"At the time of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington in September 2001, the United States had publicly acknowledged SOFAs with ninety-three countries, although some SOFAs are so embarrassing to the host nation that they are kept secret, particularly in the Islamic world.3 Thus, the true number is not publicly known."
~ Chalmers Johnson.
~ Chalmers Johnson.
The Bases Are Loaded.
The Bases Are Loaded discusses the permanent bases being established in South Kurdistan and Iraq, mentioning that two permanent US bases are being built in South Kurdistan. One of those specifically named is located in Hewlêr.
However, there is no discussion in the video of the immoral and criminal activity that plague local populations that have the misfortune of having a US base in their midst. South Kurdistan needs to ask itself if it is prepared to have American military-sponsored crime inflicted on the people of Kurdistan.
I first learned of this problem through reading Chalmers Johnson's book, The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic--a good read that I highly recommend. Recently Johnson spoke about the problem of US imperial bases and their effects on local populations in an interview for his most recent book in the Blowback Trilogy, Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic:
In the southernmost prefecture of Japan, Okinawa, site of the Battle of Okinawa in 1945, there’s a small island, smaller than Kauai in the Hawaiian islands, with 1,300,000 Okinawans. There's thirty-seven American military bases there. The revolt against them has been endemic for fifty years. The governor is always saying to the local military commander, “You're living on the side of a volcano that could explode at any time.” It has exploded in the past. What this means is just an endless, nonstop series of sexually violent crimes, drunken brawls, hit-and-run accidents, environmental pollution, noise pollution, helicopters falling out of the air from Futenma Marine Corps Air Base and falling onto the campus of Okinawa International University. One thing after another. Back in 1995, we had one of the most serious incidents, when two Marines and a sailor abducted, beat and raped a twelve-year-old girl. This led to the largest demonstrations against the United States since we signed the security treaty with Japan decades ago. It's this kind of thing.
I first went to Okinawa in 1996. I was invited by then-Governor Ota in the wake of the rape incident. I’ve devoted my life to the study of Japan, but like many Japanese, many Japanese specialists, I had never been in Okinawa. I was shocked by what I saw. It was the British Raj. It was like Soviet troops living in East Germany, more comfortable than they would be back at, say, Oceanside, California, next door to Camp Pendleton. And it was a scandal in every sense.
[ . . . ]
As I began to study the network of bases around the world and the incidents that have gone with them and the military coups that have brought about regime change and governments that we approve of, I began to realize that Okinawa was not unusual; it was, unfortunately, typical.
Typical. The American Friends Service Committee lists ten reasons to get rid of US military bases, with explanations:
1. Bases increase the likelihood of war.
2. Bases provide a launching point for nuclear attack.
3. Bases undermine the sovereignty of nations.
4. Bases hurt democracy and human rights.
5. Often bases are built on seized property.
6. Bases reinforce violent and dehumanizing treatment of women and girls [Note: With the severe problems of patriarchal society widespread throughout Kurdistan, an example of which is a recent KurdishMedia report that every 24 hours a Kurdish woman in South Kurdistan sets herself on fire, US military bases will reinforce the indigenous and endemic repression of Kurdish women. In light of the case of the stoning of Doa Khalil Aswad, American military sexual predation will prove a great setback to efforts at improving the situation of Kurdish women.].
7. Bases condone criminal activities committed by US troops.
8. Bases cause environmental contamination and serious health risks.
9. Bases bring the risk of life-threatening accidents.
10. Military bases are expensive and divert funding from addressing urgent needs at home and abroad.
There is more on the negative effects of US military bases on women and children in East Asia at FPIF. Also mentioned in the FPIF report is a little thing called "Status of Forces Agreement" (SOFA). These are agreements which are written so that US troops who commit crimes are protected and do not have to bear responsibility for their behavior. The other side of this protection is that local populations are left with no protection from American predation.
The nature of the way in which the US military trains its personnel creates and reinforces predation against local populations, according to a retired US marine:
If the military is capable of producing "personalities" that kill babies, rape women, and torture the innocent, then what is responsible for the degradation and dissolution of these military personnel? How and why do U.S. soldiers lose their humanity? A closer examination of military recruit training may shed some light on these questions.
[ . . . ]
. . . [R]eturning troops report that none of their training prepared them for what they experienced in Iraq. "You can train up all you want, but you're not going to be prepared until you get here and mingle with the culture," explained Spc. Travis Gillette, an Army infantryman who served in Iraq.
Gillette's advice reveals the contradiction of U.S. occupation. Indeed, learning about Iraqi culture and its people might, on the one hand, improve relations between U.S. soldiers and the civilian population. Yet on the other, the danger is that, as a result, soldiers may sympathize with the Iraqi people and turn against U.S. war aims and its justifications. In fact, keeping a greater distance between troops and the civilian population is one of the lessons the military learned from the Vietnam War, a war in which large numbers of troops turned against the war and discovered that the real enemy was the military itself, particularly from 1968 to 1973.
