By 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 US Naval Base Located A Few Miles From The City Of Guantanamo.
The Naval Base is the site of the infamous US 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 US has subjected them. 18 of the 37 are approved for release if U.S. diplomats can arrange for countries to accept them. The Biden administration has released 3 prisoners so far including one who had been cleared for release in the final days of the Obama Administration but was kept imprisoned for 4 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 US military bases around the world. Presentations on the US military presence or the impact of US 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), the symposium.
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 (click here to read the full declaration):
“This seminar took place amidst an ever more complex context, characterized by an increase in the aggressiveness and all kinds of interventionism by the US 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.”
Please read Ann Wright's presentation to the Symposium on the US Military in the Pacific below:
US Army Colonel (Ret) and now peace activist Ann Wright was asked to speak to the symposium about current US military bases and operations in the Pacific. Following is her speech on the US military in the Pacific.
Presentation on US Military Operations in the Western Pacific by Colonel Ann Wright, US 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 US Army for nearly 30 years and retiring as a Colonel and also having been a US diplomat for 16 years at US Embassies in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Micronesia, Afghanistan and Mongolia. However the main reason I am invited is because I resigned from the US government in 2003 in opposition to the US war on Iraq and I have been an outspoken critic of US 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 US government has placed on Cuba for the past 60 years!
Second, I want to apologize for the illegal naval base that the US 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 US has held there since January 2002. 37 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 US 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 US Military in the Western Pacific.
US Continues Its Military Build-up in the Western Pacific
With the world’s attention on the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the US 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 Chine Policy, the US sells weapons to Taiwan and has US 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 US and NATO have done on the border of Russia.
On April 15, a delegation of seven US Senators led by the chair of the US Senate Foreign Relations committee arrived in Taiwan following a steadily increasing high level of US 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 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 US itself does not recognize Taiwan.
In Hawai’i, the headquarters of the US 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 US, 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 US diplomats with air armadas of up to fifty aircraft that fly to the edge of Taiwan’s air defense zone. The US 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 US 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 US (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 US Marines that began ten years ago in 2012 and the US 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 US 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 US 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 Hawaii 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 US territory of Guam has suffered a continued increase in US military units, bases and equipment. Camp Blaz on Guam is the newest US Marine base in the world and was opened in 2019.
Guam is the home base of six assassin Reaper drones assigned to the US Marines as well as missile “defense” systems. US 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 US nuclear submarines lurk off China and North Korea. One US 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 US Air Force states is for “training is 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.
130 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 US 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 US 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 US to drop bombs and return to the US.
The US builds more military bases in the Pacific as China Increases Its Non-Military Influence
In 2021, the Federated States of Micronesia agreed that the US 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 US 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 the China to effectively ban Chinese tourists from visiting the island in 2018.
Both Palau and the Federated States of Micronesia have hosted US military civil action teams over the past twenty years that have lived in small military compounds.
The US continues its large military missile tracking base in the Marshall Islands for missile shot from Vandenburg Air Base in California. The US 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 US 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 US 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 Hawaii, 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 US 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 US 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.
356 organizations in the US and South Korea have called for the suspension of the very dangerous and provocative war drills the US and South Korea militaries conduct.
While global attention is focused on the horrific war 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!!!
Ann Wright served 29 years in the U.S. Army/Army Reserves and retired as a Colonel. She was a U.S. diplomat for 16 years and served in U.S. Embassies in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia, Afghanistan and Mongolia. She resigned from the U.S. government in March, 2003 in opposition to President Bush’s war on Iraq.