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U.S. and World Politics

Symposium on the Abolition of Foreign Military Bases

By Colonel (Ret) Ann Wright

The Seventh Iteration of The Symposium on The Abolition of Foreign Military Bases was held May 4-6, 2022 In Guantanamo, Cuba, near the 125-year-old U.S. Naval Base located a few miles from the city of Guantanamo.

The Naval Base is the site of the infamous U.S. military prison that, as of April 2022, still holds 37 men, most of whom have never been tried as their trial would reveal the torture to which the U.S. has subjected them. Eighteen of the 37 are approved for release if U.S. diplomats can arrange for countries to accept them. The Biden administration has released three prisoners so far including one who had been cleared for release in the final days of the Obama Administration but was kept imprisoned for four more years by the Trump administration. The prison was opened twenty years ago on January 11, 2002.

In the city of Guantanamo, around 100 persons from 25 countries attended the symposium that detailed U.S. military bases around the world. Presentations on the U.S. military presence or the impact of U.S. military policies on their countries were given by persons from Cuba, United States, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Colombia, Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil, Barbados, Mexico, Italy, Philippines, Spain, and Greece.

The symposium was co-sponsored by the Cuban Movement for Peace (MOVPAZ) and the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP).

Symposium declaration

In light of the challenges on peace and political and social stability in the region, participants endorsed the Proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace approved by the Heads of State and Government of the Community of Latin America and Caribbean States (CELAC) at its second Summit held in Havana in January 2014.

The summit declaration stated:

“This seminar took place amidst an ever more complex context, characterized by an increase in the aggressiveness and all kinds of interventionism by the U.S. imperialism, the European Union and NATO in their efforts to impose extreme dictates, by resorting to a media warfare, thus unleashing armed conflicts with varying intensities in different parts of the world while increasing controversies and tensions.

“To meet such nefarious purposes, foreign military bases and aggressive facilities of similar nature have been strengthened, for they are a fundamental component in this strategy, since they are instruments for direct and indirect interventions in the internal affairs of the countries where they are located as well as a permanent threat against neighboring nations.”

U.S. Army Colonel (Ret) and now peace activist Ann Wright was asked to speak to the symposium about current U.S. military bases and operations in the Pacific. Following is her speech.

Presentation on U.S. Military Operations in the Western Pacific by Colonel Ann Wright, U.S. Army (Retired):

I want to give many thanks to the organizers of the VII International Seminar for Peace and the Abolition of Foreign Military Bases conference.

This is the third seminar I have been asked to speak at with my background of having been in the U.S. Army for nearly 30 years and retiring as a Colonel and also having been a U.S. diplomat for 16 years at U.S. Embassies in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Micronesia, Afghanistan and Mongolia. However, the main reason I am invited is because I resigned from the U.S. government in 2003 in opposition to the U.S. war on Iraq and I have been an outspoken critic of U.S. war and imperial policies since my resignation.

First, I want to apologize to the people of Cuba for the continuing illegal, inhumane and criminal blockade the U.S. government has placed on Cuba for the past 60 years!

Second, I want to apologize for the illegal naval base that the U.S. has had at Guantanamo Bay for almost 120 years and that has been the scene of horrors of criminal acts committed on the 776 prisoners the U.S. has held there since January 2002. Thirty-seven men still are held including a man that is cleared for release but is still there. He was 17 when he was sold to the U.S. for a ransom, and he is now 37.

Finally, and very importantly, I want to apologize to Fernando Gonzalez Llort, now the President of the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the People’s (ICAP), who is one of the Cuban Five who were wrongly imprisoned for ten years by the United States.

For each symposium, I have focused on a different part to the world. Today I will speak about the U.S. Military in the Western Pacific.

With the world’s attention on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the U.S. continues its dangerous build-up of military forces in the Western Pacific.

Pacific hot spot Taiwan

Taiwan is a hot spot in the Pacific and for the world. Despite the 40-year agreement on the “One China Policy,” the U.S. sells weapons to Taiwan and has U.S. military trainers on the island.

Recent highly problematic visits to Taiwan by senior U.S. diplomats and Congressional members are done to purposefully anger China and elicit a military response, similar to the military exercises that the U.S. and NATO have done on the border of Russia.

