When LALIT members call for the closing of the USA base on Diego Garcia, many Mauritians immediately take a defeatist line. Some cry, “Oh! But the USA is such a big power, how can “little” Mauritius ever do anything against it?” Their mistake is that they think of the “USA” as one single block, and forget that there are different class forces at work there, just as there are here. As the protests against Wall Street rise, as the capitalist economy in the USA hurls people into unemployment and insecure work, as it fails to offer the people health care and education as rights, as it heads for bancruptcy, people in the broad masses, quite naturally, find out about all the useless expense on military bases, and call into question their very existence. This is even being reflected in the US State apparatus now.
In a recent Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, for example, there was evidence of rising support for closing American overseas military bases and bringing the soldiers home not just from the fronts, but from the bases. Readers of LALIT’s website may recall that leading LALIT member, Ram Seegobin, in 2004 gave a speech in Sydney Australia, which influenced representatives of the US “Bring the Troops Home” movement, and they publicly announced their change of emphasis to base closure. Similarly, when I was in Ecuador for the first world meeting of the international NO BASES network, there were strong US movements present speaking out for base closure. And remember, the base in Manta, Ecuador, was closed the year after the protests around the international network meeting.
An article by John Isaacs (from whom we are getting the quotations, sent to LALIT by John Lindsay Poland of the NO BASES network) says that on 13 September, 2011, the US Senate’s Armed Services Committee Hearing about a nomination, became the occasion for no less than three different Senators (two Democrats, and one Republican) to call for closing down overseas military bases. This is an important event. Here is what they said:
Chairman Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan, said: “Now, given the budget pressures under which the department's going to be operating, one of the things that some of us believe we have to do is to take a look at the stationing and restationing of and the location of our military forces overseas where we've got large number of bases, and to consider both relocation and the restationing possibly of some of those military forces from overseas bases back to the United States. Is that on the table [to be considered as a reduction]?”
Ash Carter, presiding, agreed that the issue was a potential candidate for cuts.
Carl Levin was joined by conservative Republican Jeff Sessions of Alabama: “I believe Senator Levin asked you about deployments in Europe. It’s just a matter that’s come up again recently. I am of the belief it’s difficult to justify 40,000 troops in Europe at this point in time. For our economy, it’s better for those troops to be in the United States spending their wealth and creating tax growth for the local communities and jobs. Will you examine our force levels in areas like Europe and maintain the levels we need but not maintain them at higher amounts than necessary?”
Then the moderate Democrat Mark Begich, of Alaska added that it was not just in Europe that he wanted cuts: “With all due respect to my colleague from Alabama, we actually -- the 40,000 troops in Europe, we are on the same page here, we want to see some reassessment of not only in Europe but kind of around the globe of where we have our resources and so forth. But I want to make sure we put all the numbers on the table. Eight hundred or so billion (dollars) in Iraq, 400-plus billion (dollars) in Afghanistan.”
So, the question of base closures is being discussed at the highest levels in the USA, and not just in the Senate.
On July 8, member of the House of Representatives, Cogressman Jared Polis, Democrat of Colorado, put up an Amendment to the Fiscal Year 2012 Defense Appropriations Bill to cut the number of U.S. troops overseas. It was not only Democrats who voted in favour of his amendment but also 25 Republicans. Over one-third of the House of Representatives voted in favour of the Amendment. This is the sign of an important shift. So, we do not have to listen to the arguments of people in the Parti Travayist and MMM, nor to defeatist lines by Jean-Claude de L’Estrac, new Indian Ocean Commission Secretary.
Even the White House is considering cuts in overseas military bases. At the end of 2010, the White House’s bipartisan deficit commission known as “Simpson-Bowles” suggested cutting U.S. garrisons in Europe and Asia by one-third, which would, in their estimation, save about $8.5 billion in 2015.
So, there are voices being raised in the USA to close down military bases. These voices are now being heard even in the Senate, the House of Representatives and the White House. These voices can be expected to gain in numbers and strength as the economic crisis in the US deepens.