Security Without Empire: National Organizing Conference on Foreign Military Bases

Security Without Empire: National Organizing Conference on Foreign Military Bases

Nei giorni dal 27 febbraio al 2 marzo 2009 presso l'American University, Washington, DC si è tenuto l'incontro - Sicurezza senza impero: Conferenza Nazionale Organizzativa sulla basi militari straniere - di cui mando un estratto:

Security without Empire: National Organizing Conference on Foreign Military Bases
American University
February 27-29th, 2009
Strategy Submissions February 2009
1. Bases Treaty Strategy
Submitted by Al Marder, US Peace Institute
Contact: 203 387-0370, E-mail amistad.nai at

We recognize that the main opposition to foreign bases lies within national borders. The people in each country affected must develop broad patriotic opposition to the presence of foreign troops. We, in the United States, must develop that movement here as an integral part of our opposition to the policies of imperialism, policies of military, economic and political aggression that have resulted in the complete militarization of our country, wars of aggression and financial crisis in our country. We are proposing another track for publicizing and mobilizing around the issue; a model treaty to be presented to the United Nations forbidding the establishment of permanent foreign military bases in a sovereign country. We fully realize that such a treaty will have a very hard row to hoe since some countries are complicit in inviting foreign bases onto their soil. We realize too that some will argue that it is the sovereign right of a country to determine whether they will invite foreign troops onto their country. There are undoubtedly other arguments that will be made against such a universal treaty. None of them can offset the basic reality that foreign bases are a threat to world peace and to the people whose lands they occupy. The very existence of such a legal instrument and the campaign to make it a binding Treaty can serve to bring the issue to the fore in every capitol and mission. It will serve to expose the dangers of foreign bases. It can stimulate debate in decision making circles. MOST IMPORTANT IT PROVIDES A DOCUMENT THAT WILL ALLOW ACTIVISTS TO POUND ON THE DOORS OF GOVERNMENTS. IT WILL PLACE THE ISSUE OF FOREIGN BASES ON THE TABLE, FINALLY MAKING THE GLOBAL PUBLIC AWARE OF THE DANGERS OF FOREIGN BASES. In our discussion, we raised the possibility that the US Conference on Foreign Bases would consider authoring such a document as a concrete contribution to the global campaign against foreign bases, It would have historic significance that such an initiative emanated in the United States, the perpetrator of almost 1,000 bases It would be a signal contribution from the peace movement in the United States.

2. Bases and Prostitution
Submitted by Debra McNutt
E-mail: debimcnutt at
1. What are your goals for U.S. bases in your state? (region? area?)

I have been researching and writing on whether civilian contractors are enabling military sexual exploitation in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other Muslim countries. My research project is investigating new patterns of sexual exploitation of Third World women by the U.S. military, and how institutionalized prostitution has changed as U.S. forces have been stationed in Muslim countries (such as Iraq). I am especially interested in the possible role of civilian contractors in importing foreign women into U.S. war zones under the guise of employment as "cooks and maids." In the 1980s I was a member of the Friends of GABRIELA and the Alliance for Philippine Concerns, which worked against sexual exploitation of Filipinas near U.S. military bases. Recently I have worked on the case of Army soldier Suzanne Swift and issues of sexual harassment and assault within the military.

2. What are your group's main activities regarding anti-bases organizing?
As a student at The Evergreen State College in 2007, I conducted research into the Importation of Women into U.S. War Zones--such as Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and particularly Iraq. I initially published an on-line article summarizing my research findings, which was published on Counterpunch, CommonDreams, and many other websites: All or part of the article was translated into seven languages (Spanish, Italian, German, Portuguese, Turkish, Bosnian, and Indonesian): In September 2007, I wrote a longer 51-page report Privatizing Women: Prostitution and the Iraq Occupation my findings on how military prostitution has grown in Muslim countries, partly due to the growth of global human trafficking and private security contractors. The report was dedicated to the women of Iraq and Afghanistan, and to the foreign women trafficked in U.S. war zones. The report was also dedicated to Saralee Hamilton of AFSC, who was always an incredibly valuable resource. Maria Pappalardo was also also extremely helpful in my most recent research.

