One of the most anomalous and controversial pieces of real estate in the world is Guantanamo Bay Naval Base located on the southeastern tip of Cuba. We talk with US service members who have spent time there, both in the detention center and on the base itself. The base hosts some 6,000 Joint Services personnel, Department of Defense civilians, family members, contract personnel, local and foreign national employees.
The story of Guantanamo Bay Naval Base begins in 1903 when the United States secured a lease agreement with Cuba under the Platt Amendment. This agreement gave the U.S. control over the bay’s territory, primarily for coaling and naval purposes. Over time, the base expanded to accommodate a wide range of facilities, including airstrips and a naval station. The base played a significant role during the Cold War, serving as a strategic outpost for the U.S. military.
One of the most significant controversies surrounding Guantanamo Bay is its use as a detention center for suspected terrorists captured during the post-9/11 War on Terror. In January 2002, the first detainees arrived at the detention facility, known as Camp Delta. The U.S. government argued that these detainees were not entitled to the same legal rights and protections as traditional prisoners of war, leading to severe human rights concerns.
Perhaps the most notable aspect of this controversy was the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques,” including waterboarding, sleep deprivation, and stress positions, which many consider to be forms of torture. These practices drew widespread condemnation from international human rights organizations, including the United Nations, and raised ethical and legal questions about the treatment of detainees at Guantanamo.
But there’s more to Gitmo, as it’s called, than the detention center. It and has an excellent climate, a relatively short rainy season, and beaches with swimming, scuba diving, snorkeling, fishing, paddle boarding, kayaking, and boating opportunities.
As Military OneSource puts it, “Living and working at NSGB is not, however, for everyone. There is no access to the rest of Cuba, and transiting on and off base via air only may be difficult at certain times, and getting a seat on a particular flight is not always guaranteed. The weather is hot or warm all year long, with little change in seasons. While there is an on-base hospital, those with medical conditions requiring frequent visits or treatment may not find their particular services available. Mail and package delivery also takes longer than at Continental United States locations. Security considerations can impact photography and other hobbies. And, owing to the location and challenges of delivery, grocery, dining, and shopping activities are fewer than those found in larger and less isolated places.”
Join us to talk with those who have served in this historic and contested location.
Thank you to Tobacco Free Adagio Health for sponsoring this event!