The Guant’namo side of America
Guant’namo Bay has long represented a side of America that is neither fair nor free.
The events that led the bay to become the only U.S. military base on communist soil show that history does, in fact, repeat itself.
The U.S. obtained control of Cuba from Spain in 1898 following the Spanish-American War. The U.S. then leased Guant’namo Bay while recognizing an independent Republic of Cuba.
The provisions of the Platt Amendment, drafted by U.S. Sen. Orville Platt, were added to the constitution of an occupied Cuba in 1901 as a condition for U.S. troop withdrawal.
The amendment signed over rights to Guant’namo, allowed for U.S. intervention in Cuban affairs when the U.S. deemed necessary, and prohibited Cuba from negotiating treaties with anyone other than the U.S.
Obviously, the Platt Amendment wasn’t very popular among Cubans because of its imperialist qualities, but the U.S. military occupation was even less popular and more imperialist than the amendment.
The U.S. withdrew troops in 1902, but the troops returned in 1905 to crush a revolt that was provoked in part by the terms that led to the withdrawal in the first place.
Franklin D. Roosevelt repealed the offending provisions in 1934 with the exception of a treaty maintaining the lease on Guant’namo Bay.
The Cuban government has always opposed the treaty on the grounds that it was negotiated through the use of U.S. military force and occupation.
Fidel Castro’s rebel forces ousted dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1959. He then implemented the communist government that remains in place in Cuba even today.
Castro is not a fair or free leader. His government is responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of Cubans, according to even modest estimates, and he has held prisoners for years with little or no evidence of any crime.
Some prisoners across the fence in Guant’namo Bay argue that things are little different under the U.S. government.
It was no accident that Guant’namo Bay was chosen as a site for long-term holding of suspected al Qaeda and Taliban prisoners.
President Bush said Guant’namo is not U.S. soil, and, therefore, the U.S. Constitution does not apply. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected this notion in Rasul v. Bush as the U.S. alone controls the bay.
The Bush Administration approached the detainment from another angle, designating the prisoners ‘illegal combatants’ rather than prisoners of war in an effort to circumvent the Geneva Convention.
In a May 25 report, Amnesty International described the Guant’namo Bay prison as ‘the gulag of our time,’ comparing the camp to Soviet labor camps that were used primarily for repressing political opposition.
‘There’s a myth going around that there’s some kind of rule of law being applied,’ said Rob Freer, an Amnesty official who specializes in detention issues, in an Associated Press report.
The president fired back saying the Amnesty report was ‘absurd.’
‘If that is so, open up these detention centers, allow us and others to visit them,’ said Amnesty International Secretary General Irene Zubaida Khan.
In a country that prides itself in the transparency of its government, that shouldn’t be hard to do.
There is strong evidence that links some prisoners at Guant’namo to al Qaeda or the Taliban. For others, that evidence needs to be seen.
More than 500 prisoners from 40 countries are being held there. Many have no charges against them and have waited more than three years for freedom.
Since the war in Iraq began, hundreds of foreigners have been imprisoned and later released when it was discovered that mistakes had been made. At one time, as many as 10 percent of the prisoners held there as part of the War on Terror were reported as having no known connection with al Qaeda or the Taliban.
In trying to promote freedom and human rights throughout the world, the U.S. has created a void where administration officials argue American ideas of freedom and inalienable rights don’t apply.
The assumption is that those prisoners constitute an ongoing danger. And no one advocates freeing anyone who does.
Why not prove that with the system that we, as Americans, believe in?
If the answer is that we don’t have faith in the system ‘ our system ‘ why are we fighting?