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Commentary :: Globalization : International
Tsunami Relief as a Subterfuge? The Pentagon Scrambles to Reenter its Old Thai Air Base
29 Dec 2004
Is the tsunami aftermath a “window of opportunity” for bolstering the Pentagon’s presence in Southeast Asia? The Thai people reject the proposed build-up of the American military at Utapao air base and in the Gulf of Thailand. The tragedy of the natural catastrophe in the Indian Ocean should not serve as a pretext for strengthening the U.S. military presence in the region.
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The Pentagon has announced it is returning to its old Vietnam War haunts at Utapao Royal Thai Naval Air Force Base 90 miles south of Bangkok on the Gulf of Thailand. In this clear escalation of the American military presence in Southeast Asia, the ostensible plan is to set up a “command center” for the tsunami emergency relief effort. Utapao air base will serve as a staging base for U.S. military and rescue aircraft. The emergency relief operations appear to provide a windfall opportunity for beefing up the American military presence in Southeast Asia, part of the expanding Pentagon strategy of "forward positioning," establishing sites, so-called “air cargo hubs,” where American forces can stash equipment and enter and leave as desired.

During the Vietnam War, Utapao functioned from April 1967 as a major staging base for B-52s carrying out bombing raids over North Vietnam, and KC-35 stratotankers of the Strategic Air Command. Many American GIs served there [1].

Despite Thailand's neutrality on the war in Iraq, Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra allowed Utapao to be used by American warplanes flying into combat in Iraq last year, and into Afghanistan earlier. There is also speculation that Utapao, with its infamous facilities for ‘sophisticated interrogation’ (a holdover from the Vietnam era), is probably where various al-Qaeda suspects have been secretly grilled.

The command center will be largely operated by the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force. The naval air base, also now functioning as a local airport, is located a short drive from the tourist mega-center of Pattaya, whose roots also go back to the Vietnam era. The U. S. Navy is also dispatching the USS Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group and the USS Bonhomme Richard expeditionary strike group to the immediate area offshore [2].

Is all this military redeployment to bolster ‘humanitarian aid’ efforts? The Thai people reject a build-up of the American military at Utapao air base and in the Gulf of Thailand. In this hour of calamity, they are grateful for all support -- but not when tethered to a huge reentry by the Pentagon onto Thai soil. The tragedy of the present havoc in the Indian Ocean should not serve as a pretext for strengthening the U.S. military presence in this disaster-striken region.
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[1] For sites on Utapao air base and the American military, see http://amer-thai2001.tripod.com/id30.html ; http://www.utapao.org/ (Utapao Alumni Association) ; http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/facility/utapao.htm

[2] See “Hundreds of Americans Missing,” http://www.cnn.com/2004/US/12/28/us-quake.ap/index.html

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Comments

Are You For Real..???
30 Dec 2004
So what you're saying is that the U.S. military should not be used to help the victims of a disaster that has ALREADY claimed close to a 100, 000 lives...Get a life will you...And please don't compare this to the 12 years of Iraq sanctions..Better yet..F*CK OFF !
Re: Tsunami Relief as a Subterfuge? The Pentagon Scrambles to Reenter its Old Thai Air Base
30 Dec 2004
Not only that: the Pentagon caused the tsunami so that they could use the occasion for the purpose you say.
Re: Tsunami Relief as a Subterfuge? The Pentagon Scrambles to Reenter its Old Thai Air Base
01 Feb 2005
You obviously are a dumb ass! Why use a photo, ripped off a web site without permission, to illustrate a bogus position - especially when the photo is over 35 years old - I was there!