3. How can activist networks in other countries contribute to your group's work?

I would appreciate any specific information or sources about the general methods used by the U.S. military to provide foreign women to its personnel in Iraq or other Muslim states. Specifically, I am interested in information or sources on the role of private contractors in importing foreign women into U.S. war zones, and rsearch resources/articles or contact information for individuals or groups who would have insights to this process. I intend for my research to expose any private contractors involved in military sex trafficking, and support the women who are exploited for military purposes.

4. What activities and strategies would you/your group like to see as part of a
coordinated international movement against U.S. bases?

Military prostitution is not the same as it was in the 20th century. This century has seen three major changes that make researching and responding to the exploitation of women much more challenging. First, U.S. troops are now stationed in Muslim countries, making open prostitution for the troops less possible. Yet I have found reports of brothels within the Green Zone itself, disguised as restaurants, hairdressers, or even a women’s shelter. Second, globalization has created a wave of international human trafficking. Women who are trafficked into Iraq for sex slavery—such as Chinese, Filipinas, Iranians, and Eastern Europeans--probably arrive through same "pipelines" as illegally trafficked workers. Many Iraqi refugee women and kidnapped girls have also been forced into prostitution in Syria and Jordan. Third, prostitution in Iraq appears to be more about the private contractors, rather than the troops. Contractors brag on sex websites about other contractors delivering Iraqi women to them, or taking them to private apartments. The highly paid contractors go to Dubai or Jordan for R&R. Now that it is too dangerous to move around in Arab Iraq, they also head for the northern Kurdish region.

These changes necessitate different approaches by the women’s, human rights, and antiwar movements. Many facts about prostitution in Iraq have been documented in the mainstream press, but the nothing has been done to protect these women and children, or to examine the possible links to the U.S. military and its contractors. It has been difficult for myself (and other researchers and journalists) to get to the bottom of this crisis. The question of who is behind the trafficking of people is as hard to crack as the trafficking of drugs (if not more so). It is difficult enough to track the widespread illegal trafficking of workers to Iraq. But the trafficking of Iraqi or foreign women for prostitution is even better concealed. The prostitution rings keep their tracks well hidden, and it is not in the interest of the military or its private contractors to reveal any information that may damage the war effort.

The fact that information is difficult to find, however, is a reason to intensify the search and make military prostitution a major women’s and antiwar issue. We need an information sharing network, and a forum for these women to be able to speak out and expose the abuses. It is our tax dollars that fuel the war in Iraq, and if women are exploited as a result of the occupation, we owe it to them to take responsibility for these crimes. My ultimate purpose is doing this research is not only to help expose these crimes against women, but to help build a movement to stop them. The media coverage of Iraqi women focuses only on their oppression by Iraqi men and Muslim society, not on how the U.S. occupation has worsened historic oppressions, and created new oppressions that destroy women’s self-worth.
Submitted by Zoltan Grossman
E-mail grossmaz at

1. What are your goals for U.S. bases in your state? (region? area?)
G.I. Voice is a veteran-led nonprofit project that recently opened a G.I. coffeehouse just outside the gates of Fort Lewis (between Tacoma and Olympia WA), the largest Army base on the West Coast. More information can be found at See media coverage below. Mission Statement: "The wars that the United States is involved in are taxing on service members and their families. The purpose of GI Voice is to provide us with a place to freely express ourselves on the subject. It is also a place for information on GI rights and a link to organizations that offer solutions to families and service members in the military. We believe that by sharing our experiences, educating ourselves, and acting in support of each other we can bring about the change necessary to create a livable world."

