order to keep this short. I shall answer the first question in part one and the second in part two respectively.

Answer To The First Question:



1. "Look at the other side of the argument like job creation that American military base in Ghana will bring to the teeming unemployed youth. If the youth have jobs, the raging arm robbery may be reduced to the barest minimum. Why have you preoccupied yourself with this issue?"

I wonder why you are asking me to look at a side of an argument that does not stand on its feet! "Look at the other side of the argument like job creation that American military base in Ghana will bring to the teeming unemployed youth." You should not have bothered to preach to Ghanaians the virtues and pleasures of employment such as "If the youth have jobs, the raging arm robbery may be reduced to the barest minimum." We all know this. The central question is does the mere establishment of military bases create "jobs that cannot be taken away from them whenever there is a change of Government"? Yes or No?

There is no doubt in my mind that this whole vague idea that somehow the establishment of military bases would have any economic benefits must really be based simply on the silly suspicions of a few ill-informed individuals. All we need to do is to look around us and find out what is really going on.

Describing the scale of their operations, Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! says: "It sounds like a fast-food franchise—hundreds of locations spanning some 130 countries across the globe—but in fact, it’s perhaps the ultimate face of US hegemony: military bases. There are more than 700 US military bases worldwide, used for launching wars, holding prisoners, testing weapons.
One could be closing down in Ecuador, where lawmakers recently approved a ban on foreign bases. The Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa has famously quipped that he’ll let the US military remain if the US agrees to an Ecuadorian military base in Miami." Thus the United States has over 700 hundred military bases across the globe, so this should not be hard to check and report.

What I notice, when I "look at the other side of the argument" as directed by Alex Amoako-Atta, is that, in the first place, the deployment of US forces across the globe is not done in a homogeneous manner. So it does not even make any sense to talk about the economic benefits when you do not know what type of base it is going to be. There are remarkable differences and practices of the US military around the world. It has been noted for example that marine bases are relatively less likely to create more criminal behaviour than Air Force bases, whilst naval bases are notorious for the regular visitations by rude, arrogant, and sexually aroused young men and women often in their thousands, looking for sex and alcohol. With this business profile the only sections of the economy that stand to benefit from this would be the drinking bars and the prostitution and beer industries.

Military bases are “installations routinely used by military forces.” If they are soldiers from one's own country, the chances are that in a democracy the citizens can control their excesses through their governments. However, the confluence of labor (soldiers, paramilitary workers, and civilians), land, and capital in the form of static facilities, supplies, and equipment belonging to a foreign army is a different matter. "Bases are just the most visible part of the larger picture of U.S. military presence overseas. This picture of military access includes U.S. military training of foreign forces, often in conjunction with the provision of U.S. weaponry, joint exercises meant to enhance U.S. soldiers' exposure to a variety of operating environments from jungle to desert to urban terrain and interoperability across national militaries, and legal arrangements made to gain overflight rights and other forms of ad hoc use of others' territory as well as to preposition military equipment there."

When the US Military has personnel in a country they operate under a SOFA, a status of forces agreement with that country.  These agreement generally put US personnel beyond the legal reach of their host country.  The SOFAs also apply to contractors.  Increasingly, both the US State Department and the Pentagon use contractors for military activities outside the United States.  Most of these contractors operate beyond the reach of any law.  Theoretically they are controlled by US law, or US military justice.  In practice it is almost never applied, in US courts it is frequently too difficult to prove cases that happened in other countries, in part because it is difficult get witnesses for those trials. 
Military bases, even within the US are the sources of devastating environmental pollution, toxic chemicals, heavy metals, contaminated land and groundwater.  They make little effort to clean up within the United States.  In other countries they just leave the pollution for the people to suffer.
Before we come to that, here are a few interesting cases that show the impact of the US bases on the local populations:

Case Number One: the removal of the U.S. Navy from Vieques, Puerto Rico in 2003

Since these troubling events, the number of countries into which the U.S. slowly but surely seeking to establish bases in are expanding rapidly. We see them particularly in Africa, Central Asia, and Latin America. In spite of the overwhelming sympathy that greeted the US after the attacks of the 9/11,sustained campaigns of direct action and political lobbying resulted in the removal of the U.S. Navy from Vieques, Puerto Rico in 2003. "The success of this anti-base campaign, where others had failed, was due in part to the use of arguments about the deleterious environmental and health effects of military activities on the island. This argument also remains the centerpiece of resistance to military activities on and around domestic U.S. bases." (Catherine Lutz, Bases, Empire, and Global Response. www.forusa.org)