On April 15, a delegation of seven U.S. Senators led by the chair of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations committee arrived in Taiwan following a steadily increasing high level of U.S. diplomatic visits over the past four months.

There are only 13 nations that continue to recognize Taiwan instead of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and four are in the Pacific: Palau, Tuvalu, the Marshall Islands and Nauru. The PRC lobbies these countries hard to switch and the U.S. lobbies the countries to keep recognizing Taiwan although officially the U.S. itself does not recognize Taiwan.

In Hawai’i, the headquarters of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command that covers one-half the earth’s surface has 120 military bases in Japan with 53,000 military plus military families and 73 military bases in South Korea with 26,000 military plus families, six military bases on Australia, five military bases on Guam and 20 military bases in Hawai’i.

The Indo-Pacific command has coordinated numerous “freedom of navigation” armadas of U.S., UK, French, Indian and Australian warships sailing through China’s front yard, the South and East China Seas. Many of the armadas have had aircraft carriers and up to ten other ships, submarines, and aircraft for each aircraft carrier.

China has responded to the ships passing between Taiwan and the Chinese mainland and to the restless visits of U.S. diplomats with air armadas of up to fifty aircraft that fly to the edge of Taiwan’s air defense zone. The U.S. continues to provide military equipment and military trainers to Taiwan.

Rim of the Pacific largest naval war maneuvers in the world

In July and August 2022, the U.S. will host the largest naval war maneuver in the world with Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) returning in full force after a modified version in 2020 due to COVID. In 2022, 27 countries are scheduled to participate with 25,000 personnel, 41 ships, four submarines, more than 170 aircraft and will include anti-submarine warfare exercises, amphibious operations, humanitarian assistance training, missile shots and ground forces drills.

In other areas of the Pacific, the Australian military hosted the Talisman Sabre war maneuvers in 2021 with over 17,000 ground forces primarily from the U.S. (8,300) and Australia (8,000) but a few others from Japan, Canada, South Korea, UK, and New Zealand practiced maritime, land, air, information and cyber, and space warfare.

Darwin, Australia continues to host a six-month rotation of 2200 U.S. Marines that began ten years ago in 2012 and the U.S. military is spending $324 million to upgrade airfields, aircraft maintenance facilities aircraft parking areas, living, and working accommodation, messes, gyms, and training ranges.

Darwin will also be the site of a $270-million-dollar, 60-million-gallon jet fuel storage facility as the U.S. military moves large supplies to fuel closer to a potential war zone. A complicating factor is that a Chinese company now holds the lease on the Darwin port into which U.S. military fuel will be brought for transfer to the storage tanks.

The 80-year-old, massive 250-million-gallon underground jet fuel storage facility in Hawai’i will be finally closed due to public outrage after another huge fuel leak in November 2021 contaminated the drinking water of almost 100,000 persons in the Honolulu area, mostly military families and military facilities and jeopardizing the drinking water of the entire island.

The U.S. territory of Guam has suffered a continued increase in U.S. military units, bases, and equipment. Camp Blaz on Guam is the newest U.S. Marine base in the world and was opened in 2019.

Guam is the home base of six assassin Reaper drones assigned to the U.S. Marines as well as missile “defense” systems. U.S. Marines on Hawai’i were also provided six assassin drones as a part of their mission reorientation from heavy tanks to light mobile forces to fight “an enemy” on small islands of the Pacific.

Guam’s nuclear submarine base is continually busy as U.S. nuclear submarines lurk off China and North Korea. One U.S. nuclear submarine ran into an “unmarked” submarine mountain in 2020 and had major damage, that Chinese media eagerly reported.

The Navy now has five submarines homeported in Guam—up from two the service had based there as of November 2021.

In February 2022, four B-52 bombers and more than 220 airmen flew from Louisiana to Guam, joining thousands of U.S., Japanese and Australian service members on the island for the annual Cope North exercise which the U.S. Air Force states is for “training focused on disaster relief and aerial combat.” About 2,500 U.S. service members and 1,000 personnel from the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force and the Royal Australian Air Force were in the Cope North war preparation maneuvers.

One-hundred-and-thirty aircraft involved in Cope North flew out of Guam and the islands of Rota, Saipan and Tinian in the Northern Marian Islands, Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia.

