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Why I'm Going to Ireland to Try to Fix the United States

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The United States spends about five times what China does on its military. And it spends more just on its military bases in other people's countries than any country other than itself or China spends on its entire military. The United States keeps troops in almost every country on earth, including in 800 to 1,000 major military bases outside the United States. The rest of the world's nations combined (most of them U.S. allies and weapons customers) keep a couple of dozen foreign bases total. Imperialism is a uniquely U.S. illness, although everybody suffers the damage.


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Ireland is a nation legally bound to maintain neutrality but actively assisting in the crimes of U.S. wars. This coming 11/11 is Armistice Day 100, and while Trump has been dissuaded from holding a weapons parade in Washington, he's apparently headed for France and Ireland. Come on, France, put the weapons away! Don't welcome fascists! Come on, Ireland! You can scare him off! Threaten to arrest him!

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"We Serve Neither King nor Kaiser, But Ireland," it said 100 years ago on the facade of Liberty Hall in Dublin as the Irish successfully refused to be drafted into a British war. "We Welcome Neither President Nor Imperial Buffoon" might be a good new banner to promote a Trump-free Ireland.

Within days of Trump's possible visit, and of worldwide celebrations of peace and the movement to abolish all war on Armistice Day 100, I'll be taking part, along with people from all over the globe, in a conference at Liberty Hall on November 16-18 to discuss efforts to close down U.S. and NATO military bases.

If you're like most people in the United States, you have a vague awareness that the U.S. military keeps lots of troops permanently stationed on foreign bases around the world. But have you ever wondered and really investigated to find out how many, and where exactly, and at what cost, and to what purpose, and in terms of what relationship with the host nations?

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Some 800 bases with hundreds of thousands of troops in some 70 nations, plus all kinds of other "trainers" and "non-permanent" exercises that last indefinitely, maintain an ongoing U.S. military presence around the world for a price tag of at least $100 billion a year.

Why they do this is a harder question to answer, but when Trump, of all people, vaguely gestured toward the remote possibility of allowing peace and reunification in Korea, the United States Congress immediately and indignantly jumped in to save us all from such a calamity, forbidding the removal of U.S. troops from Korea.

U.S. media consumers learn about the removal of the entire population of the island of Diego Garcia to facilitate the construction of a U.S. military base on their home through reports that overwhelmingly stress the "strategic" necessity of the base. (This is a case before the International Court of Justice this week.)

Even if you think there is some reason to be able to quickly deploy thousands of U.S. troops to any spot on earth, airplanes now make that as easily done from the United States as from Korea or Japan or Germany or Italy or Diego Garcia. That's clearly not a complete explanation of the motives behind U.S. base world.

It costs dramatically more to keep troops in other countries, and while some base defenders make a case for economic philanthropy, the evidence is that local economies actually benefit little -- and suffer little when a base leaves. Neither does the U.S. economy benefit, of course. Rather, certain privileged contractors benefit, along with those politicians whose campaigns they fund. And if you think military spending is unaccountable at home, you should check out bases abroad where it's none too rare to have security guards employed purely to guard cooks whose sole job is to feed the security guards. The military has a term for any common SNAFU, and the term for this one is "self-licking ice cream."

The bases, in many cases, generate an enormous amount of popular resentment and hatred, serving as motivations for attacks on the bases themselves or elsewhere -- famously including the attacks of September 11, 2001.

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Bases around the borders of Russia and China are generating new hostility and arms races, and even proposals by Russia and China to open foreign bases of their own. Currently all non-U.S. foreign bases in the world total no more than 30, with most of those belonging to close U.S. allies, and not a single one of them being in or anywhere near the United States, which would of course be considered an outrage.

Many U.S. bases are hosted by brutal dictatorships. An academic study has identified a strong U.S. tendency to defend dictatorships where the United States has bases. A glance at a newspaper will tell you the same. Crimes in Bahrain are not equal to crimes in Iran. In fact, when brutal and undemocratic governments currently hosting U.S. bases (in, for example, Honduras, Aruba, Cura├žao, Mauritania, Liberia, Niger, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Chad, Egypt, Mozambique, Burundi, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Qatar, Oman, UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan, Israel, Turkey, Georgia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Thailand, Cambodia, or Singapore) are protested, there is a pattern of increased U.S. support for the government, which makes eviction of the U.S. bases all the more likely should the government fall, which fuels a vicious cycle that increases popular resentment of the U.S. government. The U.S. began building new bases in Honduras shortly after the 2009 coup.

The smaller bases that don't house tens of thousands of troops, but secretive death squads or drones, also have a tendency to make wars more likely. The drone war on Yemen that was labeled a success by President Obama has helped fuel a larger war.

The U.S. government's pursuit of domination and conquest once built bases in Native Americans' lands, and now in many other places referred to as "Indian territory." In the 20th century, U.S. imperialism went global. When FDR visited Pearl Harbor (not actually part of the United States) on July 28, 1934, the Japanese military expressed apprehension. General Kunishiga Tanaka wrote in the Japan Advertiser, objecting to the build-up of the American fleet and the creation of additional bases in Alaska and the Aleutian Islands (also not part of the United States): "Such insolent behavior makes us most suspicious. It makes us think a major disturbance is purposely being encouraged in the Pacific. This is greatly regretted."

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David Swanson is the author of "When the World Outlawed War," "War Is A Lie" and "Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union." He blogs at http://davidswanson.org and http://warisacrime.org and works for the online (more...)
 
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