Understanding Military Occupations


As we witness yet another murder under torture in occupied Palestine and many others who remain in Israeli jails for voicing opposition to or resisting the occupation, and as the US continues to expand its military p…resence and drone attacks in newer places, we need to take a sober look at military occupations and assess the situation we find ourselves in.

An occupation can take many forms. It can be direct, open, total and forceful such as the Israeli occupation of Palestine or the US occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. It can be partial and mostly indirect such as the US maintaining troops in South Korea, Germany, Japan and elsewhere. The purported purpose of maintaining troops in another country is to defend it in case of an attack such as South Korea against the North or Japan against China or Germany against the former Soviets or Saudi oil fields from the former Saddam regime, etc. But, the real and unannounced purpose is to control the local government and its political orientation, alignment and policies and to prevent a people’s movement or a progressive and independent leader from causing change from the status quo and replacing the “friendly” government with one that would truly represent the will and interests of the local population which wound, by definition, be anathema to the interests of US corporations. The troops give military weight and clout to the US military brass who usually go by the title of “advisors” and “diplomats” whose job is to keep the government in place and in line. Through their presence, they ensure the local military, which if it exists, is funded, trained and armed by the Pentagon, will interfere when called upon to neutralize any politician or popular leader who may entertain ideas or policies contradictory to “US interests”. Keeping such troops, though not cheap, obviates the need for a later military invasion and occupation which would be considerably more costly both financially and in terms of their own public’s outcry and opposition. Whereas invasions are harder to justify politically, maintaining troops overseas has proven to be an easy sell since it’s portrayed as protecting “US interests” which is deliberately left vague and general and sounds much better than “imposing the interests of US multinational corporations on people of foreign lands using all means necessary including threats of violence, assassinations, coups, imprisonment, torture, bombings and invasions”.

The troops thus make sure that the client government stays subservient to the wishes and demands of the Empire and also cooperates when its airspace or resources or military bases are needed for attack on another country. In fact, the military bases which are in the hundreds and exist in most countries of the world are a form of occupation since they help maintain the political and economic control which otherwise could only be accomplished through an outright and total occupation.

A good example of such political control is how the US is using Turkey to arm pro-US “rebels” in Syria. Also, when planning the war on Iraq, they told Turkey they would need to use their country to carry on their attacks. Normally, the Turkish military which has been the ultimate authority, would either directly comply without consultation with the Parliament or tell the latter to give their approval, but in 2003, the opposition to the Iraq war was so high in that country that the government put its own survival ahead of US orders and said no. Incidentally and naturally, one of the things that had to be on their minds when attacking Iraq was how they could in the future use it and Afghanistan to attack Iran. Another example that usually escapes attention and doesn’t raise eyebrows is how Germany is so often used as a terminal or station between the US and Middle East and North Africa. That’s where injured US soldiers are flown to to be treated and that’s where many US planes and battleships begin their mission or are sent to be serviced or refueled. It’s also within their long term plans for “containing” or “dealing with” Russia, just as Japan is within their plans for face off with China, along with their bases in other countries in the Pacific.

One of the characteristics of such partial or cheaper occupations is that invariably, US soldiers get total immunity from local laws even in cases of rape and murder, including of underage girls and cold blooded murder of innocent civilians. That speaks volumes of the nature of the relationship between the occupier and the occupied and flies in the face of the claims of sovereignty which are intended to portray their presence as an aid or mutual cooperation rather than occupation against the will of the local population and imposing on them that of US corporations.

To varying degrees, such occupations in the developing countries hamper and thwart the effort of the local population from achieving democracy and social justice while also causing massive poverty by helping to keep wages of workers and taxes on foreign corporations low and prevent workers’ unions from forming or having a voice even if it’s just to push for health and safety and environmental regulations.

Speaking of voice, “Voice of America” radio and television programming which should more aptly be called “Voice of the Pentagon” tries to do with those peoples what US media does to the Americans: control their minds through lies and disinformation. Hundreds of millions of dollars are dedicated to these efforts for each targeted country, every year.

WikiLeaks just released documents exposing US efforts to destabilize Venezuela. Of course, this is nothing new, but, their options there are rather limited, despite the presence of CIA and special agents working with – or rather, to be more accurate, paying – opposition figures and forces. The current situation would not have been the outcome had they had marines waiting to go into action. Only nations that limit US presence, including that of diplomats and especially of US corporations and their operatives and mercenaries can exert independence and set policy freely. Of course, these nations, such as Venezuela or Cuba do run the risk of being invaded, but as I said before, invasion is much more costly and risky for the invaders.  The coup of 1973 in Chile which overthrew the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende would probably have been dealt with much sooner and more quickly had they had a military presence or occupation. Same with the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran who was overthrown by the CIA in 1953 because he nationalized the oil industry. Had the country been under the direct occupation of the US, there probably would never have been Dr. Mossadegh to overthrow, in the first place.

The coup which put the Shah back in power was followed by a quarter of a century of brutal repression and absolute dictatorship complete with jailing, torture and execution of opposition individuals who only wanted democracy, freedom and social justice, all with not only help and support, but active and direct participation of the US. The spying, eavesdropping  and wiretapping of the Shah’s opponents, as well as the CIA’s support for and cooperation with the Shah’s secret police, the infamous Savak, was directed and coordinated through the US “diplomatic mission” in US Embassy. The so-called US diplomats were anything but. They were spies who played a direct and active role in the dictatorship of their puppet King. That’s why when Ben Aflac portrays the American hostages taken at the US Embassy by the students in 1979 as heroes, it’s nothing but deceptive propaganda and a lie which attempts to hide the truth about the role of the US and its embassy from the American people. Those who hide a historic injustice do so because they intend to repeat it. The movie is nothing but the glorification of imperialism and demonization and dehumanization of the Iranian people which can only be explained as propaganda for yet another war. Awarding it with Oscars – no less through the First Lady – is adding insult to injury, not to mention the level of unprecedented and incredible  imperial hubris of the Obama Administration.

As I said in the beginning of this piece, occupation takes different forms and shapes in different times and places. The direct and open type is not the only one. Neither are those that are tantamount to an occupation by means of maintaining thousands of troops and military bases and using a corrupt local government which they buy and control. There is a third variety: the kind that’s much more hidden from the people being occupied, the kind that instead of battalions of troops, it uses their domestic counterparts – the police. If occupation is imposing the will and interests of a group by the use of force which ensures compliance and punishes or eliminates those who resist – as is done by the occupying military of the settlers against the Palestinian people, for example – then, the American people, too, are occupied – by Wall Street banks, by oil companies, by pharmaceuticals, by insurance companies, by food and agricultural companies, by weapons manufacturers, by the military-finance-prison complex. They dictate their will and agenda to the corrupt and treasonous government they own and control. Through the myriad organs and agencies of the government, including the Congress, the courts, the police, the military and their propaganda machine, the media, they control us and our lives in order to perpetuate their rule and their enrichment at our expense. And, when they see the smallest sign of resistance, they crack down hard and even arrange for the elimination of any leader, such as Dr. Martin Luther King, who might be able to lead a popular movement to unseat them. We must fight and resist this occupation just as we would if occupied by a foreign power. The corporations and their oligarchy and their government is indeed foreign – foreign to us working people, parasites who live off us and keep getting stronger and more vicious everyday, as we get poorer.  Paraphrasing an Iraqi veteran: we have more in common with the people we invade and kill than with those who send us to war.See More


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