Friday, June 8, 2007

Everlasting US pyramids in Iraqi sands

By Tom Engelhardt
Asia Times

"Finally, the great American disconnect may be ending. Only four years after the invasion of Iraq, the crucial facts on the ground might finally be coming into sight in the United States......

After all, those US bases, like the vast embassy inside the Green Zone (sardonically dubbed by Baghdadis "George W's Palace"), were monstrous in size, state-of-the-art when it came to communications and facilities, and meant to support large-scale US communities - whether soldiers, diplomats, spies, contractors or mercenaries - long-term. They were imperial in nature, the US military and diplomatic equivalents of the pyramids. And no one, on seeing them, should have thought anything but "permanent".

It didn't matter that those bases were never officially labeled "permanent". After all, as the Korea model (now almost six decades old) indicates, such bases, rather than colonies, have long been the US way of empire - and, with rare exceptions, they have arrived and not left. They remain immobile gunboats primed for a kind of eternal armed "diplomacy". As they cluster tellingly in key regions of the planet, they make up what the Pentagon likes to call the United States' "footprint".

As Chalmers Johnson has pointed out in his book The Sorrows of Empire, the United States has, mainly since World War II, set up at least 737 such bases, mega and micro - and probably closer to 1,000 - worldwide. Everywhere, just as Tony Snow has said, the Americans would officially be "invited" in by the local government and would negotiate a "status of forces agreement", the modern equivalent of the colonial era's grant of extraterritoriality, so that the US troops would be minimally subject to foreign courts or control. There are still at least 12 such bases in South Korea, 37 on the Japanese island of Okinawa alone, and so on, around the globe.

Since the Gulf War in 1991, such base-creation has been on the rise. The George H W Bush, Bill Clinton and younger Bush administrations have laid down a string of bases from the old Eastern European satellites of the Soviet Union (Romania, Bulgaria) and the former Yugoslavia through the greater Middle East (Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates), to the Horn of Africa (Djibouti), into the Indian Ocean (the "British" island of Diego Garcia), and right through Central Asia (Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan and Pakistan, where the US "shares" Pakistani bases)........"

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