USAG Humphreys: Story Behind America’s Biggest Overseas Base

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By Jon Letman for The Diplomat – At first glance, Humphreys looks like an ordinary American suburb. With K-12 schools, chapels, a library, a big box store, dental and veterinary clinics and a spacious plaza where kids can skateboard and eat ice cream, Humphreys could easily be in Dallas or Denver. It’s the security gates, razor-wire topped walls and the M1 Abrams tanks that stand out. U.S. Army Garrison Humphreys is, in fact, in Pyeongtaek, 40 miles south of Seoul, South Korea. On a guided tour of Humphreys, Army Public Affairs Officer (PAO) Bob McElroy calls it “our little piece of America.” The Army calls it “the largest power projection platform in the Pacific.” Now in the final stage of a massive base expansion, when completed around 2020, Humphreys will have tripled in size to nearly 3,500 acres — roughly the size of central Washington, D.C. — making it the largest overseas American military base in the world, capping off over a dozen years of transformation and consolidation of the U.S. military footprint in South Korea. Humphreys is a major helicopter base, home to a rotational Attack Reconnaissance squadron. Attack assets like Apache, Blackhawk and Chinook helicopters fly out of Humphreys mostly at night and the 8,000 foot long airfield is large enough to land C-130s or other fighter jets from nearby Osan Air Base.

Defense Department: War On Terror Costs $250 Million A Day For 16 Years

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By Jay Cassano for International Bussiness Times – American taxpayers have spent $1.46 trillion on wars abroad since September 11, 2001. The Department of Defense periodically releases a “cost of war” report. The newly released version, obtained by the Federation of American Scientists Secrecy News blog, covers the time from the September 11th terrorist attacks through mid-2017. The Afghanistan War from 2001 to 2014 and Iraq War from 2003 to 2011 account for the bulk of expenses: more than $1.3 trillion. The continuing presence in Afghanistan and aerial anti-ISIS operations in Iraq and Syria since 2014 have cost a combined $120 billion. The report’s costs include only direct war-related expenses such as operating and maintaining bases, procuring equipment, and paying for and feeding troops. It most notably does not include the expense of veteran’s benefits for troops who serve in these wars or the intelligence community’s expenses related to Global War on Terror. A 2011 paper from Harvard Kennedy School professor Linda Bilmes estimated the cost of veterans’ benefits as $600 billion to $1 trillion over the next 40 years.

“AmazonLog” — A Military Drill With Vast Amazonian Aspirations


By Whitney Webb for Mint Press News – Initially touted by the Brazilian military as an opportunity to “develop greater knowledge, share experiences and develop mutual trust,” it has since emerged that major aspects of the program will focus on managing refugees displaced by drug trafficking and terrorism, providing humanitarian aid, peace operations, and actions against drug trafficking. For those who have been following events in Venezuela, the timing of the exercise – as Venezuela approaches default – combined with the drill’s focuses suggest that the Venezuelan government of Nicolás Maduro could be the target of this multinational military exercise. Indeed, recent U.S. legislation cites U.S. concerns for uncontrolled migration and the need for humanitarian aid were the current government of Venezuela to collapse. Congress recently required the U.S. Department of Defense to develop a contingency plan detailing what roles and assets it would employ to address such an issue in Venezuela. Furthermore, the U.S. government has repeatedly accused Venezuelan government officials of drug trafficking when issuing sanctions against them, a charge levied against them without evidence. Such charges have also coincided with decisions taken by the Venezuelan government that adversely affect U.S. economic and business interests — including the Venezuelan government’s recent decision to stop selling its oil in U.S. dollars and begin selling it in the Chinese yuan.

