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The Guantanamo Problem - Part 1

This short series will address the War on Terror. While my stances on both the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars are very clear, I have not yet formally written on Guantanamo Bay and its prisoners, offered practical solutions to improve our border and airline safety, and commented in depth on our foreign policy and terrorism abroad. In this part, I will explain the history of 'Gitmo' for knowing its history is key to understanding what should be done with this military base. Next I will dissect a recent editorial published in the local newspaper by the incumbent Congressman and then propose my solutions on how to handle Guantanamo Bay prisoners. Following this, no current discussion on terror would be complete without discussing the controversial body scanning and I will add my comments and solutions on airline safety. The last part will summarize just how dangerous the war on terror is - not only to our soldiers who risk their lives everyday and avoiding financial ruin as a country, but also to our liberties as a free society.

Readers should be aware that the incumbent in my congressional race sits on Homeland Security and is a rabid supporter of the Bush and Obama administrations' War on Terror. While I do not question his motives to protect the American people, I do very much oppose his actions and ineffective solutions. Our country's leaders have not only plunged our nation into expensive, preemptive, and unjust wars for the past decade, but have embarked on a vast extension of a modern-day police state. It is the duty of every citizen to question whether these new restraints over our lives are, in fact, beneficial. I view the infringement of civil liberties that are protected by our Constitution as not only illegal but unnecessary and immoral.


"History... should not be forgotten. History itself, whether bad or good, should not be forgotten." - Chen Zhiyong

"The detention facilities at Guantanamo for individuals covered under this order shall be closed as soon as practicable, and no later than 1 year from the date of this order." - President Obama by Executive Order, January 22, 2009.  Time's up.

I remember the years after 9/11 when the government announced they were stowing away “enemy combatants” at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. CUBA? I remember thinking. Why Cuba? Aren't they communist and not exactly on cordial relations with the USA? I never pursued my curiosity further than this for many years until I moved abroad to communist China and completely changed my views on the War of Terror.

The origins of Guantanamo's long, strange trip under US control began when the U.S.S. Maine exploded on February 15, 1898 in Havana's harbor while Cuba was revolting against the Spanish empire. While the Maine was certainly not attacked by the Spanish navy, to this day it is uncertain whether stored ammunition exploded or the ship hit a mine. At any rate, the battleship was an unwelcome military presence.  (Photo shown entering Havana harbor three weeks prior to explosion.)

William Randolph Hearst's New York Journal published fictional drawings of Spanish saboteurs attacking the vessel after famously cabling his journalist, “You furnish the pictures, I'll furnish the war.” As a result, Congress declared war against Spain in April 1898. The war cry was "Remember the Maine! To hell with Spain!"

Led by future President Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders, the motley army won several quick battles before malaria and dysentery could overwhelm them. While Cuba was technically made independent by the Treaty of Paris in 1898, the US government forced Cuba to add the infamous Platt Amendment to its constitution, stripping away completely its sovereignty and enabling the US to intervene in domestic affairs, making it a de facto satellite of the United States from 1901 until 1934. Marines were sent to quell insurrections in 1906, 1912, 1917, and 1920. (1)

Guantanamo Bay, consisting of 45 square miles, was part of the Platt Amendment, and the US Navy established a refueling station to project power around the Caribbean and Panama Canal. Cuba's independence had no effect on the base besides changing it's rental agreement. When former lawyer Fidel Castro took over as dictator of a communist police state in 1959 following the Cuban Revolution, he attempted to remove the naval base and, after cashing the first rental check, has not cashed any additional checks sent by the government through the present day.

A Cuban minefield still borders the base on land - the US removed its minefield under Clinton – and the Cuban government still treats the base as hostile. Perhaps from an American perspective, an equivalent situation would exist if China were to take over part of the coast of Oregon, plunk down a base for its navy complete withStarbucks, Pizza Hut, KFC, and McDonald's, imprison and torture their criminals, terrorists, and prisoners of war there, and then send checks for a rent that we never cash.

It should be plainly obvious that the proper action to take is to not only close down the prison camp, but also to eventually close down the entire military base and return the property to Cuba. This would go a long way towards restoring peace, commerce, and friendship with the impoverished and isolated country. While the harsh socialist economic policies of the Castro regime certainly has not done Cubans much good, neither have American trade embargoes or the attempted CIA invasion in 1961 helped Americans.

It's time to let bygones be bygones and simply return the property to Cuba. Now, what to do about the prisoners? Well, I will get to that. Let's first take a look at the incumbent's claim that closing Guantanamo Bay would weaken national security in part two.

Jake Towne

January 19, 2010

PS - On a different topic, I will be giving a talk on monetary policy tomorrow to the Concerned Citizens of Upper Perkiomen for Smaller Government.  On Thursday, I begin co-hosting my first radio show.    Details are here.

(1Note:  The Philippines, Guam, and Puerto Rico were also transferred to US sovereignty following the Treaty of Paris. The Filipinos were not granted self-rule and were consistently patronized as our “little brown brothers” by the President and many others. The Filipinos constantly rebelled against the American occupation, costing over 4,000 US soldiers' lives and likely several hundred thousand Filipino dead from reprisals. Many Filipinos cooperated with the Japanese when they invaded the day of Pearl Harbor.  Although several details are incorrect, please see also Chalmers Johnson's The Sorrows of Empire, pages 39-45.