The most isolated and lawless base sites include locations from which the U.S. military evicted the local population. These include bases in Diego Garcia, Greenland, Alaska, Hawaii, Panama, Puerto Rico, the Marshall Islands, Guam, the Philippines, Okinawa, and South Korea -- with people evicted as recently as 2006 in South Korea.
In hundreds of other sites where the population was not evicted, it might wish it had been. Foreign bases have been environmentally disastrous. Open-air burns, unexploded weaponry, poisons leaked into the ground water -- these are all commonplace. A jet fuel leak at Kirkland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, N.M., started in 1953 and was discovered in 1999, and was more than twice the size of the Exxon Valdez spill. U.S. bases within the United States have been environmentally devastating, but not on the scale of those in some foreign lands. A plane taking off from Diego Garcia to bomb Afghanistan in 2001 crashed and sank to the bottom of the ocean with some 85 hundred-pound munitions. Even ordinary base life takes a toll; U.S. troops produce over three times the garbage each as local residents in, for example, Okinawa.
Disregard for people and the land and the sea is built into the very idea of foreign bases. The United States would never tolerate another nation's base within its borders, yet imposes them on Okinawans, South Koreans, Italians, Filipinos, Iraqis, and others despite huge protest. Vine took some of his students to meet with an official at the U.S. State Department, Kevin Maher, who explained to them that U.S. bases in Japan were concentrated in Okinawa because it was "the Puerto Rico of Japan" where people have "darker skin," are "shorter," and have an "accent."
Base Nation is a book that should be read -- and its maps seen -- by everyone. I wish Vine did not write "Russia's seizure of Crimea" when referring to a free and open and legal vote, especially in the context of a book about military bases. And I wish he did not only use selfish points of reference in terms of financial tradeoffs. Of course the United States could be transformed for the better with the redirection of military spending, but the United States and the world both could be. It's that much money.
But this book will be an invaluable resource for years to come. It also includes, I should note, an excellent account of some of the resistance struggles that have in some cases shut bases down or scaled them back. It's worth noting that just this week, in the first of two necessary rulings, an Italian court has ruled for the people, against the U.S. Navy's construction of communications equipment in Sicily.
Just this month, the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff published "The National Military Strategy of the United States of America -- 2015." It gave as justification for militarism lies about four countries, beginning with Russia, which it accused of "using force to achieve its goals," something the Pentagon would never do! Next it lied that Iran was "pursuing" nuclear weapons, a claim for which there is no evidence. Next it claimed that North Korea's nukes would someday "threaten the U.S. homeland." Finally, it asserted that China was "adding tension to the Asia-Pacific region." This "Strategy" admitted that none of the four nations wanted war with the United States. "Nonetheless, they each pose serious security concerns," it said.
So, one might add, does each of the U.S. foreign bases. Vine's book
ends with some excellent proposals for change, to which I would add only
one: Smedley Butler's proposed rule that the U.S. military be forbidden
to travel more than 200 miles from the United States.
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