The Real Guantanamo Bay

Much has been said over the last several years about a formerly unknown US Naval base stubbornly clinging to the southeastern end of Cuba. Despite years of Fidel Castro’s chagrin, US forces have been there by treaty since 1903 and remain there to this day.

The official US Navy history begins this way, with my link added;

In February 1903, the United States leased 45 square miles of land and water at Guantanamo Bay for use as a coaling (fueling) station. The treaty was finalized and the document ratified by both governments and signed in Havana in December 1903.

A 1934 treaty reaffirming the lease granted Cuba and her trading partners free access through the bay, modified the lease payment from $2,000 in gold coins per year, to the 1934 equivalent value of $4,085 U.S. Treasury dollars, and added a requirement that termination of the lease requires the consent of both the U.S. and Cuba governments, or the U.S. abandonment of the base property.

Base relations with Cuba remained stable through two world wars and the periods between, and did not significantly change until the Cuban revolution in the late 1950’s. That revolution led by Fidel Castro, began in the hills of Oriente Province, not far from the base.

On June 27, 1958, 29 Sailors and Marines returning from liberty outside the base gates were kidnapped by Cuban rebel forces headed by Raul Castro, brother of Fidel, and detained in the hills as hostages until they were finally released 22 days later.

United States and Cuban relations steadily declined as Fidel Castro openly declared himself in favor of the Marxist line, and began mass jailing and executions of the Cuban people. Cuban territory outside the confines of the base limits was declared off-limits to U.S. servicemen and civilians on Jan. 1, 1959.

My personal experience with GITMO was in 1980 aboard a US Navy destroyer undergoing yearly refresher training. Back then the majority of US Navy ships were steam-powered, and juggling 1200 psi superheated steam boilers and related steam-powered equipment meant a lot could go wrong. Because of this, it was required to show proficiency in handling various system casualties and emergencies on an annual basis or after overhaul, and GITMO was where we were sent.

The facilities we experienced there on the few liberty hours we were allowed were amazing, and for most of us it required drinking large quantities of beer to enjoy them properly.

Included was a boat rental, where sailors loaded up two-person outboard motorboats with a couple cases of beer and headed off into the bay chasing dolphins and getting stung by the multitudes of tiny jellyfish that seemed to breed there. We’d attempt to get ahead of the dolphins, and then Seal-style with masks and fins would roll overboard to try to get a look at the critters underwater. The water was murky, viability was only about ten feet, but we had great fun trying. Great memories for me of that base, and I’m sure I’m not alone. Checking out the base website, I don’t believe I’d recognize the place today. It’s even better than it was.

Of course, today the base is known for the Guantanamo Bay detention camp and nothing else. A quick check of the Wikipedia links for the base reveals a host of leftist causes involved in discrediting the base, the personnel stationed there, and the former Bush administration for ever opening it in the first place. More here.

Many have toured the detention facilities since the Camp X-Ray days, and most open-minded people come away with a vastly different perspective than they had going in. Even NPR recently found “some surprising attempts at cultural sensitivity.”

Recently Steven Crowder made the pilgrimage, and of course, a video;

After a review of the video, it seems to me that the only ones at that base actually suffering are the ones whose job it is to guard the detainees.

I’ll make one prediction; Obama will eventually hand the whole base over to Castro, or try to.