2. What are your group's main activities regarding anti-bases organizing?
The Coffee Strong cafe (spoofing the recruitment slogan "Army Strong") opened on Election Day 2008. It is only the second G.I. coffeehouse to open in the country since the Vietnam War, and includes computers for soldiers to access the Internet without Army interference. The historic project is also starting a website and planning a radio webstream, to use 21st-century outreach tools to connect with soldiers and their families. Modeled after the coffeehouse movement from the 1960s, the goal of this cafe is to provide soldiers, their families and recent vets a place away from the base where they can learn about resources available to them, meet with G.I. Rights Counselors, and access alternative information. In addition to this, the coffeehouse holds weekly movie nights, concerts and other events. The base is scheduled to deploy 10,000 more troops, including two Stryker Brigades, to Iraq in the upcoming months. Over the past two years, large actions have protested the movement of Stryker armored vehicles through local ports to and from Iraq.
"Geographies of Resistance around Fort Lewis, Washington"
(mass blockades of Stryker deployments, Watada court martial, GI Voice/IVAW organizing)

3. How can activist networks in other countries contribute to your group's work? Any kind of support would help the outreach effort to U.S. military personnel and their families. Tax-deductible donations can be made to the GI Voice project: "Seattle Draft & Military Counseling Center" or simply "SDMCC," and mailed to G.I. Voice, PO Box 99404, Lakewood WA 98496 USA. Organizations around the world could help GI Voice set up a radio webstream that could be accessed by GIs around the world, to receive alternative sources of information and culture. Equipment and donations could help this effort immensely.

4. What activities and strategies would you/your group like to see as part of a
coordinated international movement against U.S. bases?

But more importantly, peace organizations should coordinate their efforts to do outreach to GIs around the world. At least four GI coffeehouses are starting in the US, and others could be started abroad, in countries such as Germany that are transshipment points to the Middle East. Literature developed by US veterans about GI rights, war and peace could be distributed to GIs to build a bridge to them, and communicate with them in an approach that would seem familiar to their experiences and culture.

Peace organizations should also educate themselves about issues of concern to soldiers--such as Stop-Loss, repression of their constitutional rights, sexual harassment and rape, and health and safety conditions--to open respectful dialogue with GIs on their concerns. The purpose is not to reform the military into a more effective fighting machine. Rather, once service members are actively struggling with their command around issues of working conditions and health care, they will start to see the connections between the occupation of other countries and their own oppression here in the United States.

4. Proposals for U.S. – Czech cooperation to defeat the “missile defense“ radar in the Czech Republic
No to Bases Civic Initiative, Czech Republic

1. On NEZA and current situation in the Czech Republic
NEZA has been struggling against the “missile defense” radar project since summer 2006 when the issue was leaked to the public for the first time at the closing moments of Czech parliamentary elections in June 2006.
Main arguments raised by NEZA against the project:
• The project is totally illegitimate as the whole political establishment had been trying to sweep the problem under the carpet and effectively blocked any discussion on his issue before elections. No political party has got any mandate from the electorate to accept the U.S. radar base in the Czech Republic. • The general public has been consistently and overwhelmingly refusing the project since it became known, in spite of heavy pro-radar propaganda efforts by the government, the mainstream media and U.S. ambassador Mr. Graber. The figures provided by public opinion polls have been very stable: about two thirds of population is against the base. • There is a democratic deficit on this issue. Hence the call by NEZA for a national referendum. Again, more than 70 per cent of the population has been supporting this requirement according to the opinion polls and the support is very stable. • The alleged threats mentioned as reasons for establishing the base (North Korea, Iran) are not credible. The Czech government has tried to raise the specter of Russian threat instead, so far without influencing the public opinion in any substantial way. The base would provide no defense against real threats that might eventually arise (terrorism); it even might create new threats. The whole argument in favor of the radar is unconvincing, inconsistent, and lacking a clear rationale. • On the other hand, the radar would increase international tension in our region without any reasonable purpose and to the detriment of Czech national interests. (In the meantime, this is already becoming reality). • Given the experience from the U.S. interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Czech Republic could be involved – even against its own will or unknowingly – in a military adventure or aggression.

