Shortly after hearing a snippet of the chatter during a fund-raising campaign by my local NPR station in which it was asserted that NPR listeners appreciated that they were getting the full story instead of just headlines and soundbites, I heard a report about the latest developments in US-Cuba relations: Cuban President Raul Castro’s assertion that diplomatic relations would not be possible until the US returned Guantanamo Bay, site of a huge US naval base and of the 13-year-old internment and torture center for captives in the US “War on Terror,” and until the US paid Cuba reparations for the half-century embargo and blockade of Cuba.
In that report, it was stated as fact that the US base was “leased” from Cuba on a permanent basis, as a result of an “agreement” between the two governments of Cuba and the US.
John McCain, the war-loving Republican senator from Arizona, on Thursday kicked out from his Senate Armed Forces Committee hearing protesters who had been calling for the arrest of witness Henry Kissinger on charges of war crimes for his authorization, as Nixon’s national security council chief, of the 1972 carpet bombing of North Vietnam, including dikes, hospitals and schools. He called the protesters — whom he threatened to have arrested — “low-life scum.” This blowhard Senate fossil also weighed in on the Cuba issue, joking in the NPR report that Guantanamo was legally a possession of the US, and that those like Fidel and Raul Castro, would be “going to meet Karl Marx” before that base would be turned over to Cuba.
Nowhere did NPR, which claims to give “the whole story” in its reports, bother to point out that the eternal lease that Cuba signed with the US back in 1901 was signed under considerable duress by a country that had just won its independence from a grudging United States, which had initially hung onto the island after winning the 1898-9 Spanish-American War, only giving it its independence after realizing that it would have an insurrection on its hands if it didn’t (Cuban independence fighters inspired by the late José Martí had nearly succeeded in ousting their Spanish colonial overlords by the time the US sparked a war against Spain).
Here’s what NPR didn’t mention to listeners: When the US military which had occupied Cuba since the end of the Spanish-American War, began to withdraw from the island in early 1901, it was on the basis of something passed as part of the Congressional Army Appropriations Act called the Platt Amendment. That amendment was an imperialist document if ever there was one, considering that in 1901 Cuba was already considered an independent country. The amendment declared that Cuba would never transfer any land to any power other than the US, that the US would always have the right to intervene militarily in Cuba and even to occupy Cuba whenever the lives, rights or properties of American citizens there were deemed to be threatened, and Guantanamo Bay was to be ceded to the US Navy under terms of a lease that could only be revoked by mutual agreement of the two countries’ governments.
This amendment was presented as a treaty to the new Cuban Constituent Assembly with the demand that it be “approved fully and without changes” and added to the new country’s constitution. It was signed in 1903 at a time that the US still had troops occupying the island — in otherwords, under the gun.
To give you a sense of the outrageousness of this “agreement,” General Leonard Wood, the military governor of the island before it’s “independence” even admitted at the time that “Little or no independence had been left to Cuba with the Platt Amendment.”
As well, before presidential elections for Cuba’s first president in December, 1901, one of the two candidates, General Batrolome Maso, quite the race, in part over the terms of the Platt Amendment, leaving only Tomás Estrada Palma, a US citizen living in the United States at the time of the campaign.
To argue that the Guantanamo lease, signed under such imperialist conditions, provides any kind of legal justification for the US to continue to occupy Cuban territory is simply farcical and ahistorical.
Of course the US should return the Guantanamo Bay territory to Cuba (a gesture which would have the added benefit that it would eliminate the GITMO torture detention center that has made the US a hated object of ridicule around the globe).
As for Raul Castro’s other pre-diplomatic recognition demand that the US should pay reparations to Cuba for its 50-year embargo, that too is logical. Reparations would be a sound basis for renewed relations between the two estranged countries. The embargo — still in effect — has been an illegal act of war by the US against the Cuban people from the beginning, and by some estimates has cost the island as much as $1 trillion in lost development and economic growth over that time. Perhaps expecting the US to repay $1 trillion is too much to hope for, but an acknowledgement of the abusiveness of the embargo, and some kind of no-strings financial aid as recompense for that abuse, would be appropriate. While it’s at it, the US should also pay Cuba reparations for the illegal “Bay of Pigs” invasion it sponsored in 1960.
In any case, unless it wants to drop its claim to be reporting the news differently and more fully than the corporate media, NPR should at least be giving its listeners the whole story about Guantanamo and about America’s history of bulling and war-mongering against the people and government of Cuba.