ICC Prosecutor Seeks To Investigate US Crimes In Afghanistan


By Staff of ICC – Today, the Situation in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan has been assigned to a Pre-Trial Chamber of the International Criminal Court (‘ICC’ or the ‘Court’), following my decision to request authorisation to open an investigation into crimes alleged to have been committed in connection with the armed conflict in that State. For decades, the people of Afghanistan have endured the scourge of armed conflict. Following a meticulous preliminary examination of the situation, I have come to the conclusion that all legal criteria required under the Rome Statute to commence an investigation have been met. In due course, I will file my request for judicial authorisation to open an investigation, submitting that there is a reasonable basis to believe that war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed in connection with the armed conflict in Afghanistan. It will be for the Judges of the Court’s Pre-Trial Chamber, constituted by the Presidency, to decide whether I have satisfied them that the Statute’s legal criteria to authorise opening an investigation are fulfilled. Given the limited temporal scope of the Court’s jurisdiction, my request for judicial authorisation will focus solely upon war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed since 1 May 2003 on the territory of Afghanistan as well as war crimes closely linked to the situation in Afghanistan allegedly committed since 1 July 2002 on the territory of other States Parties to the Rome Statute.

U.S. Military Is The Largest Employer In The World


By Sue Chang for Market Watch – Travel on Uncle Sam’s dime and have taxpayers pay for your education—these are some of the perks offered by the U.S. military, and it appears its recruiting strategy is effective. The U.S. Department of Defense has been named the largest employer in the world with 3.2 million employees on its payroll, according to the World Economic Forum. The second largest is China’s People’s Liberation Army with 2.3 million on its staff roster and third biggest is Wal-Mart Stores Inc. WMT, +0.99% with 2.1 million employees. McDonald’s Corp. MCD, +0.33% came in fourth with 1.9 million workers but the World Economic Forum noted the fast-food chain would be eliminated from the list if employees at its franchise restaurants weren’t counted. “As the majority of its restaurants are franchises, this figure falls to 420,000 when they are excluded,” said the WEF.

More US Troops In Latin America: Signs Of An Invasion Foretold?


By Martín Pastor for Black Agenda Report – The US army will increase its military presence in Latin America’s Amazonia. Under the “Amazon Log” Initiative, passed in 2017 by Michel Temer’s putschist government in Brazil, Operation “United America” will join the armies of the United States, Brazil, Peru and Colombia from November 6 to 13, 2017, in the tri-border city of Tabatinga. This exercise is a sign of a substantial increase in foreign militarization of the region. The initiative is led by the Logistics Command of the Brazilian Army, and it is inspired in the logistic military exercise carried out by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Hungary, in 2015, which deployed around 1,700 military. In this Latin American version, the goals, according to the official page of the Brazilian army, are creating a multi-national logistic base to carry out operations of illegal migration control, humanitarian aid, peace operations, actions against drug trafficking and environmental protection. However, as Brazilian journal Gauchazh pointed out, teaching a foreign army to combat in national territory should be deemed “high treason”. But the Brazilian Ministry of Defense doesn’t share that appreciation, as it considers that this is an opportunity to unite the armies of the two countries. The problem with this exercise is the magnitude and the openness that has been granted to the United States to enter the Latin American jungle.

The US, Africa And A New Century Of War

Members of the 3rd Special Forces Group, 2nd battalion cry at the tomb of US Army Sgt. La David Johnson at his burial service in the Memorial Gardens East cemetery on October 21, 2017, in Hollywood, Florida. Sgt. Johnson and three other US soldiers were killed in an ambush in Niger on October 4, 2017. (Photo: GASTON DE CARDENAS / AFP / Getty Images)

By William Rivers Pitt for Truthout – Most Americans’ broad ignorance regarding Africa is a long-standing phenomenon, one perpetuated from the top down. In 2008, the campaign staffers tasked to wrangle Sarah Palin were terrified people would discover she thought Africa was one big country. In 2001, President George W. Bush told a gathering in Sweden, “Africa is a nation that suffers from incredible disease.” Vice President Joe Biden, speaking to none other than the US-Africa Leaders Summit in 2014, said, “There’s no reason the nation of Africa should not join the ranks of the world’s most prosperous nations.” That’s twice in one sentence, Joe. After four elite US soldiers were killed in an ambush in Niger several weeks ago, and after President Trump made a gut-grinding botch of offering condolences to the families of the fallen, Africa policy has become a hot topic in US politics. Beyond the febrile fodder of yet another presidential humiliation lay the deeper question: What were those four soldiers doing in Niger? South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who sits on the Armed Services Committee that oversees the Pentagon, apparently just found out that the US has roughly 1,000 troops stationed in Niger. When asked why they were there, he gave the standard reply we always hear in the age of the Authorization of Use of Military Force: fighting terrorists.

