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Established as America's first foreign naval base following the Spanish-American War, Guantnamo is now more often thought of as our Devil's Island, the gulag of our times. This book takes readers beyond the orange-jumpsuited detainees of today's headlines to provide the first comprehensive history of Guantnamo from its origins to the present.
Occupying 45 square miles of land and sea, Guantnamo has for more than a century symbolized the imperial impulse within U.S. foreign policy, and its occupation is decried by Cuba as a violation of international law-even though a treaty legally grants the U.S. a lease in perpetuity. Stephen Schwab now describes the base's role in American, Caribbean, and global history, explaining how it came to be, why it's still there, and how it continues to serve a variety of purposes.
Schwab views the base's creation as part of a broad U.S. strategy of annexations, protectorates, and limited interventions devised to create a strong sphere of influence in the western Atlantic. He charts its history from this early belief that it would prevent European powers from staking imperial claims in the Caribbean and examines the crucial defensive role that Guantnamo played as a convoy hub for strategic goods during World War II. He then looks at clashes over Guantnamo during the Cold War, culminating in LBJ's decision to make the base independent by firing Cuban workers and building a desalinization plant. Schwab also fleshes out Guantnamo's ongoing roles as the U.S. Navy's lone forward base in the Caribbean, providing refueling for U.S. and allied ships, as a Coast Guard station engaged in search-and-rescue missions and counternarcotics operations, and as a U.S. facility for processing undocumented aliens.
Even though the Castro government persistently protests America's presence—and refuses even to bank the rent that the U.S. dutifully pays—Guantnamo remains the only place where diplomatic exchanges between the two countries occur, and Schwab documents how the facility has served mutual interests as both a point of nationalistic frictions and a center for diplomatic compromise. By presenting Guantnamo's story within its broader historical framework, his book gives readers a greater appreciation of America's true stake in this controversial Caribbean outpost.
Introduction: The Significance of Guantanamo
1. The Rise of the U.S. Navy and Theodore Roosevelt
2. The Battle for Guantanamo in 1898
3. Cubans Resist Acquisition of Guantanamo
4. The First Overseas U.S. Base
5. Peace and War: Franklin D. Roosevelt
6. The Cold War, Part 1: Dwight D. Eisenhower
7. The Cold War, Part 2: John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson
8. Guantanamo Endures
Appendix A. Imperial Germany and the Caribbean, 1890s-1917
Appendix B. Transcriptions of Letters from Elihu Root, 1901
Appendix C. Theodore Roosevelt's Recommendations to Congress for Representation in Cuba, 1902
Appendix D. Leasing Agreement between the United States and Cuba, 1903
Appendix E. Treaty Agreement between the United States and Cuba, 1934
Appendix F. Statement by the Government of Cuba, 2002
An illustration section follows page 163