Developments and current situation:
• A broad movement against the radar base has emerged in the Czech Republic including a number of civic initiatives and two large opposition parties. NEZA alone has collected about 140,000 signatures under the petition in favor of the national referendum (a formal hard-copy petition according to the Czech petition law). The total number of signatures under diverse hard-cover petitions against radar and in favor of the referendum can be estimated at about 300,000 – a very strong result for a nation of 10 millions. A large number of diverse public demonstrations, happenings, conferences etc. have been conducted throughout the country during last two and half years. As a whole, the country is decidedly against the radar. • The government has systematically refused to take into account the objections coming from the civic movements and general public, and has been trying – in vain so far – to discredit the opponents. It keeps disregarding the Czech citizens, occasionally showing its utter disdain of the people. The two agreements with the current U.S. administration concerning the base were signed by the government last year. • The governmental parties suffered a humiliating defeat in the regional elections last November. The radar policies of the government undoubtedly contributed to this. • Last December, the radar agreements were ratified by the Senate – the upper house of the Czech Parliament where the government still has sufficient majority. • However, the most substantial political decision is still pending – the ratification of the agreements by the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house of the Czech Parliament. The position of the government is very shaky and uncertain there and the outcome of the vote is far from granted. The discussion on the radar has been postponed several times and it is scheduled for next February now (after the swearing-in of Mr. Obama into the office of the U.S. President). Sharp conflict is expected to develop around this issue in the Chamber of Deputies. • Some positive tendencies should be noted that have emerged recently in the European politics. Important public figures, research centers, and study groups have been criticizing the excessive reliance on purely military actions and policies in security matters and recommending a more consistent diplomatic and political effort (e.g., the recent declaration by four German elder statesmen, or the development of a “European way of security” concept). This might help creating atmosphere conducive to the movement for abolishing foreign military bases in Europe and globally.

2. Some remarks on possible U.S. – Czech cooperation in the efforts against the “missile defence” radar We feel that the basic line of argument developed by NEZA (the stress on the negative impact of the base on democracy within the Czech Republic and on security and peace both internally and globally) should be followed and developed further according to circumstances. Diverse lines of argument have been developed by other groups (negative impact of the base on the environment and health, technical problems of the “missile defense”, a potential criminality problem) which may be seen as complementary. However, we feel that the “democratic” and “security and peace” arguments are the strongest ones in our case, both internally and internationally. For the U.S. – Czech cooperation on the radar issue, another argument can be perhaps added: the radar has already caused certain harm to the reputation of the United States with the Czech public which has been traditionally sympathetic to America. However, because of radar, and also in the context of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, its reputation has started to erode. >From the Czech perspective, one of decisive moments will arrive some time in February when the agreements would be discussed by the Chamber of Deputies. The exact timing and course of the event is hard to forecast. However, an explicit stand of the Washington, D.C. conference on this issue would be very helpful in any case. The co-operation should of course continue after the conference. If the radar is defeated in the Czech Parliament, it would mean a great common victory for all its opponents worldwide. However, the task will remain for us of helping the U.S. efforts to influence the security and military policies of the new U.S. administration. If the radar is eventually passed in the Czech Parliament, we will have to keep working in both directions, the Czech and the U.S. Due perhaps to specific circumstances, the radar issue and the resistance against the radar has mobilized a great deal of activism and public opinion in the Czech Republic. It is our feeling that the combination of democratic, security and peace issues raised by the radar will remain an important factor in the Czech society also in the future.
(January 2009)
5. Thoughts on Strategies for Closing Foreign Military Bases
Submitted by John Lindsay-Poland, Fellowship of Reconciliation
johnlp at

Introduction: I do not believe that any single strategy by itself will achieve our goals. On the contrary, the most successful struggles against even individual military bases and their activities have combined different approaches and strategies: civil disobedience and support for those engaged in it, action in the courts, cultural creation, contact with media, lobbying, historical and scientific research, organizing communities in solidarity, vigils, organizing referenda, etc. - enabling people from diverse circumstances, political ideologies, and levels of commitment to participate. This diversity may have been more spontaneous than intentional, but it offers a lesson for our struggles. At the same time, some strategies, to be successful, require mass commitment, and in the case of our movements, the adoption of such strategies could mean we do not undertake others. For example, if we pursued a global referendum on military bases, we would need to channel all our energy into winning such a referendum. Good timing and an assessment of our capacities are thus critical to choosing successful strategies.

