[Note for TomDispatch Readers: Every now and then, in the quieter days of summer, it feels good and appropriate to feature old friends no longer with us. In that spirit,TomDispatch recently offered an excerpt from Mirrors, the idiosyncratic, late-in-life masterwork of world history by Eduardo Galeano, who died this April. Today, we turn to someone who helped makeTomDispatch special in its early years, Chalmers Johnson, whodied in November 2010 and whom I’ve missed ever since. When our American world offers a particularly outrageous display of militarism, I often wonder: What would Chal think? Fortunately — or perhaps I mean unfortunately — in too many cases, we still know what Chal would have thought, since so little has really changed in the behavior of the national security state since 2010. Today, in bringing back a piece on his signature subject, the unique way the U.S. has garrisoned the planet, with a new introduction by Nick Turse who has taken upChal’s role at this site when it comes to the U.S. military, we offer a case in point.
Unfortunately, signed copies of Chal’s books are no longer available in return for contributions to this site, but you can still donate and help support the Chalmers Johnsons of the future at TomDispatch . Right now, for instance, you can get a signed, personalized copy of Susan Southard’s shocking and moving new book on the nuclear destruction of Nagasaki (featured recently at this site) for a contribution of $100. Do check out our donation pagewhere any number of books are on offer. Tom]
There’s a secret world out beyond the horizon, a world of austere airstrips and shadowy commandos, a world of screens filled by streaming full-motion video of armed young men in the backlands of the planet, a world of musty storage depots and warehouses, pallets and fuel drums just waiting for sailors and soldiers and airmen to come calling. It’s the American “baseworld,” a huge but hidden network of far-flung outposts and tucked-away compounds stretching from North America to the Middle East, Asia to Africa. If you follow the subject, you may not be surprised by some of the sites now mentioned in connection with this empire of bases, like Romania, where a major U.S. military transit hub became fully operational last year; Senegal and Ghana, where the Marine Corps recently established “cooperative security locations”; and Bashur airfield in Iraqi Kurdistan, which was reportedly being turned into a training site for the fight against the Islamic State in 2014. You might, however, be surprised to learn that plans for each of these locales were mentioned more than a decade ago in an article by the late Chalmers Johnson.
After an ideological shift that took him from diehard Cold Warrior to anguished patriot and critic of American militarism, Johnson got in the habit of being ahead of the curve. If you had, for instance, read his groundbreaking book Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire when it was published, you wouldn’t have been shocked when September 11, 2001, rolled around. His 2004 article “America’s Empire of Bases” shares the same profound prescience. Some, perhaps most, articles go stale days or weeks after they’re published. (Some even expire before they hit the printed page or webpage.) But only now — nearly five years after his death — are we finally catching up to one of TomDispatch’s greatest oracles and most eloquent writers.
Johnson followed up Blowback — which became a post-9/11 bestseller — with his book-length exploration of America’s “empire of bases” (as he called it) and its consequences in The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic, before completing his trilogy with a magisterial study of imperial overstretch: Nemesis, The Last Days of the American Republic. All these years later, his books still have the power to shine a bright light into the darkened corners of American militarism. Today, TomDispatch is pleased to whet your appetite for reading (or re-reading) them with “America’s Empire of Bases,” an article, originally published on January 15, 2004, that — given America’s dedication to maintaining a massive global network of military outposts — will remain relevant for many years to come.