23 November 2009

A little historical context

There is a generation of the vaguely left-leaning (and not so vaguely left-leaning) who retain a residual distrust of successive US administrations. In my case, this stemmed from US intervention in Vietnam and Cambodia in the 1960s, an intervention maintained long after the demonstration of its utter uselessness. It is one of the reasons why, rightly or wrongly, we leap to analogies with South East Asia when seeking to understand what is going on today in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The scale of US imperialist ambitions became further apparent in the 1980s (and subsequently) in Central America. The pernicious use of the Monroe Doctrine was said to justify US meddling in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala and Grenada. Meanwhile, the US has kept Cuba in a state of penury for decades.

I know, I know. Bad things happened during the Cold War, and the USSR's alleged involvement in events provided some form of justification for American actions. Nevertheless, to my paranoid mind, there are signs of a pattern here.

Now, it appears to be starting again. The Independent reported yesterday:
The United States is massively building up its potential for nuclear and non-nuclear strikes in Latin America and the Caribbean by acquiring unprecedented freedom of action in seven new military, naval and air bases in Colombia.
The new US push is part of an effort to counter the loss of influence it has suffered recently at the hands of a new generation of Latin American leaders no longer willing to accept Washington's political and economic tutelage. President Rafael Correa, for instance, has refused to prolong the US armed presence in Ecuador, and US forces have to quit their base at the port of Manta by the end of next month.
So Washington turned to Colombia, which has not gone down well in the region. The country has received military aid worth $4.6bn (£2.8bn) from the US since 2000, despite its poor human rights record.
Colombian forces regularly kill the country's indigenous people and other civilians, and last year raided the territory of its southern neighbour, Ecuador, causing at least 17 deaths.
Indications of US willingness to envisage the stationing of nuclear weapons in Colombia are seen as an additional threat to the spirit of nuclear disarmament. After the establishment of the Tlatelolco Treaty in 1967, four more nuclear-weapon-free zones were set up in Africa, the South Pacific, South-east Asia and Central Asia. Between them, the five treaties cover nearly two-thirds of the countries of the world and almost all the southern hemisphere.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the world's leading think-tank about disarmament issues, has now expressed its worries about the US-Colombian arrangements. With or
without nuclear weapons, the bilateral agreement on the seven Colombian bases, signed on 30 October in Bogota, risks a costly new arms race in a region. SIPRI, which is funded by the Swedish government, said it was concerned about rising arms expenditure in Latin America draining resources from social programmes that the poor of the region need.
Much of the new US strategy was clearly set out in May in an enthusiastic US Air Force (USAF) proposal for its military construction programme for the fiscal year 2010. One Colombian air base, Palanquero, was, the proposal said, unique "in a critical sub-region of our hemisphere where security and stability is under constant threat from... anti-US governments".
The proposal sets out a scheme to develop Palanquero which, the USAF says, offers an opportunity for conducting "full-spectrum operations throughout South America.... It also supports mobility missions by providing access to the entire continent, except the Cape Horn region, if fuel is available, and over half the continent if un-refuelled". ("Full-spectrum operations" is the Pentagon's jargon for its long-established goal of securing crushing military superiority with atomic and conventional weapons across the globe and in space.)

Nuclear weapons in South America? What for?


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