Posted by MataHarley on 30 January, 2009 at 1:18 pm. 44 comments already!

Ah, the unforeseen consequences of ill thought out photo ops. A strategic US military base, and it’s existence via the Cuban-America Treaty for over 100 years, may be history as a result of a stroke of Obama’s pen and an Executive Order.

Fidel, and Raul Castro are now both demanding that the US return Gitmo, and the 45 sq miles of territory that the base occupies, as well as the other sundry camps, to Cuba.

The ailing 82-year-old former president wrote that if the US doesn’t give the US base at Guantanamo back to Cuba, it will be a violation of international law and an abuse of American power against a small country.

The US president must “respect this norm without any condition,” Mr Castro wrote.

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The treaty granting its use remains in effect unless both Cuba and the US abrogate it or the US abandons the base.

Another Obama supporter, Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, echoes the same demand as positive signs Obama is breaking from American “imperialism”.

It was Article III of this the Cuban-American Treaty that clarified that the US recognized ” the continuance of the ultimate sovereignty of the Republic of Cuba over the above described areas of land and water”, tho the US retained complete jurisdiction and control over, and within the US base areas.

It was this very status of sovereignty that was at the heart of the Boumediene v Bush SCOTUS decision that ultimately bestowed Constitutional rights on the Gitmo detainees… as habeas has never been thought to extend to the benefit of aliens outside the United States. (i.e. Johnson v. Eisentrager). SCOTUS deemed, despite the language of the 1903 treaty with Cuba, that Guantanamo Bay was considered US sovereign territory for their purposes.

As usual with effects of legislation, enacted law, and court decisions, the die was cast and events set into motion to get us to where we are today… unsure of what to do, or how to deal with enemy combatants that are [or used to be] held on foreign soil, and have a pesky habit of getting released and returning to jihad.

Now, to ice the cake of legal confusion and thwarted proceses history, the US stands to lose an important strategic location by Obama’s decision to shutter the facility.

The facilities have quite a history… and not all of it related to military and it’s original use as a Naval refueling station. It’s humanitarian uses included a temporary haven for 34,000 Haitian refugees in 1991, which earned the naval base the Navy Unit Commendation and Joint Meritorious Unit Award.

In 1994, Operation Sea Signal was launched.

In Operation Sea Signal (August 1994-February 1996) Navy personnel based at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base (NAVBASE GTMO) Cuba, and Marines from II Marine Expeditionary Force assumed the mission of feeding, housing, clothing, and caring for more than 50,000 Haitian and Cuban migrants seeking asylum in the United States. Since September 1994, the Navy-Marine Corps team housed and processed over 40,000 migrants awaiting repatriation or parole to the United States. Support to Joint Task Force 160 spanned 18 months.

In addition to the hospitals, detention facilies and other humanitarian uses in times of crises, it serves as a logistics base for the Navy’s Atlantic Fleet, and supports counter drug operations in the Caribbean.

Not only are these future functions potentially lost, but there are the improvements to the property that a not-so-friendly nation would inherit in our withdrawal…. US taxpayer paid for, of course.

The Naval Base includes, as separate commands, a Naval Hospital and Branch Dental Clinic, detachments of the Personnel Support Activity, Naval Atlantic Meteorologic and Oceanographic Command, Naval Media Center, Naval Communications Station, Department of Defense Dependent Schools and a Navy Brig. Directly supporting the base as departments of Naval Station are Naval Criminal Investigative Service, Resident Officer in Charge of Construction, Human Resources Office, Family Support and Service Center, Red Cross, Security and Navy Exchange/Commissary.

The base is also self-sufficient in water and power from Cuban municipalities including wind turbines installed during the term of that enviro tyrant – George W. Bush. During the high wind months, they can supply up to 1/4 of the facilities energy needs.

Obama has not clarified just how much of Gitmo he plans on “shuttering”. But there is no doubt he’s looking to save money in the US budget. And one place he’s quite likely to look at is what he considers needless defense budget spending, as Mike’s A pointed out.

If he considers Club Gitmo unnecessary, does he also consider the rest of the facilities as not cost effective for the military? And will he cave to the Castros’ requests – plus increasing international and domestic opinion – for return of the land … PLUS it’s improvements?

If so, what happens to the monitoring of drug, or even possibly future weapons/arms activities in the Caribbean? That, of course, would depend upon with whom Cuba will ally to newly occupy these prime military facilities – a prime spot with military jet friendly tarmacs and runways located about 90 miles from the US/Florida coast. Current buds in the running… Russia? Venezuela?

And perhaps even more saddening… woe to the future refugees that have sought a safe haven within the US facilities in Cuba.

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