Guantanamo Bay: An American Shame

Attorney General Eric Holder
On Tuesday, Sept. 20-2011, U. S. Attorney General Eric Holder was in London trying to assure America's best international friend that the Obama administration is doing everything it can to close the U. S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, before the 2012 presidential election. Holder's exact words to the English Parliament were: "The Obama administration is focused on closing the facility as quickly as possible, recognizing that we will face substantial pressure." It is that "substantial pressure" that so direly embarrasses England and the rest of America's friends around the world. Why? Because that pressure comes from a tiny cabal of extremely rich and politically powerful Cuban exiles and their sycophants, making a continuing mockery of the world's greatest democracy.
      Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, shown above with George W. Bush and Jeb Bush, epitomizes what Attorney General Holder referenced as the "substantial pressure" holding back the shut down of Gitmo or anything else that might hint of decency and intelligence within the parameters of U. S. relations with Cuba. The Havana-born Ros-Lehtinen has been in the U. S. House of Representatives from Miami since 1989, when Jeb Bush was her Campaign Manager. Her longevity in the U. S. Congress now has her the Chairperson of the Foreign Relations Committee, adding to her potency in targeting Cuba. This is the same Ros-Lehtinen that the very brave Miami Herald columnist Jim DeFede scathingly denounced for her unbridled and unending support and protection of the most infamous Cuban-exile terrorists, including Luis Posada Carriles. Like Guantanamo, Mr. Posada's safe haven in Miami still represents a majestic embarrassment for England and the rest of America's international friends.
     During the George W. Bush-Dick Cheney administration, Amnesty International called the U. S. prison at Guantanamo Bay "the Gulag of our time." Photos such as the one above mightily embarrassed all of America's friends around the world and, indeed, even conservative Republicans like myself. When news of the Gulag-type conditions at Gitmo went viral, the Bush-Cheney reaction was "rendition," which meant -- at further great expense to the U. S. taxpayers and embarrassment to America's friends -- prisoners at Gitmo were flown to U. S. - friendly dictatorships, such as the recently deposed one in Egypt, for "debriefings." But to this day, having the "Gulag of our time" on foreign soil in Cuba seems more pleasant and more palatable than having such nasty things on U. S. soil.
     Guantanamo Bay is on the very southeastern tip of the alligator-shaped island of Cuba. It is a luscious and beautiful port that any nation in the world would love to own, including Cuba. Imperialist powers such as Spain loved it dearly for centuries. Imperialist-minded U. S. leaders coveted Guantanamo Bay for many decades, and often tried to capture it or buy it or lease it. By the end of the 19th Century Spain was so weak and so over-stretched that the U. S. realized that Cuba was ripe for the taking, if only the U. S. could come up with a pretext to declare war. We can't just up and declare war on Spain, can we? The American people, God bless 'em, would need a pretext!
     The USS Maine, a huge American warship with 355 sailors and marines on board, headed for Cuba. The photo above shows the USS Maine entering Havana Harbor as it nears the famous Morro Castle fortress. 
     The USS Maine exploded while it was moored in Havana Harbor on the night of Feb. 15-1898. As depicted in the above photo taken just before it sank completely, the mighty ship was blown to bits. Of the crew of 355, 261 were killed and out of the 94 survivors all but 16 were severely injured.  The terrible tragedy, however, was pleasing to some because Spain could be blamed for the explosion and that would provide a pretext for the United States to declare war on a very weak and over-stretched nation, an easy and quick war that would give the United States sole control of Cuba. History, including U. S. - ordered reviews, has concluded that Spain wouldn't have dreamed of sabotaging an American ship.  But armed with the battle cry "Remember the Maine" the U. S. made quick work of Spain in 1898's Spanish-American War. When Spain begged for peace, no Cuban was allowed at the signing ceremony. Thus, from 1898 till 1959 the dominant foreign power in Cuba was the United States of America. One of the first things the U. S. did was to steal "in perpetuity" Guantanamo Bay, forcing the island's puppet leaders to give up the lush port in exchange for about $2000 annually, a fee the U. S. subsequently increased to about $4,000. Although booted off the island by the Cuban Revolution on Jan. 1-1959, the U. S. has continued to send the yearly U. S. treasury checks to Cuba. However, since 1959 the checks have not been cashed and, to this day, they just keep piling up in the lower-right-hand drawer of Fidel Castro's desk.
     The U. S. Guantanamo Naval Base consists of 45 square miles (120 km) of very valuable land and water. It remains the oldest (since 1903) U. S. Navy Base and the only one located in a country with which the United States does not have diplomatic relations. In addition to the prison, the base features luxurious buildings and quarters as well as McDonald's, Subway, KFC, A & W, etc., restaurants. The U. S. Navy owns all the franchises on the base, much like the Cuban military owns most of the Cuban businesses (although recently Cuba -- uh, not the U. S. Navy -- has provided loans and material to encourage private ownership of farms and businesses, including barber shops and paladars (expansions of already existing home restaurants). 
      Josefina Vidal, Cuba's Minister of North American Affairs, says: "All sovereign countries in the world, I believe, consider the United States' control of Guantanamo Bay to be illegal under all existing international laws. Instead of pretending they have a legitimate lease by offering us pennies per year, money which a now sovereign Cuba does not accept, why won't the U. S. let international courts, or majority opinion in the U. S. or worldwide, have a say in the theft. For such a precious port, how much would a fair international court determine that the U. S. owes Cuba since 1903 for the theft of its land and waterway? And how long would it take a fair international court to demand that the U. S. return Guantanamo Bay to its rightful owner? Or, if such a port were to be leased, how much would a fair international court say the rent should be...a few pennies or dollars a year? The U. S. may be the world's greatest democracy but its Cuban policy reveals it to be a democracy that is largely controlled by the minute minority of Cuban exiles known as the Miami Mafia. If that is not so try to convince any of the Caribbean or Latin American nations that it is not so. In fact, try to convince any sovereign nation anywhere in the world. In my region, the Caribbean, every nation considers the U. S. a fraud and a big bully for its conduct against Cuba, such as the theft of Guantanamo Bay. And if that is not so, maybe some of the international journalists here today will endeavor to take a survey. If you are the strongest nation in the world by far, you can be a big bully. But as the world's greatest democracy, is that the image the United States should be sending around the world -- a big, corrupt bully?"
The U. S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba

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