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

Established as America's first foreign naval base following the Spanish-American War, Guantanamo 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 Guantanamo from its origins to the present. Occupying 45 square miles of land and sea, Guantanamo 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 Guantanamo played as a convoy hub for strategic goods during World War II. He then looks at clashes over Guantanamo 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 Guantanamo'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 counter narcotics 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 - Guantanamo 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 Guantanamo's story within its broader historical framework, his book gives readers a greater appreciation of America's true stake in this controversial Caribbean outpost.