On Thursday, the Washington Post Fact Checker gave GOP Presidential candidate Ron Paul three “Pinocchios” for his claims about the number of bases and troops the United States has overseas.
“We’re under great threat, because we occupy so many countries. We’re in 130 countries. We have 900 bases around the world,” Paul said at the Sept 12 debate.
He reiterated this on Feb 7:
“We don’t need to pay all this money to keep troops all over the country, 130 countries, 900 bases. But also, just think, bringing all the troops home rather rapidly, they would be spending their money here at home and not in Germany and Japan and South Korea, tremendous boost to the economy.”
Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post wrote:
We will lay aside Paul’s loose definition of “occupy” — which denotes taking away a country’s sovereignty. You could also quibble with the concept of a “base,” but we’ll accept that he’s talking about any military facility.
Are there any facts to back up these eye-popping figures?
Kessler starts by advising Paul to update his figures, since the U.S. has pulled out of Iraq, “closing scores, if not hundreds, of facilities”
He cites a Defense Department list of military facilities that shows the United States had 611 facilities around the world, not including war zones, as of Sept 30, 2011. Only 20 of those were listed as “large sites,” which Kessler explains, “means a replacement value of more than $1.74 billion.”
But most of the sites listed – 549 to be exact – are small. Kessler says some are “sometimes very, very small,” with at least one as small as three acres. Worse yet, he notes, some appear to be counted more than once.
“There is Spangdahlem Air Force base in Germany, which houses the 52nd Fighter Wing and is counted as a large site. But a separate “base” on the list is the sprawling Spangdahlem Waste Annex, all of three acres, with four buildings totaling 6,500 square feet,” he wrote.
Adding the Afghan sites listed at GlobalSecurity.org, and one comes up with 750 military facilities overseas – not 900.
What about all those countries Paul says America is “occupying?” According to the DOD, U.S. bases are located in 40 countries, not 130 – as Paul claims.
Kessler writes that after looking at the numbers, the Texas Congressman has to be including the Marine Security Guards who protect U.S. embassies around the world.
Another DOD document tells the story. This one lists how many personnel are based in the United States and other countries.
For instance, as of Sept. 30, 2011, there were 53,766 military personnel in Germany, 39,222 in Japan, 10,801 in Italy and 9,382 in the United Kingdom. That makes sense.
But wait, scanning the list, you also see nine troops in Mali, eight in Barbados, seven in Laos, six in Lithuania, five in Lebanon, four in Moldova, three in Mongolia, two in Suriname and one in Gabon. Most of the countries on the list, in fact, have puny military representation.
Not only that, but we count 153 countries with U.S. military personnel, actually higher than the 130 cited by Paul.
What’s going on here? The answer is that the list essentially tracks with places where the United States has a substantial diplomatic presence. (The United States has diplomatic relations with about 190 countries.)
Each of those embassies has a contingent of Marines who work at the embassy. Apparently, Paul thinks those Marines consist an “occupying force.”
Kessler notes: “In fact, under Paul’s logic, dozens of other countries are “occupying” Washington when they send attaches and other military personnel to their embassies here.”
In other words, if Paul had his way, U.S. embassies would have no security whatsoever.
As evidence of the United States occupying “so many countries” or the “all this money” spent on the military, Paul’s statistics barely pass the laugh test. He has managed to turn small contingents of Marine guards into occupying armies and waste dumps into military bases. A more accurate way to treat this data would be to say that the United States has 20 major bases around the world, not counting the war in Afghanistan, with major concentrations of troops in 11 countries.
More on Ron Paul at modenook.com can be found here.
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