Tax Dollars at Work: Even the Pentagon May Not Know How Many Military Bases the U.S. Has Overseas

The Christian Century, September 18, 2007 | Go to article overview

Tax Dollars at Work: Even the Pentagon May Not Know How Many Military Bases the U.S. Has Overseas


IN A SMALL-GROUP setting at the World Council of Churches Assembly in 2006, a Paraguayan couple timidly mentioned their concerns about the United States building a military base in their country. The Americans in the group were shocked: they didn't know about such a base. But then much of what's done by the Department of Defense is shielded from U.S. citizens--and sometimes even from Congress.

According to Chalmers Johnson in his book Nemesis, officially the U.S. has 737 military bases located in 132 of the 190 countries belonging to the United Nations. But the official count fails to mention bases in Israel, Afghanistan, Iraq and several other Middle Eastern countries. The DOD also doesn't count the extensive military facilities maintained by the U.S. in Britain that nominally belong to the Royal Air Force. And then there are host countries, like Jordan, that--for the sake of relations with their own people--want to be able to deny that they have an American military presence. Johnson concludes that the total number of overseas bases is over 1,000 and that even the Pentagon doesn't know how many there are for certain.

Overseas bases range from large, permanent facilities such as the ones in Germany, complete with officers' clubs, bowling alleys and activity centers, to the "lily pad" bases constructed in areas of instability, which contain prepositioned weapons and munitions and have little or no American presence. …

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