U.S. Military Activity Is A “Recruiting Tool” For Terror Groups Across West Africa

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By Nick Turse for The Intercept – THE MISSION NEVER made the front page of the New York Times or the Washington Post. It wasn’t covered on CNN or Fox News. Neither the White House chief of staff, the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, nor the president ever addressed it in a press briefing. But from mid-January to late March 2013, Green Berets from the 10th Special Forces Group deployed to the impoverished West African nation of Niger. Working alongside local forces, they trained in desert mobility, the use of heavy weapons, and methods of deliberate attack. On May 15 of that year, another contingent of Special Forces soldiers arrived in Niger. For nearly two months, they also trained with local troops, focusing on similar combat skills with an emphasis on missions in remote areas. From the beginning of August until mid-September, yet another group of Green Berets traveled to the hot, arid country for training, concentrating on desert operations, heavy weapons employment, intelligence analysis, and other martial matters, according to Pentagon documents obtained by The Intercept via the Freedom of Information Act. One constant of all of these counterterrorism missions, which were carried out by small teams of elite U.S. troops operating alongside Nigerien forces, was a concentration on reconnaissance. Until recently, such missions were conducted without notice or media scrutiny.

US Military Presence In 53 of 54 African Countries


By Rachel Blevins for Activist Post – While many Americans are aware that the United States is at war in countries such as Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan because of the media attention given to those conflicts, the news that four U.S. soldiers were killed in Niger came as a surprise that left some asking the question, “Since when is the U.S. at War with Africa?” Sgt. La David Johnson, Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson and Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright were killed on Oct. 4, after their team was reportedly ambushed by “ISIS-affiliated militants traveling by vehicle, carrying small arms and rocket-propelled grenade launchers.” Former Texas Congressman Ron Paul weighed in on the situation, and noted that this appears to be one more war the U.S. is fighting without approval from Congress—and it is a war that includes the presence of U.S. troops in 53 out of the 54 nations in Africa. “Now, when the Pentagon and the administration have had some pressure on them, you know, instead of having 100 people there, they’re admitting we have 6,000 people in Africa, and they even put a number on it. They say ‘we have some military in 53 of the 54 countries in Africa.’ That’s pretty expansive,” Paul said.

A U.S. Soldier Died In Niger. What On Earth Are We Doing There?


By Peter Certo for Other Words – In our military-revering culture, it’s a strange thing for a president to start a war of words with the grieving families of slain soldiers. Strange, yes. But from Donald Trump’s campaign season feud with the parents of Humayun Khan, who died protecting fellow soldiers in Iraq, to his recent feud with the mourning widow of La David Johnson, who died on patrol in Niger, it’s no longer surprising. At root in the latest spat is a comment Trump made to La David’s widow Myeshia Johnson: “He knew what he signed up for.” Myeshia thought that remark was disrespectful — she later said it “made me cry.” Beyond insensitive, though, there’s a good chance it simply wasn’t true. Why, after all, should La David have expected to die in a dusty corner of Niger — a Saharan country most Americans (and, one suspects, their president) couldn’t find on a map? And where the U.S. isn’t actually at war? If you were surprised to learn the U.S. has nearly a thousand troops in Niger, you’re not alone. Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican who serves on the Armed Forces Committee, told NBC he “had no idea.” Neither did Chuck Schumer, the Senate’s top Democrat. Well, the surprises may keep coming.

Holding Out A Vision For Solutions Not Endless War

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By Will Griffin for Veterans For Peace – Economic conversion, defense conversion, or arms conversion, is a technical, economic and political process for moving from military to civilian production. The sixth Maine Peace Walk for Conversion, Community and Climate is concentrating on the serious need to convert Bath Iron Works (BIW) to peaceful and sustainable production.

