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[ Presenting plain-text part of multi-format email ] Published on Monday, november 24, 2003 by the International Herald Tribune Guantánamo's Limbo is Too Convenient by Amy Kaplan The Supreme Court's decision to hear the case of the prisoners at Guantánamo hinges not only on who they are or what they have done, but also on where they are being held. We can't fully understand the status of the prisoners, who have no rights under the Geneva Convention or the U.S. Constitution, without knowing the history of the U.S. presence at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba. The United States acquired Guantánamo a century ago in a war with uncanny parallels to the war in Iraq today. Guantánamo, America's oldest overseas naval base, lies at a historical crossroads, where U.S. intervention in the Caribbean meets U.S. intervention in the Middle East, and where early 20th-century imperialism meets the American Empire of the 21st. Lying 400 miles, or 645 kilometers, from Miami, in a country with which the United States has no diplomatic relations, Guantánamo floats beyond national and international law. This limbo already had a long history in 2002, when prisoners from Afghanistan, shackled and blindfolded, arrived at Camp X-Ray. In 1898, thrilled by the struggle for independence in Cuba, Americans clamored to help liberate it from Spain. The swift American victory in the Spanish-American war ended in U.S. reluctance to acknowledge Cuban sovereignty. After three years of occupation, the United States withdrew its troops only after forcing the Platt Amendment onto the new nation's constitution. This reserved to the United States the right to intervene in Cuba militarily and provided for the lease of naval bases. At that time, the military governor, Leonard Wood, wrote to President Theodore Roosevelt: "There is of course little or no independence left Cuba under the Platt Amendment." In 1934 Cuba renewed the lease for Guantánamo Bay and granted the United States its base there as long as it wanted it. This lease can only be canceled if the Navy abandons the base or if both parties agree to end it. Even Fidel Castro couldn't revoke the lease, and the U.S. Treasury punctually sends a monthly check that the Cuban government doesn't cash. Although Cuba has nominal sovereignty over Guantánamo, the United States exerts control over every aspect of life there. A territory outside U.S sovereignty, held in perpetuity, where the U.S. military rules, Guantánamo is a chillingly appropriate place for the indefinite detention of unnamed enemies in a perpetual war against terror. Charged with no crimes after 18 months, and denied access to family and counsel, the prisoners face the horrifying prospect of imprisonment without end. Camp X-Ray was built in the early 1990's for Haitian political refugees who tested positive for HIV. Denied the right to apply for asylum on American soil, they were held in squalid, inhumane conditions without an end in sight until a U.S. district court declared the camps unconstitutional a decade ago. Now the Supreme Court will revisit a question raised after the Spanish-American War: "Does the Constitution follow the flag?" Can the United States remain a republic if it rules over territories and people not subject to its constitution? In deciding to take this case, the court has defied the prediction of a humorist in 1901, "No matter whether th'constitution follows the flag or not, th'Supreme court follows th'iliction returns." The court cannot keep up the farce that the United States has no jurisdiction over a territory where it has exercised legal, military and political control for more than a century. Cuba may be as far from Iraq as it is from the battlefields of Afghanistan. The history of Guantánamo, however, offers a dangerous precedent for the future of Iraq. If its new constitution contains provisions for the long-term lease of U.S. bases - as Cuba's did a century ago - there will be more Guantánamos and, of course, little or no independence left Iraq. The writer is a professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania and the president of the American Studies Association. Copyright © 2003 the International Herald Tribune _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email firstname.lastname@example.org All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk