Guantánamo, USA: The Untold History of America's Cuban Outpost

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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.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Schwab, a former senior analyst for the CIA's South American division and a professor of history at the University of Alabama, unravels the complex past of Guantánamo, Cuba, the U.S.'s oldest overseas base, where so-called enemy combatants in the war on terror have been imprisoned and tortured. Posing the critical question of why Guantánamo is needed for American security, Schwab looks at the early rise of this national interest under President Theodore Roosevelt, who placed a naval base there, giving the U.S. a presence in the Caribbean, despite solid local resistance and prominent critics such as Jane Addams and Mark Twain. Real benefits were reaped during WWII as the U.S. Navy used the base to quell Nazi U-boat aggression in the region. The base remained a hot spot during the cold war, with Castro and LBJ tussling over water rights for navy staff there, and later as a center for trying to stem the flow of drugs and undocumented aliens to the mainland. Well-researched, sharply written, Schwab's book fills in the crucial gaps on this controversial base, now as notorious as Iraq's infamous Abu Ghraib prison. 20 photos, 5 maps. (Nov.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780700616701
  • Publisher: University Press of Kansas
  • Publication date: 10/26/2009
  • Pages: 382
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.50 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Stephen Irving Max Schwab is a former senior analyst for the CIA's South America Division and now teaches history at the University of Alabama.

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Table of Contents


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

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