That Was Too Easy


1) Wake up, grab some coffee

2) Start absorbing the usual news sources

3) See reference to many countries having military bases in close proximity in Djibouti [po]

4) Think, “That’s AFRICOM, right?”

5) Open up Google maps

6) Find Camp Lemonier

Camp Lemonier is a typical American base; it gives you a good idea why the US empire is so expensive.

Camp Lemonier

[Google map link]

Pizza Hut, 11 Degrees North, Movie Theater, Subway, tennis courts – I’m surprised they haven’t built a golf course yet, but that’s probably on the TODO list. The aircraft upper left look a lot like AC-130s – flying artillery bases. Up at the northeast end of the base (not shown) are helipads – probably where all the “operators” board up to fly … to where?

Well, that certainly didn’t take long to answer, did it.

But let’s keep pretending to believe that the US is just providing logistical support and whatnot for the Saudi invasion of Yemen. Oh, wait, we’re not calling it an “invasion” yet, are we? They’re just bombing the shit out of the place for no purpose at all, we are supposed to believe.

Civilian aircraft don’t park under revetments like that. Makes you wonder if it’s drones or jet fighters? Ha, ha, ha, of course it’s drones.

This is really too easy. All you have to do is wonder, “is that drones or …?” and Google “drone pilots djibouti” and you get back answers.

The Washington Post, characteristically, fellates the permanent war-state: [wp]

Around the clock, about 16 times a day, drones take off or land at a U.S. military base here, the combat hub for the Obama administration’s counterterrorism wars in the Horn of Africa and the Middle East.

Some of the unmanned aircraft are bound for Somalia, the collapsed state whose border lies just 10 miles to the southeast. Most of the armed drones, however, veer north across the Gulf of Aden to Yemen, another unstable country where they are being used in an increasingly deadly war with an al-Qaeda franchise that has targeted the United States.

Camp Lemonnier, a sun-baked Third World outpost established by the French Foreign Legion, began as a temporary staging ground for U.S. Marines looking for a foothold in the region a decade ago. Over the past two years, the U.S. military has clandestinely transformed it into the busiest Predator drone base outside the Afghan war zone, a model for fighting a new generation of terrorist groups.

Wait, there is an Al Qaeda franchise in Yemen that has targeted the United States? How does that work, exactly. The United States is two days of flights by commercial air from Yemen. I feel utterly un-threatened by anything that happens in Yemen. I don’t want to seem dismissive, but there you have it.

7) The article said there were a lot of other militaries living side-by-side up in Djibouti, let’s scan around with Google maps and see what else is there.

8) Well, looky here: about a half mile from the camp, a short hop, but isolated: [google map link]

Wow, that was a bit too easy. Look the nice cleared perimeter, walls, crash-trenches so nobody can ram a truck-bomb through, complex gate to defeat assaults or truck-bombs. Expensive security. Good security. And the architectural tone looks pretty familiar, too; for one thing, only Americans spend money like that. [stderr]

9) Google “CIA black site djibouti” and you find [alj]

The legal case of a former CIA detainee suing the government of Djibouti for hosting the facility where he says he was detained could be helped by the contents of a still-classified Senate report. Djibouti, a key U.S. ally, has denied for years that its territory has been used to keep suspected Al-Qaeda operatives in secret captivity. But the Senate investigation into the agency’s “detention and interrogation program” concluded that several people had been secretly detained in the tiny Horn of Africa state, two U.S. officials who read an early draft of the report told Al Jazeera.

Official confirmation of Djibouti’s role in hosting “black sites” used in the CIA’s rendition program would be welcomed by Mohammad al-Asad, a Yemeni arrested at his home in Tanzania on Dec. 27, 2003, blindfolded and flown to a location he insists was Djibouti.

Well, you know Trump said he’d re-open the black sites, but that place sure doesn’t look like it’s recent or it’s ever been closed.

I used Google Maps “add place” interface to label that location “CIA Black Facility” – I wonder if it will be approved?

But, the point of the initial story is that there are a variety of bases in Djibouti, by various governments. And, sure enough, there appear to be. Here’s someone’s secret drone base, it’s only about 5 miles from Camp Lemonier. They nicely parked their drones out where whatever satellite took this picture could see them. [google maps link] That’s some pretty sad dick-waving when you compare their base (whoever’s this is) to the US base with its AC-130s.