The strength of movements against military bases has resided, at its core, in communities affected by the bases that decide to resist, and in doing so, arouse solidarity and political support from other actors. It is easy for people to understand resistance to military takeover and despoliation of land and waters and rape and abuse of its members. Military bases are also symbols of the United States’ destructive arrogance and imperial greed, and so attract opposition.

What has been more difficult has been, when a local struggle is victorious in kicking out the military or limiting its action – in the Philippines, in Kaho’olawe, in Vieques, in Panama, Paraguay, and elsewhere - to keep the military from moving its destructive activities to another community, possibly more economically desperate, politically marginalized or conservative, or unaware of the potential consequences. The same is occurring now with the transfer of US Marines from Okinawa to Guam. This is because the military’s objectives are typically not restricted to control of the local area where a base or military presence has been established. The closure of the US Army School of the Americas in Georgia will not end US training of militaries schooled in impunity, because SOA is responsible for a small percentage of overall US training for Latin American armies. Where the military’s objectives are regional – such as in the Triple Frontera of Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil – it is sometimes possible to limit foreign military control, though the limits may not be permanent.

Where are the fora in which we may systemically challenge the US military’s imperial expansion, while continuing to support local and national struggles? Here are four possibilities, which focus on making the problem visible, framing it in terms that support those harmed by military bases, and creating mechanisms to push foreign military bases back.

Presence at Regional Military Meetings: In the Americas, the defense ministers of each country (except Cuba) come together every two years to make plans. It is a kind of G-8 or Summit of the Americas for the region’s military leaders, dominated by the United States. But these military leaders do not consult civil society as they make their plans. Begun in 1995, the last “Defense Ministerial of the Americas” was in Managua last October; the next will be in Canada in 2008. The one following that will be in Bolivia in 2010. We should propose that activists gather to protest military bases at these ministerials. Such protests could also serve to protest the United States’ wars and other forms of military domination.

United Nations and International Law: Explore the use and development of mechanisms in international law for the closure and cleanup of foreign military bases. For example, formulate legal challenges to bases that were acquired illegally (by war, or through unconstitutional agreements). This will require the involvement of lawyers with knowledge of international law, as well as groups in the affected countries. The current campaign to close the prison for detainees in Guantanamo should be expanded, for example, but the basis in international law for doing so will probably be very different. Although it may be difficult to enforce international law, especially given the United States’ defiance of it, it has a powerful political and moral impact, and helps change the terms of debate. It helps to create debate.

A regional version of this approach would be to seek support from an anti-imperialist government (e.g. Ecuador, Bolivia) to propose the prohibition of foreign military bases within a region, such as Latin America and the Caribbean (similar to the Contadora process in Central America in the 1980s). To be effective, careful attention would have to be given to defining military bases (or presence). To encompass the modalities often adopted by the United States (host nation keeping title to a base, quasi-permanent maneuvers instead of installations), such a prohibition would need to be broad. At the same time, a broad definition might well apply to regional and bilateral military agreements, not all of which are led by the United States (e.g. Venezuela-Bolivia).

Use Global Media: While most of international media – CNN, Univisión, etc. – are corporate-controlled and hostile or indifferent to anti-militarist efforts, others may be sympathetic, such as Telesur and Al Jazeera International. We should form an international committee to work for ongoing coverage of military base problems in these media, and for the distribution of documentaries and other reports. This committee would also work to make visible resistance to military bases at especially critical or dramatic moments, so that this resistance is more visible.

US Congress: The Democratic Party in the United States is not an anti-imperialist institution, and has supported military expansion. However, Democratic control of the US legislature offers possibilities for getting a hearing on some of the abuses and problems created by military bases, old and new. For example, Korean activists working for environmental cleanup of bases that are closing could work with US activists to expose the problem and advocate a full cleanup.