Case Number Two: Voices from Chamoru
In the summer of 2007, Two Chamoru representatives from Guam visited Australia for a month-long international awareness campaign and accused the United States of glaring human rights violations of the indigenous Chamoru people. It is an interesting case because if there are any economic impact to be expected per ratio of local population, in Guam the ratio was one is to one. The island's entire indigenous Chomoru population stands at 55,000. The Americans are seeking to base 55.000 troops there. Asking the people of Guam the benefits of a military base is like asking a rape victim the benefits of being raped!

'“The new wave of U.S. militarization of Guam means to be decisive,” said Chamoru writer Julian Aguon in Sydney today. “It is not simply more of the same. Part of the U.S. military realignment in the Asia-Pacific region includes the controversial relocation of 8,000 U.S. Marines from Okinawa, Japan to Guam. The move will have devastating consequences for the indigenous Chamoru people, who have been struggling for decolonization of their island home.

“The situation of Guam serves as one of the greatest indictments of U.S. democratic legitimacy, as Guam remains one of only 16 non-self-governing territories in the modern world. The military build-up now underway in Guam, which will include an influx of a military personnel population comparable in size to the entire indigenous population (55,000), is being done entirely without the input or consultation of the indigenous people and over their deepening dissent.”

Dr. Lisa Natividad, a professor at the University of Guam, stated that the new wave of military buildup will only worsen the well being of the Chamoru people, who already suffer from the classic symptoms of a colonial condition such as dramatic health disparities. “For example, rates of nasopharyngeal cancer among my people are 2,000% higher than in the United States, and the rate of diabetes is five times the national U.S. average,” Dr Natividad said.

“Although Guam is only 30 miles long, it contains 19 sites designated by the US Environmental Protection Agency as the most highly contaminated and toxic sites in the entire United States.” Dr. Natividad said. These toxins include radioactive and carcinogenic materials, dioxins, etc.

“We come to Australia in the hope of raising awareness about the human rights deprivations of the Chamoru people by the U.S, to build solidarity among the peace and justice groups here and throughout the Asia-Pacific region, who are all endangered by current U.S. militarization of the region,” she said.' (Source: US ACCUSED OF HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS, http://www.anti-bases.org/)

Case Number Three: The Italians have had enough

In methods of social research, I don't know what to make of it, but if I see tens of thousands of people marching as they did in the north-eastern Italian city of Vicenza against a planned extension of the US army base there, I know from this that the much vaunted economic impact has not tipped the scale. This demonstration was organised because the majority of local people are opposed to US plans for expansion. They said the then Prime Minister Romano Prodi had ignored strong local objections. Mr Prodi was going ahead with a plan agreed by his pro-US predecessor, Silvio Berlusconi.

Case Number Four: The Okinawans flex their muscle and win

The United States was forced to back down over its plan to build a large offshore military base on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa after local protests stalled construction. Reports said "Washington and Tokyo had wanted to build a heliport and 1.5-mile runway over pristine coral reef more than a mile offshore, near Heneko village. But the plan enraged many locals on the small island, which already hosts around half of the 37,000 American troops stationed in Japan."

Environmentalists joined the opposition to the planned base, saying it would destroy the reef, which is home to the dugong, an endangered species of sea mammal. (Source: http://www.independent.co.uk/news, US military retreats over Japanese base after protests by islanders, by David McNeill in Tokyo, Thursday, 27 October 2005)

It is clear in all these cases that the local people are not happy with the establishment of bases in their territories. You can say the same of South Korea to Saudi Arabia, in Germany and and even within the US there are local communities complaining about the installation of US military bases with a long list of grievances. Prominent among them are the environmental impacts which include "effects on air quality, fire potential, noise pollution, waste disposal and spills and erosion from amphibian craft landings and weapon target zones, collisions with marine mammals, and contamination from toxic chemicals including red and white phosphorus and perchlorate."

As they work around the clock to establish their bases, obviously ignoring whatever our sentiments might be on the matter, they would still find some appropriate words to explain why those of us complaining against this mind-boggling swindling of a whole country, the bad guys. Those who are looking for local impact must find out from the Okinawans, they must know after all these decades, yet even there we see that most polls show 70 to 80% of the island's people want the bases to removed. Most of them value the economic benefits of the land on which the bases are based than the bases themselves.

