Guantanamo, 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, Guantánamo 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 Guantánamo from its origins to the present.

Occupying 45 square miles of land and sea, Guantánamo 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 inter-national 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 Guantánamo played as a convoy hub for strategic goods during World War II. He then looks at clashes over Guantánamo 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 Guantánamo'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-rescuemissions 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—Guantánamo 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 Guantánamo'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: 416
  • 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

1 The Rise of the U.S. Navy and Theodore Roosevelt 15

2 The Battle for Guantanamo in 1898 39

3 Cubans Resist U.S. Base Acquisition 61

4 The First Overseas U.S. Base 95

5 Peace and War: Franklin D. Roosevelt 130

6 The Cold War, Part 1: Dwight D. Eisenhower 175

7 The Cold War, Part 2: John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson 196

8 Guantanamo Endures 223

App. A Imperial Germany and the Caribbean, 1890s-1917 239

App. B Transcriptions of Letters from Elihu Root, 1901 242

App. C Theodore Roosevelt's Message to Congress for Representation in Cuba, 1902 252

App. D Leasing Agreement between the United States and Cuba, 1903 255

App. E Treaty Agreement between the United States and Cuba, 1934 260

App. F Statement by the Government of Cuba, 2002 263

Notes 269

Bibliography 337

Index 357

An illustration section follows page 162

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