What's Bankrupting the Country?
Spending $102 Billion a Year on 800 Worldwide Military Bases
As long as politicians get to decide how to spend public revenue, and as long as Americans donít have to pay for war in real time but let their grandkids cover the cost, the profligacy will go on until America is ruined -- unless, of course, we geonomize first. This 2009 article is from Tomdispatch.com, posted on AlterNet July 3.
By Chalmers JohnsonThe following is an introduction from Tom Engelhardt: An embassy complex to be built in Islamabad, Pakistan -- if you assume the normal cost overruns on such projects -- is likely to be close to a billion dollars.
The embassy story was broken at the end of May by McClatchy News (in this case, Warren P. Stroebel and Saeed Shah). They reported that an appropriation of $736 million for embassy construction had quietly made its way through both houses of Congress. Does such an imperial monstrosity indicate a longer-term commitment to a wider war in the Af-Pak (as in Afghanistan-Pakistan) theater?
Maybe in a world where near-trillion-dollar bailouts are the norm, a mere three-quarters of a billion for a fortress of an embassy seems like so much chump change. Fortunately, Chalmers Johnson, author of The Blowback Trilogy, and an expert on U.S. military bases abroad, did notice and brings it to our attention.
The U.S. Empire of Bases -- at $102 billion a year already the world's costliest military enterprise -- just got a good deal more expensive. The State Department will build a new "embassy" in Islamabad, Pakistan, which at $736 million will be the second priciest ever constructed, only $4 million less, if cost overruns don't occur, than the Vatican-City-sized one the Bush administration put up in Baghdad. The State Department was also reportedly planning to buy the five-star Pearl Continental Hotel (complete with pool) in Peshawar, near the border with Afghanistan, to use as a consulate and living quarters for its staff there.
Unfortunately for such plans, on June 9th Pakistani militants rammed a truck filled with explosives into the hotel, killing 18 occupants, wounding at least 55, and collapsing one entire wing of the structure. There has been no news since about whether the State Department is still going ahead with the purchase.
Whatever the costs turn out to be, they will not be included in our already bloated military budget, even though none of these structures is designed to be a true embassy -- a place, that is, where local people come for visas and American officials represent the commercial and diplomatic interests of their country. Instead these so-called embassies will actually be walled compounds, akin to medieval fortresses, where American spies, soldiers, intelligence officials, and diplomats try to keep an eye on hostile populations in a region at war. One can predict with certainty that they will house a large contingent of Marines and include rooftop helicopter pads for quick get-aways.
It must be obvious to people in those countries that this is part of an in-your-face American imperial presence. We shouldn't be surprised when militants attacking the U.S. find one of our base-like embassies, however heavily guarded, an easier target than a large military base.
Even as Congress and the Obama administration wrangle over the cost of bank bailouts, a new health plan, pollution controls, etc, no one suggests that closing some of these unpopular, expensive military bases anyway -- now close to 800 of them dotted across the globe in other people's countries -- might be a good way to save some money.
Instead, they are evidently about to become even more expensive. For instance, Kyrgyzstan has more than tripled ground rent from $17.4 million to $60 million for US military use of its capitol city airport.
Might other nations follow suit? The Ecuadorians have told us to leave Manta Air Base by this November; they could probably use a spot more money. The Japanese reached a deal with Washington to move some American Marines from bases on Okinawa to the U.S. territory of Guam. In the process, however, they were forced to shell out not only for the cost of the Marines' removal, but also to build new facilities on Guam for their arrival. Might they just tell the Americans to get out and pay for it themselves?
In fact, I have a suggestion for other countries that are getting a bit weary of the American military presence on their soil: cash in now, before it's too late. I'm convinced that the U.S. Empire of Bases will soon enough bankrupt our country. It's better to get your money out while you still can.
This is, of course, something that has occurred to the Chinese and other financiers of the American national debt. Only they're cashing in quietly and slowly in order not to tank the dollar while they're still holding onto such a bundle of them. Make no mistake, though: whether we're being bled rapidly or slowly, we are bleeding; and hanging onto our military empire and all the bases that go with it will ultimately spell the end of the United States as we know it.
Worse than not penciling out, killing innocents is evil
Economic ills need economic cures
Willing to close Guantanamo, too
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