Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, one of the nearly countless men identified by the American news media since 2001 as "al-Qaeda's No. 3 man," has confessed to planning the 9/11 attacks. The bean spillage occurred March 10, during a hearing conducted by the U.S. military at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
Speaking through a translator, K-Mo confessed responsibility for 31 attacks, including 9/11, the 1993 World Trade Center car bombing, the attempted shoe-bomb attack of a transatlantic jetliner in 2001, the murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, and the Bali nightclub bombing in 2002. Additionally, he claims to have fired at least two shots from the grassy knoll, bought Lincoln his theater tickets and that he, not Yoko Ono, broke up the Beatles. U.S. military lawyers asked K-Mo if he had anything to do with the sinking of the Titanic, but he denied involvement. "Iceberg is Jew weapon," he explained.
Most recent news stories about K-Mo's Gitmo confession have focused on an important, but narrow set of questions. Was his confession completely or even substantially true? Was he tortured and, if so, did he confess under duress? Does the U.S. military tribunal that will almost certainly convict and execute K-Mo have any legal or moral legitimacy? Will K-Mo's statement comparing Osama bin Laden to George Washington have any propaganda value among Muslim militants?
Surprisingly, to me anyway, not a single story I've seen recently about K-Mo or Gitmo has addressed this important question: How and why does the United States have a prison camp and naval base in a communist dictatorship ruled for the past half-century by 80-year-old Fidel Castro and his precocious kid brother, 75-year-old Raúl?
The answer is pretty simple. The United States has the base because it can and Cuba doesn't have the power to stop us. I shall 'splain, but first, a little history.
Guantánamo is Cuba's easternmost province. Foreigners with guns and ships have been loving them some Guantánamo for more than five centuries. In 1492, Columbus spotted Guantánamo from one of his ships, went ashore, and claimed Cuba for Spain. In 1511, Diego Velázquez (the conquistador, not the painter) established the first Spanish settlement in Cuba in Baracoa, on Guantánamo's Atlantic coast.
The Spanish ruled Cuba until 1898. That's when the U.S. Navy showed up in Guantánamo for the first time. They didn't come for the cigars. They came for the Spanish-American War, which ejected Spain from the Caribbean, made Teddy Roosevelt a national hero and made the United States the dominant foreign power in Latin America.
Five years later, under pressure from the U.S. military, Cuba's nominally independent government leased 45 square miles of Guantánamo Bay to the U.S. Navy for use as a coaling station. This was not a lease deal in the way you and I understand leases. This was a Godfather-style "make him an offer he can't refuse" sort of lease. Cuba had no real choice in the matter.
In 1934, the United States rewrote the lease, also Godfather-style. The key revision said the lease could not be terminated unless both sides agree to terminate. In other words, Cuba can't kick the United States out unless the United States agrees to be kicked out. The Guantánamo deal is to leasing as carjacking is to car rental.
The U.S. Naval Base Guantánamo Bay (the official name) is the United States' oldest overseas naval base. It is also the only U.S. base in a country with which the United States doesn't have normal diplomatic relations. Since going commie in 1959, Cuba's government has maintained that the U.S. base at Guantánamo is an illegal foreign military occupation. The United States disagrees and cites a lease that precedes Cuba's current government. It's as ridiculous as Spain claiming Louisiana as a Spanish possession by citing the 1763 Treaty of Paris.
With the exception of the U.S. naval base and prison, Guantánamo is best-known for a song. "Guantanamera" is a lovely, 80-year-old folk tune. Though it originated as a love song (Guantanamera means "girl from Guantánamo"), it evolved over the decades into a Cuban patriotic anthem. The verses are from a patriotic poem written by the poet of Cuban independence, José Martí. He died in battle against the Spanish in 1895.
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