And there’s a Chinese base, too!

It’s described as being “west of the port of Doraleh” which is on the west side of the capital. This is about 10 miles or so from the US base. [google map link]

It looks like a very fine base indeed. Ooh, and look at the tanks! I believe that large building in the backround is the one slightly upper right of dead center in the satellite map.

I doubt the Chinese government even bothers lying to people, they just do what they want – it’s ever so much more efficient than having to suborn a press establishment and get them to print your lies.

The Washington Post describes the US camp as:

Increasingly, the orders to find, track or kill those people are delivered to Camp Lemonnier. Virtually the entire 500-acre camp is dedicated to counterterrorism, making it the only installation of its kind in the Pentagon’s global network of bases.

Sounds like it’s devoted to terrorism, to me. How is setting up secret camps full of assassination teams and interrogators “counter-terrorism”? There’s no “counter-” at all.

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Update: apparently the base I pegged as CIA in Djibouti is Italian. The base in Mogadishu – nobody has said what that is, yet. I think we know.

Comments

  1. Dunc says

    The thing I notice is the description of Yemen as an “unstable country”… Like that’s just its natural condition, akin to its geography. No interest at all as to why it’s unstable, or who destabilized it.

  2. jrkrideau says

    Some countries emphasize eco-tourism; Djibouti seems to have opted for military-tourism. It probably is quite lucrative.

    While it looks like a dangerous proposition, having a half-dozen or so competing countries with bases in the country may reduce the possibility of undue influence right up to coups.

    If Haiti had had British and French and maybe Dutch bases, it might not have been invaded/ occupied/etc. by the USA over the last century and a half.

  3. says

    I believe that the building in the the parade ground photo is the one just to the right of the H shaped building just below the building you indicated. The roof matches and it also has the smaller building in the right place.

  4. says

    Dunc@#1:
    The thing I notice is the description of Yemen as an “unstable country”… Like that’s just its natural condition, akin to its geography. No interest at all as to why it’s unstable, or who destabilized it.

    What? Hmmmm? Oh. Yemen? Yemen has always been an unstable country.

  5. says

    jrkrideau@#2:
    Djibouti seems to have opted for military-tourism. It probably is quite lucrative.

    By some accounts, that’s pretty much their economy.

    The economy of Djibouti is derived in large part from its strategic location on the Red Sea. Djibouti is mostly barren, with little development in the agricultural and industrial sectors. The country has a harsh climate, a largely unskilled labour force, and limited natural resources. The country’s most important economic asset is its strategic location connecting the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden. As such, Djibouti’s economy is dominated by the services sector, providing services as both a transit port for the region and as an international transshipment and refueling centre.

    If I recall, back in the 1970s, Djibouti was the preferred shelter-state for companies to flag their ships under, if they didn’t want to pay more taxes. So there were all these huge oil tankers flying Djibouti flags.

    I assume the drones are unmarked.

  6. says

    Re: Arabia Felix
    Thanks for the encouragement to look up some history. I didn’t realize that Djibouti has been a trade reshipment point for a very long time. Or about the Queen of Sheba. Or the dam.

  7. cvoinescu says

    tennis courts

    I can’t find the tennis courts, but there’s a full-size football pitch (with markings for both kinds of football). That’s even more impressive.

  8. jrkrideau says

    I don’t see the tennis courts either but about 1.5-2km N-NW seems to be the base of the 5e régimet interames d’outre-mer. Modest but it looks like it has been there a long time if we judge by the trees.

    Morning rush-hour in Djibouti with soldiers in half a dozen types of desert camouflage!

  9. says

    cvoinescu@#10:
    I can’t find the tennis courts, but there’s a full-size football pitch

    I may have just accidentally revealed how familiar I am with team sports…

  10. says

    jrkrideau@#11:
    1.5-2km N-NW seems to be the base of the 5e régimet interames d’outre-mer. Modest but it looks like it has been there a long time if we judge by the trees.

    Interesting. Since 1969. A light cavalry regiment. Gotta hoist that flag!