Not included here are activities and tactics that could easily be integrated with these strategies, such as an international day of action, sharing information, fundraising, speaking tours, etc.

6. Grannies for Peace Strategies
Submitted by Nydia Leaf, Grannies Peace Brigade
nyleaf at

1. What are your goals for U.S. bases in your state? (region? area?)

The Granny Peace Brigade focus has not been on domestic bases in our state or region. but rather on U.S. foreign military bases. This grew out of the April 2007 Women's International Democratic Federation Congress in Caracas where attendees from Japan, Germany and Korea spoke out against the bases in their countries. The Grannies attending the Congress, hearing how despised these bases were, later submitted a resolution - unanimously approved - that stipulated the closing of U.S military bases on foreign soil. They promised action on their return to New York and that is the genesis of our three No Bases Teach-ins, starting November 2007.

Regarding local bases, one goal would be to design concerted, concrete proposals for alternatives to bases, especially when entire communities and towns are dependent upon bases for their existence: both economically and socially (jobs, schools, clinics, etc.).

When there have been base closings, such as the Brooklyn Navy Yard, an array of alternative uses were devised. Since many closings may require environmental hazards' abatement, that could be one area for jobs creation. But base locations are crucial to many communities, just as the Pentagon has skillfully arranged for production of B-1 bomber components to be distributed among the 50 states. The Defense Department does not outsource weapons production - they keep it homegrown; thus the bases, like the manufacturing jobs, are tightly woven into the economies of the states, e.g. in Barney Frank's home state of Massachusetts the largest employer is Raytheon.

2. What are your group's main activities/ regarding anti-bases organizing?

A series of Teach-ins has been our main activity regarding anti-base organizing in fulfillment of a resolution at a 2007 Congress as described above. There was an urgent need to inform the public on a topic which is totally absent from the mainstream media, much less an issue for vital discussion.

The Teach-ins have involved working with experts and organizations, utilizing their strengths and knowledge while drawing on our own. By sharing information with groups, networks and individuals in printed materials and the media (radio, TV, videography, blogs) our outreach has been enhanced.

Our other strategies consist of lobbying, phon-a-thons (providing information and discussion re: pertinent issues related to peace/ anti-war activities) encouraging people to contact their elected representatives concerning these issues; letter writing; a website including a blog; providing groups (high school and college students, parents, community groups, etc.) information re: U.S. militarism; meetings with elected representatives; counter recruitment at high schools.

3. How can activist networks in other countries contribute to your group's work?

We have been contacted by activist groups in other countries (Germany, the Czech Republic, and Italy) regarding the U.S. military and all military. Twice the Grannies have been invited and accepted invitations to Germany.

Teaming with organizations across the world is the only way to advance collaboratively designed changes. Since the cost of travel overseas would be prohibitive, we can rely on the Internet to provide the flow of ideas and strategies, while on the domestic side we can e-mail elected officials locally and in Washington regarding our standing on policies.

At the 2007 Congress we were asked why we did not stipulate ALL bases to be closed? In other words...not just the U.S. bases. But this is a topic for discussion at another time. 4. What activities and strategies would you/your group like to see as part of a coordinated international movement against U.S. bases?

We must teach the public how to redefine "Security" as the title of this conference states. The role of overseas US bases is to facilitate wars, but if the bases don't enhance our security, let's try a different path. Disseminating information to the grass-roots is of the utmost importance because the corporate media will never do it.

As the UN has not been able to impact the US, there needs to be more effort, globally, to expand the movement against U.S. bases. Let's identify and encourage actions to be taken in unison with organizations here (environmental, religious, social and economic) and with other countries. Convene international fora at which strategies would be identified to address the issue.

Our first Teach-in - to shut down Guantanamo - was held on Armistice Day, 2007 - November 11 - the 11th month and the eleventh day. Our planet is perhaps at its eleventh hour - we nominate Armistice Day as a time to hold a global meeting with a focus on closing U.S. foreign military bases.