The U.S. military with 13,232 aircraft has almost three times more planes than Russia (4,143) and four times more than China (3,260.)

In the only positive demilitarization development in the Pacific, due to citizen activism, the U.S. military has scaled back military training on the small islands of Pagan and Tinian in the Northern Marianas islands near Guam and eliminated an artillery firing range on Tinian. However, large scale training and bombing continues at the Pohakuloa bombing range on the Big Island of Hawai’i with aircraft flying from the continental U.S. to drop bombs and return to the U.S.

The U.S. builds more military bases in the Pacific as China increases its non-military influence

In 2021, the Federated States of Micronesia agreed that the U.S. could build a military base on one of its 600 islands. The Republic of Palau is among several Pacific countries designated by the Pentagon as the possible site of a new military base. The U.S. plans to build a $197-million tactical radar system for Palau, which hosted U.S. military training exercises in 2021. In addition to its close U.S. ties, Palau is one of Taiwan’s four allies in the Pacific. Palau has refused to stop its recognition of Taiwan which prompted China to effectively ban Chinese tourists from visiting the island in 2018.

Both Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia have hosted U.S. military civil action teams over the past twenty years that have lived in small military compounds.

The U.S. continues its large military missile tracking base in the Marshall Islands for missiles shot from Vandenburg Air Base in California. The U.S. is also responsible for the massive nuclear waste facility known as the Cactus Dome which is leaking toxic nuclear waste into the ocean from the debris of the 67 nuclear tests the U.S. conducted in the 1960s. Thousands of Marshall Islanders and their descendants still suffer from nuclear radiation from those tests.

China, which sees Taiwan as part of its territory in its “One China” policy, has tried to win over Taipei’s allies in the Pacific, persuading the Solomon Islands and Kiribati to switch sides in 2019.

On April 19, 2022, China and the Solomon Islands announced they had signed a new security agreement in which China could send military personnel, police, and other forces to the Solomon Islands “to assist in maintaining social order” and other missions. The security pact also would allow Chinese warships to use ports in the Solomon Islands to refuel and replenish supplies. The U.S. sent a high-level diplomatic delegation to the Solomon Islands to express its concern that China could send military forces to the South Pacific nation and destabilize the region. In response to the security pact, the U.S. will also discuss plans to reopen an embassy in the capital, Honiara, as it tries to increase its presence in the strategically important country amid growing concerns about Chinese influence. The embassy has been closed since 1993.

The island nation of Kiribati, about 2,500 miles southwest of Hawai’i, joined China’s Belt and Road Initiative to upgrade its infrastructure, including modernizing what was once a World War II-era U.S. military air base.

No peace on the Korean Peninsula

With its 73 U.S. bases in South Korea and 26,000 military personnel plus military families living in South Korea, the Biden administration continues to respond to North Korean missile tests with military maneuvers instead of diplomacy.

In mid-April 2022, the USS Abraham Lincoln strike group operated in waters off the Korean peninsula, amid tensions over North Korea’s missile launches and concerns that it could soon resume testing nuclear weapons. In early March North Korea conducted a full test of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) for the first time since 2017. This is first time since 2017 that a U.S. carrier group has sailed in the waters between South Korea and Japan.

While Moon Jae-In, the outgoing President of South Korea exchanged letters with North Korean head of state Kim Jung Un on April 22, 2022, advisers to South Korea’s president-elect Yoon Suk-yeol are asking for redeployment of U.S. strategic assets, such as aircraft carriers, nuclear bombers, and submarines, to the Korean peninsula during talks held on a visit to Washington in early April.

Three-hundred-and-fifty-six organizations in the U.S. and South Korea have called for the suspension of the very dangerous and provocative war drills the U.S. and South Korea militaries conduct.

Conclusion

While global attention is focused on the horrific war and destruction of Ukraine by Russia, the western Pacific continues to be a very dangerous place for global peace with the U.S. using military war exercises to inflame the hot spots of North Korea and Taiwan.

Stop All Wars!!!

Popular Resistance, May 24, 2022

https://popularresistance.org/guantanamo-cuba-vii-symposium-on-the-abolition-of-foreign-military-bases/