America has had a presence in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba since 1903. It is the oldest American overseas base, and the only one hosted in a country with which the US has no diplomatic relationship. Cuba has disputed the US' right to this property, but to no avail.
Over the last decade, the Base has become an icon for critics of American foreign policy - it is emblematic of how the government skirted its own laws and Constitution by denying due process, and imprisoning and mistreating (including torture) those who were suspected of terrorist actions against the United States. This behavior has robbed the USA of moral high ground globally, it is used as a recruitment tool by terrorists, and worst of all, it is a powerful statement about absolutes and integrity.
The government is now seeking to close the prison (not the whole base) and have the prisoners stand trial on US soil; Congress has thwarted this pending the creation of a well-thought out plan.
Setting aside the fact that a country should be unequivocal in adhering to her own laws even when inconvenient, for that is what keeps us from being lawless, what can be done to solve this problem?
I think it's a four-step process:
- Declare Guantanamo (as the courts have) American soil and subject to the same rules of law that govern a resident of say, New York City.
- Transport a legal team comprising Federal judges, clerks and attorneys to Guantanamo to securely try the remaining prisoners at the base vs. transporting them to the mainland.
- Upon completion of the trial, close the entire Naval base at Guantanamo and return the land to Cuba.
- Tear down the Cactus Curtain, formalize diplomatic ties with Cuba, and hope to spark American travel and commerce.
The impact could be significant:
- Save money - this is much cheaper and safer than holding trials in the continental United States.
- Save more money - reduce Defense expenditures by closing the base (Guantanamo has minimal strategic advantage given bases in nearby Florida).
- Stimulate US economy - move the 9,500+ soldiers to existing US bases, thereby contributing to those local economies.
- Eliminate terrorist recruiting tool - by legally (and openly) trying the prisoners and closing the base altogether, terrorists can no longer point to Guantanamo to spur recruitment.
- Improve global perception - countries and people around the world will view this as a positive step that may spark improved political and economic ties with America.
I've always believed that American influence abroad should be based on economic policy vs. military action. By closing the base, the US can close the chapter on this part of its history, and move forward with less baggage.