The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

[Main archive index/search] [List information] [Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

[casi] Iraq and Guantanamo - same horrific game>

[ 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
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
To contact the list manager, email
All postings are archived on CASI's website:

[Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]