Time For US To Leave Guantanamo Bay
Above photo: From Medium.com.
No foreign military base is more controversial than that of the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. February 23rd, 2018 marks the 115th anniversary of when the US Government signed a lease with the Cuban government for a 45 square mile chunk of land. This 45 square mile chunk of land would only cost 2000 gold coins a year, and the lease would be perpetual, only to be broken by a mutual agreement. The reason Cuba sold the US this patch of land was to facilitate the military withdrawal of US troops from Cuba. See, the US seized Cuba in the Spanish-American war in 1898, and went on to occupy the island militarily. The terms of the US withdrawal from Cuba were outlined in the Platt Amendment of 1901, named after Senator Orville Platt, but actually written by early US Empire builder Elihu Root, who served as Secretary of War under William McKinley.
Here is what the US State Dept. says of the Platt Amendment:
The Platt Amendment’s conditions prohibited the Cuban Government from entering into any international treaty that would compromise Cuban independence or allow foreign powers to use the island for military purposes. The United States also reserved the right to intervene in Cuban affairs in order to defend Cuban independence and to maintain “a government adequate for the protection of life, property, and individual liberty.” Other conditions of the Amendment demanded that the Cuban Government implement plans to improve sanitary conditions on the island, relinquish claims on the Isle of Pines (now known as the Isla de la Juventud), and agree to sell or lease territory for coaling and naval stations to the United States. (This clause ultimately led to the perpetual lease by the United States of Guantnamo Bay.) Finally, the amendment required the Cuban Government to conclude a treaty with the United States that would make the Platt amendment legally binding, and the United States pressured the Cubans to incorporate the terms of the Platt Amendment in the Cuban constitution.
Of course the irony is not lost when you consider that this agreement did nothing to facilitate true independence for Cuba. The island is still occupied by the US military, and this treaty itself compromises Cuban independence because not all Cuban land belongs to Cuba. Of course, the US Empire plays by a different set of rules so there is no such thing as irony in the Imperial realm of US foreign policy. The only rule is “might makes right”. Of course this policy is enshrined in US Imperial history through the “Monroe Doctrine”, named after the fifth US President James Monroe. In the wake of the Napoleonic Wars and Spanish defeat, the US government laid down three new principles of US Foreign policy to ensure that no European powers would colonize the Western Hemisphere (except the US of course).
So, on this anniversary, let us examine some crucial facts regarding US foreign policy and Guantanamo Bay and hopefully you will come to the conclusion that it is time for us to leave.
- There are currently 41 detainees in Guantanamo Bay.
- 31 of those detainees have faced at least a decade of imprisonment without being charged with a crime.
- 5 of these detainees have been cleared for release to be resettled overseas, but continue to linger in prison.
- It costs approximately $445 million per year to maintain the prison.
- Considering the number of prisoners, that comes out to about $11 million per detainee.
- This is exponentially higher than the average cost per prisoner in the US, which is around $31,977.65 per year.
- This cost does not include that of Camp 7, where “high value detainees” are held, and this remains classified to the public.
- The latest Pentagon budget calls for $69 million to be used to rebuild the Camp 7 facility.
- 5 of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay stand accused of being co-conspirators of the 9/11 attacks. They were originally arraigned on June 5th, 2008, and have yet to receive a scheduled date for trial.
- Federal courts are exponentially better at convicting terror suspects. Federal Civilian Courts have convicted more than 660 individuals on terrorism related charges since 9/11.
- Military commissions have only convicted 8 terrorism suspects since 9/11, with three of those decisions being partially overturned.
- Terrorism suspects convicted in US federal courts have never escaped prison.
- The torture of prisoners at Guantanamo is in violation of Common Article 3 of the Geneva Convention. The US Supreme Court ruled in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld that it is unconstitutional for US prisoners to be tried in military courts.
Everything aside, Cuba wants the land back, and they have a right to demand it considering the agreement to grant the US that land was signed at the beginning of the 20 century by a completely different government during a completely different time. Considering the human rights violations, the legality, the cost, and the fact that the military tribunal system has failed miserably at convicting terrorism suspects, the US needs to give that land back to the people of Cuba, shut down that abomination of a detention facility, and put that money to better use. Guantanamo Bay has been one stain among many on the conscience of this nation, but eliminating the prison would be a good start, and it would allow for the possibility of greater diplomatic relations between two nations that have a tense history. 115 years is a long time. The US could go a long way in beginning to shed its imperialistic image by getting rid of that 45 square foot relic from the 19th century.