Krazy in Korea Or, the Empire Bulks Up

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"But I
don’t want to go among mad people," said Alice. "Oh, you
can’t help that," said the cat. "We’re all mad here."
~ Lewis Carroll

Current scenario:
Nineteen guys with box cutters instigated the "Global War on
Terror" seven years ago, which is directed by the US government
against a guy who is said to be holed up in a Pakistani cave and
his "Islamofascist" organization. Really. As a part of
the "GWOT" the United States is currently fighting two
wars, one of them for almost seven years and the other for over
five, which is over-reacting just a tad, I’d say. As a result the
US military is stretched thin. Many are being killed and injured
so the need for human and economic resources to continue these wars
is an onerous burden on the country. The enlistments of soldiers
are being involuntarily extended, national guard troops are being
activated and soldiers with mental disability are being sent back
to the war zones. Huge supplemental budgets are passed to fund these
wars, which shift a billion dollars every couple of days into greedy
hands. These expenditures, along with the routine military corporate-welfare
expenditures of another three billion dollars every couple of days
have driven the national debt to sky-high levels, with every man,
woman and child in the US bearing a $30,000 portion of the national
debt. Printing all this additional money has deflated the value
of the dollar, and the resulting inflation of prices has caused
a heavy burden on Americans and diverted resources from domestic
infrastructure needs. It’s a time of giant folly and dire need.

That’s madness
enough – but the Pentagon has found a way to exceed its own limits,
to waste resources in irrelevant places while spending additional
borrowed-billions on the US empire. At a time when people and dollars
are stretched to the breaking point, the mad hatters in the Pentagon
puzzle palace, prattling persistently about the "GWOT,"
have found a place to build a new military city. It’s in a faraway
place, completely unrelated to "Islamofascists." It’s
not down Lewis Carroll’s rabbit hole, but it might as well be. This
new military city, this wonderland, this new bulking up of the US
empire, this novel way to spend money that we don’t have uselessly
is in the land of the rising sun, Korea.

Korea –
isn’t that the place where the US fought a war over half a century
ago? But that’s over, isn’t it? Isn’t that the country that produces
the inexpensive Hyundai and Kia automobiles which are now partially
responsible for Detroit seeking $50B
in loans
from Congress? Korea, with the thirteenth
ranking economy
of the world?

Korea is obviously
not a combat zone any longer, and hasn’t been for fifty years. The
US Secretary of Defense has recently, finally gotten around to admitting
it. On June 4, 2008, Robert Gates
acknowledged that the threat of an attack from the North doesn’t
exist. "I don’t think anybody considers the Republic of
Korea today a combat zone," Mr. Gates told reporters on the
final day of a weeklong Asian trip. You can see that this guy earns
his salary with innovative thinking like that. I guess the intelligence
on Korea is improved over what it was for Iraq.

Carlton
Meyer
: "North Korean soldiers suffer from malnutrition
and rarely train due to a scarcity of fuel and ammo. Most North
Korean soldiers could not attack because they are needed to defend
the entire DMZ (DeMilitarized Zone) and coastal approaches (they
remember the 1950 landing at Inchon) while entire divisions must
remain throughout North Korea to fend off heliborne offensives,
food riots, and probable coups.

"On the
other hand, the entire 700,000 man South Korean active duty army
can be devoted to the defense of [Korea]. The modern South Korean
army is backed by over 5,000,000 well-trained reservists who can
be called to duty in hours. South Korea has twice the population
of the North, thirty times its economic power, and spends three
times more on its military each year. South Korean military equipment
is first class whereas most of the North Korean military equipment
is over 30 years old and much is inoperable due to a lack of maintenance.
If war broke out, South Korea has a massive industrial capacity
and $94 billion in foreign currency reserves to sustain a war, while
North Korea has no industry and no money. As a result, South Korea
is roughly five times more powerful than North Korea."

South Korea
can obviously defend itself, a fact which will result in the Pentagon
grudgingly allowing South Korea, not right away but four years from
now, to control its own military after sixty years of US support
and training. (Contrast this with Iraq, where the Iraqi President
has taken control of the New Iraqi Army.)

The Pentagon
has finally grasped the truth. SecDef Gates,
the Grand Chief Military Vizier of the Empire, announced last November
that there would be a realignment plan and a transition of control
of allied forces to a South Korean joint military command by 2012.
Gates: "Our discussions touched on transformation and realignment
of U.S. Forces Korea, measures to increase defense preparedness,
and South Korean plans to increase its defense capabilities. In
particular, we had a good discussion and review of how we plan to
transition wartime operational control of Republic of Korea forces
by 2012."