    Morning rush-hour in Djibouti with soldiers in half a dozen types of desert camouflage!

    Apparently the main traffic problem right now is the drones. They have stealthy drones from a couple countries taking off and there’s the main airport (so, some controlled air-space) and then there are all the spook-craft just scooting about doing sekrit skwirrel missions. I’d rather not fly in that airspace, thank you!

  11. komarov says

    Here’s someone’s secret drone base, it’s only about 5 miles from Camp Lemonier. They nicely parked their drones out where whatever satellite took this picture could see them. [google maps link] That’s some pretty sad dick-waving when you compare their base (whoever’s this is) to the US base with its AC-130s.

    I’m no expert deciphering satellite imagery but I think that’s very unkind of you. Clearly these people did away with the sports, cinema and fine cuisine to focus on the things that matter: Aircraft that drop bombs and hangars to keep them in. By contrast I suspect the US base is as much about wasting money as it is about being military. If you do a military version you can spend a lot on what should be cheap, e.g. getting a fast food franchise for your base. It’s also a statement: We’re here to stay and we’ve made ourselves nice and comfortable here.

    Djibouti seems to have opted for military-tourism. It probably is quite lucrative.

    By some accounts, that’s pretty much their economy.

    I wonder what exactly they’d do if the tenants stopped paying rent. How does one remove an unwanted US installation from one’s country and evict a military base? (Cuba was wondering, too) The traditional approach probably won’t work on the US, especially if you’re a country like Djibouti. I suppose you could complain and denounce the US but that seems pretty much redundant at this point. Isn’t Trump infamous for not paying his bills anyway?

    I doubt the Chinese government even bothers lying to people, they just do what they want – it’s ever so much more efficient than having to suborn a press establishment and get them to print your lies.

    When you can get Google streetview of those bases, that’s when you know their proprietors don’t care anymore…

  12. jrkrideau says

    @ 14 komarov
    I wonder what exactly they’d do if the tenants stopped paying rent. How does one remove an unwanted US installation from one’s country and evict a military base? (Cuba was wondering, too)

    That was why I was suggesting bases of several countries might have an advantage.

    One simply plays one against the other.

    US does not want to pay?

    Oh dear, sorry sir, we won’t have a wharf available til next week. The French and Chinese have booked it completely. Problem? Perhaps you should ask the Chinese if they can let you “borrow” the facility for a few days and so on.

    Cuba was wondering, too
    Exactly my point. If in 1890 the British or the French had established bases in Cuba ( implying some kind of support for Spain) just how likely would it be that the USA would even have dreamed of the Spanish-American War?

    And even if they had agreed to a US base the terms were not likely to be the same.Cuba, after the Spanish-American War was simply a conquered territory turned into a US colony.

    A few other Great Power bases scattered around the coast might have drastically altered Cuba’s ability to bargain, assuming the US was stupid enough to invade in the first place.

  13. says

    jrkrideau@#15:
    If in 1890 the British or the French had established bases in Cuba ( implying some kind of support for Spain) just how likely would it be that the USA would even have dreamed of the Spanish-American War?

    The US had specifically said that if any European power got involved in the Americas, the US would consider it a possible act of war. The Monroe Doctrine (182?) was, basically, that, but the US also has stated several times to the effect that “if we can’t have Cuba, nobody can.”
    Uh, you know, because to protect their freedoms. Or something.
    After the Spanish-American War (which was started, it turns out, under false pretenses, and probably should be called the American-Spanish War) Cuba was basically a US protectorate/colony, ’till those damn socialists ruined everything!

    Probably the only powers in the world that could have set up and maintained bases in Cuba were the French and the British. But the US would have been sending the Marines down constantly, to, you know, protect their freedoms.

    (in 1890 the French were in no position to do anything, having just lost their army in the Franco-Prussian War)

  14. polishsalami says

    The US government doesn’t have to “suborn” its press to get obedience, either. The MSM is owned by the billionaire class, the same people who own the M-I complex.

  15. says

    polishsalami@#17:
    The US government doesn’t have to “suborn” its press to get obedience, either.

    By which I mean, “snap their fingers and whistle.”

