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The cost of an empire

Five expensive, controversial US military bases (that aren’t in Iraq or Afghanistan).

Naval Station Guantanamo Bay
Location: Cuba
Real Estate: 1,400 buildings on 28,800 acres
Value: $2.6 billion

Why is it useful?

Acquired through the Spanish-American War, this base is a refueling stop, a logistics hub for Caribbean anti-narco missions and a launchpad for “migrant ops,” which involves picking up islanders on creaky U.S.-bound vessels. However, the outpost is most valuable as a maximum security prison for “war criminals” and other detainees. Its various detention areas — some open-air, some air-conditioned — can hold more than 1,200 prisoners, notably major Al Qaeda figureheads.

How is it criticized?

Guantanamo’s critics have turned its name into a byword for American human rights abuse, an image the base has confronted with its latest slogan: “Safe, Humane, Legal, Transparent.” The Red Cross claims that U.S. personnel's treatment of inmates there — allegedly including beatings and loud music exposure — is “tantamount to torture.” President Barack Obama has suggested moving prisoners to a high-security facility in Illinois and a former adviser to Sen. Ted Kennedy proposes transforming the camp into a relief center for Haitians affected by the recent earthquake.

 

Transit Center at Manas
Location: Near Kyrgyzstan’s capital, Bishkek
Real Estate: An estimated 37 acres of land and 200-plus facilities, all leased
Value: $63 million annual rent

Why is it useful?

U.S. troops pouring in or out of Afghanistan are likely to pass through this busy hub, which is a quick flight away from the war zone. Built amidst the run-up to the Afghanistan conflict, the base is an expansion of the Kyrgyzstan capital’s once-sleepy international airport. Unlike in other nations, the Kyrgyz government permits the U.S. to launch bombers, fighter jets and gunships from its soil.

How is it criticized?

The Transit Center’s clunky name — re-branded last year from the more militant-sounding Manas Air Base — is a reflection of its political sensitivity. A former soviet state, Kyrgyzstan has faced extreme pressure from Russia to rid itself of an American base. This imposition was sweetened by a recent $2 billion Russian loan. Kyrgyz leaders parlayed this bickering between foreign powers into cash when the U.S. agreed last year to quadruple the base’s rent to $63 million. Still, a violent April coup in the nearby capital may have realigned the country’s leadership in favor of Russia. Aggravating anti-U.S. sentiment is a U.S. airman’s 2006 fatal shooting of a Kyrgyz civilian and a female officer’s bizarre and poorly substantiated account of being kidnapping by locals.

Kadena Air Base
Location: Okinawa, a southern Japanese island
Real Estate: 1,850 buildings on nearly 11,000 acres
Value: $6.4 billion

Why is it useful?

Occupied after brutal fighting in World War II, Okinawa is the heart of the U.S. military’s power in Asia. The island hosts most of the 47,000 U.S. troops stationed in Japan. Kadena, the Pacific’s largest American military complex, is home to an aerial attack, special forces and intelligence gathering squadrons. If conflict erupted in Taiwan or the Koreas, and the U.S. decided to strike, the base would play a crucial role in carrying out those missions.

How is it criticized?

Under a long-standing, post-war agreement, Japan actually pays the U.S. about $2 billion each year to host American forces. Many Japanese are weary of paying this bill and crowds flock to rallies in favor of the military’s ouster. The U.S. has agreed to relocate 8,000 troops to Guam, a Pacific island and U.S. territory. But even that reduction will be paid for by $6 billion in Japanese funds. Their anger is compounded by several high-profile rape charges, including a marine’s 2008 conviction for “abusive sexual conduct” perpetrated against a 14-year-old girl.

*Represents U.S. military’s estimated cost of replacing facilities in today’s economy. Does not include deployed aircraft, vehicles or ships.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/global/100930/US-military-kadena-guantanamo-manas-incirlik