Gen. Joseph
Fil, 8th Army commander and chief of staff of US Forces Korea: "It
is a transformation in the command and control." As part of
the transformation, the Army will relinquish to the Republic of
Korea army its leadership role in the demilitarized zone in the
north. Most importantly, the responsibility for the defense of Korea
will be passed to its rightful stakeholders – the South Koreans.
That transfer of operational control is currently expected to take
place in April 2012. In place of the combined forces command, the
Koreans will stand up their own headquarters, under the ROK’s
joint chiefs of staff. The United States will, in turn, stand up
a Korea Command in the country to provide support. Fil – "It
is a transformation in the command and control." Spoken like
a true General of the Empire, no? Generals love command and control,
even when nothing’s going on.

In June, Gates
said that Korea is not a combat zone and he supported extending
the tours of thousands of troops stationed there to three years
and allowing their spouses and children to live with them during
their assignments. There has been no public discussion of this matter,
and not even a Pentagon press conference, as there are on other
matters, most of them trivial. But there were news report of the
Great One’s momentous decision. SEOUL, South Korea, June 2, 2008
– Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said today he’s not
only receptive to extending U.S. troop deployments here to three-year,
accompanied tours, but personally believes it’s "overdue."
"I don’t think anybody considers the Republic of Korea
today a combat zone. . .I don’t see a reason why our troops
in Korea should have unaccompanied tours any more," Gates said,
particularly in light of planned operational and quality-of-life
changes under way here. Gates conceded that permitting the 28,000
U.S. troops here to bring their families with them has financial
implications, because it would require more family housing and other
facilities and services. "But as a matter of principle, I think
it is past time," he said.

The Grand Chief
Military Vizier of the Empire has determined that financial implications
shouldn’t stand in the way of doing something that is "past
time," and he kindly gave the news to reporters while on a
foreign trip.

The New
York Times
then picked up the story, with an interesting
twist at the end. SEOUL, South Korea, June 4, 2008 – Defense
Secretary Robert M. Gates said Tuesday that he supported extending
the tours of thousands of troops stationed here to three years and
allowing their spouses and children to live with them during their
assignments. His endorsement adds momentum to a policy shift favored
by commanders to improve the quality of life for most of the 28,500
troops assigned to South Korea on unaccompanied 12-month tours.
Such a change would also reverse decades of Pentagon policy for
South Korea, acknowledging that the threat of an attack from the
North has declined . . ."I don’t think anybody considers
the Republic of Korea today a combat zone" Gates said. . .
.But Mr. Gates, elaborating on comments he made on Monday, noted
that extending tours and allowing families to join soldiers here
would require building more housing and consideration of other financial
and logistical details, suggesting that such a step was still years
away.

"Still
years away?" We’ll get to that.

The Associated
Press picked up the story on June 6th, and it was published in the
Air
Force Times
: "As a matter of principle, I think it’s
past time" to extend the tours to three years and allow troops
to bring their families with them, Gates told reporters traveling
with him on the plane to Seoul. "It communicates that … our
view of the reality here is that the Republic of Korea is literally
safe enough for our families to be present." But, the Air Force
Times adds: The Air Force is not moving toward "normalized"
tours on the Korean peninsula, Capt. John Ross, a spokesman for
the 51st Fighter Wing at Osan, told Air Force Times in March.
The number of accompanied tours at Osan Air Base will increase slightly
during the next three years – from 5 percent to 10 percent
and Kunsan Air Base will remain at 100 percent one-year, unaccompanied
tours. So, while Gates failed to make this clear, the "normalization"
of military tours in Korea apparently applies only to the Army.
In Korea, Air Force tours will not be normal.

Why do we need
nearly 30,000 US troops in combat-free Korea, at a time when resources
are needed elsewhere and the South Koreans can defend themselves?
As Charley Reese said about Japan, are we expecting the Mongols
to descend? Why does the Pentagon claim that the South Korean army,
after fifty years of US support, is only "increasingly capable?"
And not only does the US have troops in Korea, but it is extending
their tours of duty and thereby spending billions of dollars to
provide them and their families which can now accompany them with
all the amenities they will need for the next hundred years.

US bases in
Korea will undergo a transformation.
The US Military will reduce its presence from 41 installations down
to just 10, while one installation, Camp Humphreys, undergoes a
huge expansion.

At Camp
Humphreys
, in the central part of South Korea, construction
is already underway for the move. In addition to housing operational
facilities, Camp Humphreys will also include facilities to support
military families. There are new schools, childcare centers, gymnasiums,
playgrounds, dining facilities and family housing. The new infrastructure
is being put in place because the Army plans on changing two things
about a soldier’s assignment to Korea. First, tour lengths
will be "normalized," as they are in other locations.
Instead of one year, they will be three years. Second, instead of
telling soldiers they must leave their families back in the States,
they will be allowed to bring them along to Korea,

Officials at
Camp Humphreys have begun an $8.2 billion-dollar construction project,
with some financial aid from the South Korea government, building
high-rises full of single-soldier barracks, bachelor officers’
quarters and family apartments.