While Outrage Mounts Over Puerto Rico…


By Whitney Webb for Mintpress News. San Juan, Puerto Rico – Since Hurricane Maria devastated the island of Puerto Rico, the U.S. territory – which rarely garners much attention from the national media – has received widespread coverage which has focused on the Trump administration’s slow response to the disaster. The situation in Puerto Rico is undoubtedly dire, as many struggle without power and access to basic necessities more than a week after the storm struck. In addition, the Trump administration’s response has been notably lackluster in several regards, which has brought renewed scrutiny to its attitudes and performance.

The Enormous Cost Of More Nuclear Weapons: What Is The Gain?

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By Guy T. Saperstein and Kelsey Abkin for AlterNet – An analysis by the Arms Control Association of U.S. government budget data projects the total cost over the next 30 years of the proposed nuclear modernization and maintenance at between $1.25 trillion and $1.46 trillion. This expenditure is not included in our defense budget of $700 billion, which leads the world in military spending and represents more than the spending of the next seven countries combined –three times what China spends and seven times what Russia spends on defense. To put this into perspective, this number exceeds the combined total federal spending for education; training, employment, and social services; agriculture; natural resources and the environment; general science, space, and technology; community and regional development (including disaster relief); law enforcement; and energy production and regulation. With climate change deemed by the Pentagon as an immediate national security threat, healthcare costs rising, and an increasing number of natural disasters, one might think nuclear weapons would lose their place as the top recipient of federal spending. But this is far from the case and there is a reason why. As long as other countries continue to harbor nuclear weapons, we will do the same. And vise versa. As Donald Trump said at the start of his campaign, “If countries are going to have nukes, we’re going to be at the top of the pack.”

Lawmakers Demand U.S. Withdrawal From Saudi-Led War In Yemen

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By Dan De Luce for Foreign Policy – Four lawmakers have introduced a bipartisan bill that would halt U.S. military assistance to the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen on grounds that Congress has never approved the American role in the war. Two House Republicans and two Democrats submitted the bill on Wednesday evening, but other lawmakers have already conveyed their support for the measure, congressional aides told Foreign Policy. The bill requires “the removal” of U.S. forces from the war in Yemen unless and until Congress votes to authorize the American assistance. For more than two years, the United States military has provided aerial refueling tankers and intelligence to the Saudi-led coalition waging war against Houthi rebels backed by Iran. “We aim to restore Congress as the constitutionally mandated branch of government that may declare war and retain oversight over it,” two sponsors, Democrats Rep. Ro Khanna of California and Rep. Mark Pocan of Wisconsin, wrote in a letter to colleagues that was obtained by FP. Although the bipartisan bill is unlikely to secure a majority in the House, it underscores growing concerns over Saudi Arabia’s handling of the war that is now at a stalemate on the battlefield. And it reflects growing unease at Congress over the U.S. role there, following previous attempts by lawmakers this year to rein in arms sales or other military assistance to Saudi Arabia…

Here’s Every Nuclear Weapon In The US Arsenal

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By Staff of Union of Concerned Scientists – A nuclear weapon—the most destructive device on Earth. The US nuclear arsenal includes over 4,600 weapons. These weapons are unlike any other. Here’s an average one, the W78. (image right) It causes a mile-wide radioactive fireball and can destroy most buildings—and humans—in a circle about 4 miles wide. Hundreds can be launched within minutes. About 400 nuclear-tipped missiles are stationed underground in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska, and North Dakota. They’re staffed 24/7 and kept on hair-trigger alert, ready to launch if and when they receive orders from the president. Submarines carry hundreds more. A single nuclear-armed submarine carries the TNT equivalent of roughly seven World War II’s. About 10 such subs are at sea at any given time. Aircraft are armed too. About 300 bombs and air-launched cruise missiles are deployed on air bases in the United States. Another 150 bombs are in Europe. All are capable of smaller, lower-yield explosions, which may increase the risk that they’ll actually be used. The president can use them at any time.