  16. says

    Interesting from [qz]:

    For instance, the United States pays $63 million annually to lease its base, while the Chinese will be paying $20 million a year besides the billions they are investing in building a railway, a port, an industrial park, and banks.

    According to Wikipedia, the dictator of Djibouti is just the kind of thug the US likes:

    Guelleh won the presidential election held on April 9, 1999 with 74.02% of the vote, defeating his only challenger, the independent candidate Moussa Ahmed Idriss. He took office on May 8 Moussa Ahmed Idriss was arrested the following September for “threatening the morale of the armed forces” and detained at an undisclosed location.

    In the latest elections he has switched to imprisoning the opposition candidates prior to polling, and has been winning with dictator-level votes that would make Trump seethe with envy: 80%, 87% etc.

  17. komarov says

    Re: jrkrideau (#15):

    I don’t know if I’d want to try that. In the age of President Twittertirade and Biggerbuttonism, I’d be genuinely concerned that any friction I created between my tenants – if only to cajole people into paying their dues – might well escalate. That would certainly draw worldwide attention to the situation which might help me but on the other hand it’s just as likely to blow up in my face. You don’t want to rent out a house where everybody is (not so?) quietly furious with everybody else. With professional politicians on all sides it could work. But with Trump in the mix you might just start a miniature cold war in your own back yard.

    Re: Marcus Ranum (#19):

    In the latest elections he has switched to imprisoning the opposition candidates prior to polling, and has been winning with dictator-level votes that would make Trump seethe with envy: 80%, 87% etc.

    Don’t be silly. Trump totally won every state he can think of and is the most popular, industrious and effective president ever. The government only shut down because he’s so efficient that government is no longer required. He’s running it like a business, which means downsizing and cutting peoples wages.

  18. jrkrideau says

    @ 16 Marcus Ranum

    …the Monroe Doctrine (182?)…

    The Monroe Doctrine was meaningless bluster until the early 20th century at the earliest or, more probably, after WWI.

    The USA never had the navel strength until then to seriously challenge a major European Power. It had the land strength or could raise it quickly. After the US Civil War , I believe, that London considered Canada indefensible in case of an invasion.

    Probably the only powers in the world that could have set up and maintained bases in Cuba were the French and the British.

    Agreed, the Dutch might have been able to, but why would they?

    But the US would have been sending the Marines down constantly, to, you know, protect their freedoms.

    I think this might have caused the British and the French to, politely of course, enquire what the Marines thought they were doing. Of course, while they and the Spanish kept the US Navy and the Marines under friendly observation.

    Again, the USA just did not have the navel power. After, perhaps the late 1870’s or 1880’s if the US had gone into a frenzied navel building race, as Germany did later, they might have had a major navel presence by the 1890’s.

    Of course, there was no need for British or French bases in Cuba, or Puerto Rico as the both European Powers had lots of real estate of their own there.

    I would suggest the only reason the USA could meddle in the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America, so successfully for most of the 19th C was that France and Britain felt it was not worth a fight. And by the 1880’s the cost would have been getting way to high for a non-critical area.

    I think you have the date wrong for the Franco-Prussian War. By 1890 the French were plotting La Revance.

    BTW, re naval forces, if you have not already been there, I’d strongly recommend a visit to HMS Warrior (1861) in Portsmouth. It’s about 200m from HMS Victory in distance and a light-year in technology. Getting a chance to look at the machining tolerances alone is probably worth the visit if you are in Southern England.

  19. says

    jrkrideau@#22:
    BTW, re naval forces, if you have not already been there, I’d strongly recommend a visit to HMS Warrior (1861) in Portsmouth. It’s about 200m from HMS Victory in distance and a light-year in technology. Getting a chance to look at the machining tolerances alone is probably worth the visit if you are in Southern England.

    I was there when I was younger; the Victory too. I ought to go back someday. I am sure I’d appreciate it much more.

  20. says

    M’thew@#25:
    Modern technology confirms your black-ops suspicions. Cool!

    I’m glad they spelled my name wrong; it appears that the base I flagged as a CIA black site in Djibouti is an Italian base.

    This is going to be interesting – there’s a lot of stuff to look for.

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