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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Boldly Going Nowhere

Thursday, February 14, 2002

Detained in Cuba

Guantanamo Bay is located at the far southeast tip of Cuba, some 400 miles from Miami, Fla. In 1903, the United States leased 45 square miles of land and water at Guantanamo Bay for use as a Naval Base. A treaty in 1934 reaffirmed the lease in exchange for $2,000 per year. One of the terms of the agreement was that both the USA and Cuba must mutually consent to terminate the lease.

Even though the Eisenhower Administration severed diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1961, primarily because a communist dictator named Castro overthrew a fascist dictator named Batista, we still maintain a military presence at Guantanamo Bay. U.S. Marines patrol the 17 miles of fence line 24 hours a day.

Needless to say, Fidel Castro would like to terminate the lease and send the Yankees back home. This attitude was exemplified in 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis when the USSR deployed nuclear missiles in Cuba, aimed at the U.S. mainland. Even though the USA had nuclear missiles in Europe, Turkey, Iran, South Korea, Japan and elsewhere aimed at the USSR, President Kennedy insisted that it was okay for us to surround another country with missiles but not okay for anyone else to do it to us. After all, we were the good guys.

In 1964, several Cuban fishermen were arrested and fined by the U.S. government for fishing in Florida waters. Castro was not amused. He had no missiles to lob at his northern neighbors, so he cut off water and supplies to the U.S. Naval Base on his homeland. As often happens, American ingenuity soon triumphed in making Guantanamo Bay self-sufficient by constructing a desalination plant that produces over 3 million gallons of fresh water and 800,000 kilowatt hours of electricity daily.

The Cubans clearly don't want us occupying a portion of their island. But the wishes of others often don't come into consideration when the mighty USA wants to get its way. Therein lies the dilemma we are in today.

As part of the war on terror, the USA is transporting captured enemy combatants from Afghanistan to the naval base on Guantanamo Bay and incarcerating them in heavily secured quarters. Unfortunately, housing prisoners at this location tends to remind the whole world that the USA has bullied its way onto foreign soil to erect another military installation, at the disdain of the host nation. The omnipresence of the U.S. Military worldwide is one of the chief complaints of the terrorists in the first place, but we are either oblivious to their cause or are deliberately attempting to provoke then with our national resolve.

While under criticism from international watchdog organizations, the foreign press and foreign government officials for the perceived mistreatment of these prisoners, the Secretary of Defense declared that we are under no obligation to follow the Geneva Convention since the captured combatants are considered detainees instead of prisoners of war. Such statements can only further exacerbate the situation. It gives the impression that we don't intend to follow the accepted rules of humanity. Although the detainees are undoubtedly being treated in a humane fashion, our actions will always be closely scrutinized, and frequently misrepresented, by those determined to find fault with us. The USA is the lone superpower on this planet. We think of ourselves as the good guys, always willing to right wrongs at any cost. We often engage in external conflicts with the best of intentions, only to make matters worse.

Much of the rest of the world sees us as spoiled greed-heads, taking on the role as self-appointed global policemen. We are only 5 percent of the world's population yet we consume 25 percent of the energy resources annually. We have military bases scattered around the globe to "protect our interests" and keep everyone else in line. This sort of behavior doesn't go unnoticed.

Every major religion has its own version of the Golden Rule -- to treat your neighbor the way you want to be treated. The next time you feel compelled to ask God to bless America, perhaps you should ask him to bless everyone -- not just us.