No Austerity for the American Empire: Obama Providing Massive Stimulus for His Base-Building Spree
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Taking Flight in Oman
In February and March of 2011, protests demanding political reform in Oman led to assaults on and the killing of protesters by the nation’s security forces. Despite marked restrictions on freedom of expression and freedom of the press, this sultanate (also ranked “not free” by Freedom House) has been a favorite site of military expansion in the Obama years. Between 2009 and 2012, the Corps of Engineers awarded $144 million in contracts for work there, more than half this year.
During the 1930s, the British Royal Air Force operated an airfield on Oman’s Masirah Island. Today, the U.S. uses Masirah and USACE is carrying out construction there as well as at the country’s Thumrait and Al Musannah Air Bases.
The Un-Withdrawal from Iraq
The Corps’s contract data do not include figures for construction in Iraq prior to August 2011. In the 15 months since, according to information provided by USACE, it has awarded $113 million in contracts for State Department nation-building-style projects like a wastewater treatment plant in the city of Fallujah and a courthouse in Rusafa.
The Iraqi government is paying USACE to carry out these projects in order to increase its defense capabilities, according to the Middle East District’s Joan Kibler. These include a counterterrorism center, consisting of a headquarters facility, barracks, a warehouse, and a power plant in eastern Baghdad; a military training complex at Al Harthiya; a military security school in Taji; and administrative, security, and dining facilities at Hawk and Tikrit Air Bases.
At the height of the American occupation of Iraq, the United States had 505 bases there, ranging from small outposts to mega-sized air bases. Of them, some have been stripped clean by Iraqis, others became ghost towns, and one -- Camp Bucca -- a hotel. What remains open today are State Department facilities, most notably the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. Earlier this year, the Washington Post reported that the Department of State was planning to spend up to $115 million to upgrade the massive embassy compound, which it characterized as already the “biggest and most expensive in the world.”
State Department documents issued last month and examined by TomDispatch offer a snapshot of the civilian “bases” currently being maintained in Iraq. The Baghdad embassy site in the “international zone” consists of two compounds, Camp Condor and the Chancery Compound, as well as the embassy heliport. With two dining halls, two gyms, two firehouses, a large post office, a PX, and contractor housing, the site presently hosts about 3,600 personnel.
Another 1,250 persons are currently deployed to the Baghdad Diplomatic Support Center near Baghdad International Airport. This location boasts a hospital, large dining hall, fire station, post office, contractor housing, and a medical waste incineration facility. In Basrah, in the south of the country, the U.S. maintains two sites: Consulate General Basrah and Basrah Air Ops. The dual facility boasts an airfield, a hospital, a fully-equipped recreation center with a gym and a pastry shop, a large laundry facility, a sizeable dining hall, a warehouse and other storage areas, and contractor housing. There is even shuttle bus service. About 1,000 people are located at the site.
Close to 1,000 more personnel are also stationed at the Erbil Diplomatic Support Center and Erbil Air Ops in the north of the country. In addition to an airfield, the site also boasts contractor housing, a main dining hall, a sandwich shop and snack bar, laundry facilities, warehouses, fuel storage tanks, and a fire station. According to CENTCOM, personnel from the U.S. Office of Security Cooperation-Iraq -- military advisors working with that country’s armed forces -- also operate out of Umm Qasar Naval Base in the south of the country, the Taji National Logistics Depot just north of Baghdad, and the nearby Besmaya Combined Training Center.