"Name any social or physical problem that a society
might have and the U.S. has it to spare. A stagnant
pool of politicians in Washington, D.C., does not
seem to be willing or able to do anything about it."
in the U.S. wonder every day: Why is this part of our society not
working or why do we seem to be sinking economically, politically, and
environmentally? And, why are our societal problems growing
American people are constantly reminded, even by a supine press, that
roads and bridges are in disrepair, that many of our schools are in
high stress, that our health care “system” leaves millions to fend for
themselves, that the poor among us don’t seem to be able to survive,
and the poor make up an ever-growing part of our population.
social or physical problem that a society might have and the U.S. has
it to spare. A stagnant pool of politicians in Washington, D.C., does
not seem to be willing or able to do anything about it. Their “action”
on hot-button issues (pick one) that do not have much to do about the
failing health of our nation masks their unwillingness to do anything
about the real problems of daily life for the vast majority of
One of the
reasons, probably the primary reason, is that much of the money goes to
the military and “defense” of the U.S., to protect the frail citizenry
from threats, real and imagined. We spend more than half of our
treasure as a nation on war and preparation for war. While the people
might intuitively understand that this is the case and it is the reason
that so many are left behind in this supposedly greatest economy in the
world, there is now a book that pulls it all together and lets us have
a look at just where in the world our money goes.
In his book
‘Base Nation,’ David Vine gives an insight into the reality of it. Our
money, our treasure, is spent around the world…all around the world. He
shows that our taxes are supporting some 800 bases, large and small, in
countries on virtually every continent and that, he admits, may be
underestimating the size of the empire.
research over several years and his travel to bases in various
countries show the profligate expenditure of the taxes of everyday
Americans. He repeatedly reminds the reader that he made his estimates
on the conservative side, mainly because he could not get straight
answers from many military sources. In fact, he showed that, in many
cases, the Pentagon itself does not have a solid handle on where, and
on what, the money is spent.
of the defense industry is illustrated in the virtual takeover by
private companies of the functions that previously were done by
military personnel, especially since the end of the Vietnam War. No
more peeling potatoes for GIs. Now, the work is done by contractors,
who are doing more and more of the “work” of maintaining our bases
around the world. The “contractors” are doing some of the fighting, as
well, as we saw in Iraq, when mercenaries from Blackwater were in the
fighting, believing that wherever they were was a “free fire zone.”
They caused many serious problems, since they believed that they were
not bound by the order of military combat.
That is no
small problem and the infiltration of private soldiers into the
military mix is just one of the problems of the bases of empire. Just
remember that there are about 800 bases that cover the globe. There has
been no other empire in the history of the world that has projected
such a mighty presence in so many parts of the world as the current
sprawling network of bases of the U.S. Vine repeats several times in
the book that he is working with information that he could glean from
various military, governmental, and research sources to come up with
the conservative estimate of 800 bases. It could be several times more.
There does not seem to be any agency in government that has an accurate
count of bases, except for the major ones, and what goes on there.
bases, Vine points out in his book, which was published a few weeks
ago, can be like small American cities transplanted into their “host”
countries, with their row houses, fast food restaurants, movie
theaters, golf courses, gyms, retail stores (the ubiquitous PX or post
exchange that are like giant department stores), and other amenities of
life in the U.S. If you could be transported from your own city to one
of these bases, you would not think you had left the country. And,
there would be no reason to go anywhere, once you were on the base.
Everything is right there and that comes in handy if the local populace
is not pleased with your presence, despite the “economic activity” that
is provided by American military largesse.
collapse of the Soviet Union a quarter-century ago, leaving the U.S. as
the world’s only “super power,” apparently did not stop the wild
expenditure of money on things military, especially the maintaining of
bases everywhere. In one part of the book, he pointed out the absurdity
of at least one base, where contractors were maintaining the base and
security contractors were watching over the enterprise. In effect, the
U.S. was paying contractors to feed security personnel in a base where
there were no troops.
and representatives in Washington were paying attention, they would see
that the waste and corruption are depriving the nation of the money
needed to provide for the needs of the people, but, of course, they are
all involved in the charade that this nation is not an empire and has
no aspirations to rule the world. Or, at least, the important parts of
it. With the national security state firmly implanted in the psyche of
the nation, it becomes easier and easier to convince the people that
military might is more important than health care for all or education
for all or decent housing for all.
The “war on
terror” has taken the place of the Soviet Union and the fear that we
are in danger of imminent attack has sufficiently cowed the people into
believing that the military should take precedence over all other
aspects of the nation and society. The fear mongering has succeeded
beyond the dreams of the fear mongers and the money continues to flow
into the coffers of the military, the Department of Defense (which
should be renamed properly, Department of War), and all of the weapons
and defense industries.
analysts over the years have asked Americans, as Vine does in ‘Base
Nation,’ to imagine another country having just one base in the U.S. It
would not be tolerated. The hostility toward foreigners on American
soil would be great and the fear mongers in the nation’s capital would
have their public relations people working overtime. But, that’s the
status of America astride the world.
Bush, as president, after the catastrophe of September 11, 2001, when
asked why anyone would attack the United States, famously said, “They
hate us for our freedom.” Well, they really don’t hate us for our
freedom. If they hate us, they hate us for our occupation of large
parts of their native soil and in some cases, we occupy or have
occupied their entire country (after invasion, of course). And,
occasionally, when they were in the way, the U.S. has removed entire
populations from small island nations, when those islands were needed
for naval or air bases, or for target practice. That tends to arouse
hostility among those ethnically cleansed.
of wasteful expenditure of the substance of the country makes the U.S.
weaker, because its people are weaker. No nation can endlessly spend
money on war and survive as a nation, yet, no one in power seems to
recognize that. Civilizations have collapsed by doing the very thing
that the U.S. is doing. It’s in the historical record, to be looked up
in any high school library, if there are any students who still spend
time in libraries.
It is a
bi-partisan effort, this endless war, and the “war on terror” gives the
green light to spend an ever-increasing amount of our federal budget on
the war machine. Always, that means cutting off money for public
schools, higher education for all, housing for all, health care for
all, and all of the things that make life enjoyable in a civilized
society. Anyone who wonders where her (federal tax) money went needs to
look at the “guns and butter” balance: It tilts heavily toward the
guns. ‘Base Nation’ will give readers an idea of where their tax money
goes and why the needs of your own community are starved of funding.
of American children and their families are being hollowed out by such
wasteful spending and Vine’s book is a good place to start learning how
we are being duped by (in President Eisenhower’s words) “the
military-industrial complex,” although now, it should include in that
complex the Congress, the press, and academia, not to mention the
plethora of Right Wing think tanks that sprouted like mushrooms after
World War II. Americans are controlled by those who seek continuous war
and, by the way, make millions and billions of dollars by doing so.
Only the people can change that.
Columnist, John Funiciello, is a long-time former newspaper reporter
and labor organizer, who lives in the Mohawk Valley of New York State.
In addition to labor work, he is organizing family farmers as they
struggle to stay on the land under enormous pressure from factory food
producers and land developers. Contact Mr. Funiciello and BC.
| is published every Thursday
David A. Love, JD
Nancy Littlefield, MBA