Thursday, March 21, 2019

Article comparing the USA's overseas military bases to Bond villain lairs

"Power Is Sovereignty, Mr. Bond"

Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond, knew something about islands. During the Second World War, he’d served as the assistant to Britain’s director of naval intelligence. In 1943, he traveled to Kingston, Jamaica for a high-level intelligence conference with the United States. The Caribbean was then in dire straits, tormented by German submarines that evaded the Allied navies. Rumors floated that the boats were finding safe berth at a secret harbor built by Dr. Axel Wenner-Gren, a mysterious Swedish multimillionaire with Nazi ties who had established himself on an island in the Bahamas.

The accusations that Wenner-Gren was using his island as a secret Nazi base proved false. But Fleming nevertheless found it all irresistible. He bought an estate in Jamaica (named Goldeneye, after one of the intelligence operations he’d help run) and began writing his Bond novels from there.

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What, specifically, could the United States do with a base? A fine example is the Swan Islands, a small cluster of three islands in an isolated part of the Caribbean, not far from the fictional location of Doctor No’s island. In the 1950s, the CIA secretly built a landing strip and a fifty-thousand-watt radio transmitter on Great Swan. That single transmitter could reach South America, allowing the United States to cover with its radio beams territory inaccessible by ground.

Soon after the CIA built that radio station, a delegation of Honduran students carrying arms came to Great Swan to “liberate” the islands and claim them for Honduras. They had no idea of the CIA’s presence, and the agency was determined to keep them in the dark. give them plenty of beer and protect the family jewels read the frantic cable from Washington (i.e., don’t let them discover the broadcasting equipment). Marines sped to the island to repel the invasion.

What happened next can be best appreciated by reading the cable traffic from Swan to Washington:
*Previously: "Is the United States about to lose control of its secretive Diego Garcia military base?"