No Austerity for the American Empire: Obama Providing Massive Stimulus for His Base-Building Spree
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Today, the Corps of Engineers has essentially ended work on America’s civilian bases in Iraq. “Anything that we are doing for Department of State at this stage would be very minor,” Kibler told TomDispatch. While the State Department is now in charge of carrying out the building boom at the embassy compound, the Corps of Engineers continues to support nation-building-type projects for the Iraqis that it carried out from 2004 to 2011, with another four contracts worth $2.3 million anticipated in 2013.
What, Me Pivot?
During the Obama years, the Corps of Engineers’ Middle East District has also awarded contracts for work in Pakistan ($1.1 million), Jordan ($4.7 million), Saudi Arabia ($5.3 million), the United Arab Emirates ($6.6 million), Kuwait ($33.7 million) and Kyrgyzstan ($58.2 million). In addition, it anticipates awarding at least another $5.9 million in construction contracts in Kuwait in 2013, while contracting documents indicate that the Air Force plans to install two 20,000-gallon water storage tanks at that country’s Ali Al Salem Air Base in the near future. The Corps reported no anticipated contracts in the United Arab Emirates for 2013, but documents examined by TomDispatch suggest that the Army is currently planning to build new armory facilities at that country’s Al Minhad Base.
When asked why funding is on the rise for work in Oman, Qatar, and Bahrain -- total expenditures between 2011 and 2012 rose from $2.4 million to $91 million, $41.7 million to $203.4 million, and zero to $232.4 million, respectively -- CENTCOM played down its significance. This massive jump in construction dollars, the command's spokesman Oscar Seára claimed, represented nothing more than past funding requests winding their way through the Pentagon’s bureaucracy. “It doesn't signal a pivot or strategic shift.”
The former Central Asian Soviet “socialist republics” of Kyrgyzstan,Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan (“partly free,” “not free,” and “not free,” respectively, according to Freedom House) are prime sites for new construction as well. Ten contracts were awarded as fiscal 2012 ended for projects there. Carried out under the auspices of CENTCOM and USACE, they include a string of border checkpoints, customs facilities, and training complexes, in addition to multiple canine training centers and “drug control” offices, for those countries’ security forces. “Everything that we’re doing there is aimed at helping these countries monitor their borders and helping keep the flow of anything illegal from going in or out of their countries,” says Kibler.
While the flow of construction money into Central Asia may look like part of the Obama administration’s announced “ pivot to Asia,” a “ rebalancing” of Pentagon resources eastward, CENTCOM dismisses the notion. “What you are seeing is the natural progression of assisting with border-security development where the funding has finally caught up to previous proposals and requests for support,” Seára told TomDispatch. “It takes time for funding to flow, and what you’re seeing is indicative of nothing beyond that.”
Pivot or not, the Obama administration shows little sign of slowing its Middle Eastern building boom, despite the recent rhetoric about a similar pivot from military interventions abroad to nation-building at home. For the last four years, even while drawing down U.S. forces in Afghanistan, the Pentagon has pumped more than a billion dollars into entrenching and expanding its presence in the Greater Middle East.
In 2012, with American cities in desperate need of reconstruction dollars, the U.S. military out of Iraq, and the war in Afghanistan winding down, Mideast construction contracts ballooned to new Obama-era heights. Even as the president talks about lessening America’s footprint abroad, the Pentagon is quietly digging in and expanding out. While countless municipalities affected by superstorm Sandy ask for reconstruction funds, taxpayer dollars dedicated to building transportation infrastructure and water treatment plants are headed halfway around the world.