NGOs have studied the problem of US imperial bases and support Chalmers Johnson's research and documentation, as in this study from the Asia-Pacific Research Network:
US overseas military bases reflect the need for the US to project visible and psychological presence and commitment to a country or region. Following the logic of neocolonialism, US bases are a stark reminder and real source of control over a nation without necessitating formal political control over its territorial sovereignty. It can be likened to a loaded gun pointed at the government and peoples of its host country. Its mere presence intimidates and gives coercive power for the US to gain concessions from the host and allows it to interfere, in most cases with impunity, in internal affairs, commit crimes and violence on local people, wreak grave social costs and environmental destruction.
[ . . . ]
Through its military bases and access agreements, the US makes its presence felt in an ever widening circle driven by its greed for resources and markets. However, as this circle tries to expand, it encounters resistance as it faces the ire of oppressed people of the world. Nations have also stood firm in their assertion of sovereignty and independence against the onslaught of imperial greed and power. The people under the claws of neo-colonial control are steadfastly fighting for national liberation to break free from the shackles of imperialism.
This is happening in the Philippines, India, Nepal, Turkey, Peru and Colombia, where national liberation movements have arisen and have developed in accordance with the strategic line of protracted people's war. As the crisis of the world capitalist system worsens, these revolutionary wars will intensify and will spread. The massive anti-war wave of opposition against the US shows the anger of the peoples worldwide and their will to fight against imperialism and war. The great wish of the peoples is to live in peace and brotherhood, without the horror of war, without exploiters and oppressors.
There is no reason to believe that American troops will behave any differently toward the Kurdish people. Remember, they attacked Salahaddin University, KDP special forces, PUK pêşmerge, and raided the Iranian consulate in Hewlêr.
Additionally, Amnesty International has documented US efforts to undermine SOFA's through what amounts to a negation of SOFA's in an attempt to thwart the International Criminal Court--Impunity Agreements. Impunity agreements nullify any punishment for American wrongdoing. Such agreements remove the right of the "host" country from deciding which courts will investigate and try Americans for crimes committed in its territory and extradition provisions are renegotiated. Moreover, "the decision to investigate or prosecute is a matter solely within the discretion of the USA and not a matter of law." In other words, the US makes the decision, not the authorities of the victimized population. Certain countries have openly refused to sign Impunity Agreements with the US; among them are Canada, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, and Yugoslavia. Countries that have ongoing "peace" or "antiterrorist" operations seem to be under the greatest pressure to cave in to the absurd demands of the US over Impunity Agreements, and it should be noted that before Marc Grossman suddenly retired from the State Department, he was one of the bureaucratic heavies issuing threats in order to gain compliance.
But there's another serious problem to consider in relation to US military bases, and that is the problem of US military contractors or mercenaries. It's bad enough that that US troops can not be held accountable for their actions, but there is no oversight whatsoever for US mercenaries, such as those employed by civilian fascists such as Blackwater USA, KBR Halliburton, Bechtel, and Dyncorp, among others. As recently as February 2007, a KBR Halliburton mercenary slashed the thoat of an Iraqi woman at Al-Asad Airbase.
Perhaps one of the most notorious examples of US mercenary crime was the sex slave ring run by Dyncorp in Bosnia, in which local women were buying women as young as 12 (if you can call a 12-year-old a woman) and keeping them as sex slaves. The vermin involved with these crimes have something in common with the vermin in Egypt who purchased Anfal women from the Saddam regime--they were never punished.
Another example, from Iraq, of the violent nature of US mercenaries is carried in a recent issue of the Armed Forces Journal:
As they headed to the Baghdad airport in July, two security guards working for the contract firm Triple Canopy say they were stunned when their supervisor declared that he intended that day to kill somebody.
The supervisor then fired his M4 rifle into the windshield of a parked truck, the two guards claim in court documents. Later in the day the supervisor fired half a dozen handgun rounds into a passing taxi, possibly killing the driver, the two guards allege.
No investigation followed and no disciplinary action was taken against the alleged shooter, who returned to the United States, say the two who have filed a suit in a U.S. court. They're suing, they say, because they were wrongfully fired by Triple Canopy after they reported the incident.
According to the article, the US military is creating laws to deal with their lawless mercenaries but until a long track-record of serious punishments has been firmly established, there's no point in the KRG volunteering Kurds as guinea pigs in what, at this point, is dubious justice. Since the US plans to remain in Iraq and South Kurdistan for the next several decades, Kurds at least must think long and hard about what they are getting into when it comes to having the US military as neighbors.
Remember the old adage, "Be careful what you wish for."
Hevallo has some fantastic photos of all those who turned out for Orhan Doğan's funeral. Plus, be sure to check out a great post on the situation in North Kurdistan at Zanetî. Vahe at Hyelog has an article about a Paşa who may face trial for calling Hrant Dink a "traitor." Apparently, the charges have been brought by Dink's family.
Hehehe . . . I hope they hang the bastard.