"It’s
the right thing to do," said 8th Army Commander Lt. Gen. Joseph
F. Fil. "This alliance is strong and enduring. It will last
through the 21st century and beyond. It is time to make this permanent
instead of doing it one year at a time." A hundred more years!
A hundred plus fifty already passed!! Permanent!! Where have we
heard that before? General Fil has served in Iraq – that’s it!
(Meanwhile, the funding for Afghan
security forces
, supposedly a high priority in the "GWOT,"
is budgeted at $3 billion, much less than the expenditures in Korea.)

The troops
at Camp Humphreys will get spiffy new barracks buildings, with the
latrine and showers at the end, right?

Wrong.

This will not
be your father’s barracks. Each enlisted soldier arriving in Korea
can expect what officials call the "two-plus-two" standard:
one roommate and a private bathroom attached to their room. The
furniture can also be arranged to divide the room into two separate
areas, giving each soldier as much privacy as possible. The ultimate
goal, officials said, is a private room for every soldier.

And the families
will get the familiar plain vanilla Wherry and Capehart housing
units, right?

No, not by
a long shot.

Homer Capehart
would be shocked. To house the families which will now accompany
soldiers on assignment to non-combat zone Korea, the Army plans
to build thirty-six 12-to-15-story apartment buildings that will
house almost 3,000 families. The sizes will vary, but the apartments
will be larger than the standard in the States or Europe. The model
has four bedrooms, two bathrooms and almost 2,000 square feet, with
space for a living area, dining area and a den. Three of the towers
have already been completed, are surrounded by playgrounds and are
within walking distance of the post elementary school.

Thirty-six
12-to-15-story apartment buildings for families, plus others for
unaccompanied soldiers and officers, and note that "three of
the towers have already been completed" which means that Gates
was a bit off-truth when he suggested that such a step was still
years away. So it’s a fait accompli – it is being done, and we
heard all about it, well not quite all, from Gates on a plane to
Seoul. This is a government? But I digress.

The kids –
will they have schools and other facilities?

Of course.

Camp Humphreys
will gain a 40,000 square-foot education center and a new food,
beverage and entertainment complex. Both the child-development center
and the school at Humphreys are rapidly expanding and offer the
newest facilities in Korea. Right now, Humphreys’ elementary
school can accommodate 255 students; soon it will be able to accommodate
about 350, and new schools are planned. The new child development
center is only partially full now and can accommodate about 300
children.

That little
pool in the back of the NCO club will be great in the summer, right?

No, they have
more.

Humphreys has
a "Splish ‘N Splash" water park with different water slides
that as many as 500 people visit at once in the summer, and a miniature
golf course.

And a sweaty
gym?

Not exactly.

Many of the
units will have their own, smaller gyms in addition to the "Super
Gym," which, when completed, will be one of the largest in
the Army, with more than 100,000 square feet.

General Fil:
"Korea’s a great place to be assigned. We seek to make this
be the dream assignment for soldiers," he said. And it is a
dream assignment, at a time when it’s a nightmare to be sent back
to the Iraq killing fields for the third or fourth time, or to the
Afghanistan quagmire.

The Fletchers
agree that Korea is a great assignment. Sgt. Delaina Lynn Fletcher,
who married Spc. Lonnie Fletcher while in Korea and recently had
a baby, said she’s taken advantage of a number of classes in
childbirth and parenting offered by Army Community Services in Seoul.
The assignment, she said, is very family friendly. She and her husband
don’t have jobs that require a lot of time in the field, so
they can focus on each other and their baby. In Korea, they have
a dream assignment.

Chalmers
Johnson
: "The total of America’s military bases in other
people’s countries in 2005, according to official sources, was 737.
Reflecting massive deployments to Iraq and the pursuit of President
Bush’s strategy of preemptive war, the trend line for numbers of
overseas bases continues to go up." Yes, it will be literally
up, with more than 36 tall apartment buildings at Camp Humphreys,
Pyeongtaek, Korea.

The sun never
sets on the American military empire, and now we have high-rise
housing and a Splish ‘N Splash water park in the land of the
rising sun, which can only be done in a remote conflict-free zone.
Krazy in Korea! The guy in the cave must love it.

Note: Much
of the information in this article was taken from the August 2008
issue of Soldiers
Magazine
(pdf).

August
27, 2008

Don
Bacon [send him mail]
is a retired army officer who founded the Smedley
Butler Society
several years ago because, as General Butler
said, “war is a racket.”

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