Another complain that they find unbearable is the constant risk of aviation crashes as well as higher rates of prostitution, drug trafficking, and sexual assault and other crimes by U.S. soldiers. "For years," writes Catherine Lutz, "Okinawans have staged large protests, linking hands and encircling large bases in their entirety, and sitting-in for months at the site of proposed new military construction. One family built a large peace museum right up against the edge of the fence to Futenma Air Base there, with a stairway to the roof which allows busloads of schoolchildren and other visitors to view the sprawling base after looking at art depicting the horrors of war."

As I said earlier, there are over seven hundred bases, and we do not have enough space and time to list all the cases that these represent. This is just to provide an idea of what I have come across in my research on the subject and the direction it points: "my side of the argument" is the correct one. The whole idea of military bases creating jobs is a hoax. I am challenging Alex Amoako-Atta to provide a single case where a US military base has led to any significant job creation which brought employment to any "teeming unemployed youth" anywhere is the world.
There is a huge movement throughout the world to close down US military bases.


Please watch this video:

April 18, 2008





No Bases for Empire: International Activists Organize Against US Foreign Bases in Their Backyards

Foreign Bases in Their Backyards
Diego_garciaweb

The United States maintains over 700 military bases in dozens of countries across the globe. We speak with two international activists who are in the US for a speaking tour as part of a campaign called “No Bases for Empire.” Jan Tamas, from the Czech Republic, is the founder of the No Bases Initiative, a coalition against the proposed US missile system in Eastern Europe. Olivier Bancoult is with the Chagos Refugee Group. He was expelled from his native Diego Garcia when he was four years old. The US has operated a military base there since British forces expelled native islanders in the early 1970s. [includes rush transcript] - Demoracy Now!

I would like to rest my case with the following comment on the same article by Xcroc:

"... The US is not in Africa to do good unto others. Presently the US does not do good to or even take care of its own people. It has failed for decades to invest adequately in its own education, infrastructure, and health. The results are now beginning to show, but that has not caused the US to turn around and take care of its own people. The health care crisis in the US is but one example. The likelihood that the US is in anyone elses country to help them is remote. It is there to help itself.

The reasons for the Africa Command given within the United States are repeatedly stated as OIL, TERRORISM, and CHINA:

"...protecting “the free flow of natural resources from Africa to the global market” was one of Africom’s “guiding principles” and specifically cited “oil disruption,” “terrorism,” and the “growing influence” of China as major “challenges” to U.S. interests in Africa." (from a presentation by AFRICOM deputy commander, Vice Admiral Robert Moeller in an Africom conference held at Fort McNair on February 18, 2008)

This month AFRICOM has been feteing Ghanaian journalists in Stuttgart. And earlier this month Ambassador Yates met with Ghanaian journalists in Takoradi. They asked about help and equipment for fighting illegal fishing and drug smuggling. The answers they got were vague and noncommittal. What was not mentioned is that the money for such equipment help was cut from the US budget several years ago, and has not been restored since. That would be the:

AFRICAN COASTAL AND BORDER SECURITY PROGRAM (ACBS) – provides specialized equipment (such as patrol vessels and vehicles, communications equipment, night vision devices, and electronic monitors and sensors) to African countries to improve their ability to patrol and defend their own coastal waters and borders from terrorist operations, smuggling, and other illicit activities.

The ACBS is supposed to be part of the Africa Command budget, but is not currently funded by the US." ( Xcroc, Date: 2010-03-01 10:00:41, Comment to: Akufo Addo Must Come Out Clear On USAfricom)


Related stories:

Taskforce bids to lure headquarters of US Africa Command to county

By Shearon Roberts
Members of a public-private taskforce to lure the US Africa Command to Miami-Dade County say they're working to lay groundwork required to house another military command here.
There's no guarantee the county could win in its bid, or that US AFRICOM would eventually relocate from Germany.
"Our commander, Gen. William Ward has made it officially clear, when asked, that there are no plans in the foreseeable future to move the US Africa Command from Kelley Barracks in Stuttgard, Germany," said Patrick Barnes, a Pentagon spokesman for the US├ŁAFRICOM.
Mr. Barnes said Germany was chosen in 2007 as site for the command because infrastructure was already in place at the barracks, the time zones were the same as in Africa and direct flights from Europe to Africa were abundant. More...

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