I have found this examination of the history of Guantánamo Bay fascinating. I have studied a fair amount of history throughout high school and college, but I have never studied anything surrounding Guantánamo Bay. I feel that everyone should know at least some history of Guantánamo along with why we still are able to remain in control of it. I feel that it can be an uncomfortable topic, since the history surrounding it has not been the finest moments for the United States. However, that is exactly why I think that we need to know the history so we can learn from it and not repeat what we have done there anywhere else.
Many people know about Guantánamo post 9/11 but very few know anything before that. I found that learning about the more distant past of Guantánamo has been the most interesting part of this class. I am especially struck by the very beginning of the U.S. lease on Guantánamo including the end of the Spanish-American War and the War for Cuban Independence. America entered at the end of the War for Cuban Independence, which, some argue, Cubans could have won by themselves. This war is the reason the United States originally set up its naval base at Guantánamo Bay. Then in 1903 Cuba and the United States signed a lease allowing Guantánamo to be used as a naval and coaling station to supply coal-driven vessels. The agreement that Guantánamo be used solely as a naval and coaling station has clearly been violated by the United States, a fact that, if engaged, might lead people to change their ideas about the base.
I was surprised most by learning that the U.S. signed a perpetual lease to Guantánamo that gave the U.S. government tremendous control over the landscape. While Guantánamo has been the subject of discussion after 9/11, most are probably unaware of these terms.
These are just a few of the things that I have learned in a fairly short amount of time though class and I think that everyone should take a little bit of time and learn more about Guantánamo. I think that people should not make decisions about things they are not educated on, and that is why if people were more knowledgeable about Guantánamo they could formulate better ideas and decisions about what we should do with it now. It is very important to consider the past while looking at the future to make sure we do not repeat the same mistakes we have made in the past. The more people know about our current situation at Guantánamo the more pressure we can put on the government to change things we don’t like and, maybe, finally put an end to the black hole that is the U.S. naval base at Guantánamo Bay.
The picture I chose is a very powerful image to me. It is a picture of barbed wire at Camp Delta at Guantánamo Bay with an American flag in the background positioned so the flag appears to be encircled by the barbed wire. The juxtaposition of the barbed wire and the flag has a huge effect by employing reference systems that almost everyone would understand. The barbed wire represents Guantánamo Bay, being trapped, being in prison, and I think overall an atmosphere of violence. The American flag traditionally represents equality, freedom, and justice. The way the barbed wire is positioned around the flag it is as if the freedom of the United States is being constricted and blocked by the barbed wire. Another interesting effect to note is that the flag is blurred out just a little bit while the barbed wire is in sharp focus. This is putting the wire in the forefront of the image implying that the America is being obscured or blocked out by the wire, which represents Guantánamo. This is a very simple image that carries enormous weight behind it and is definitely worth more than just scanning the surface.
Posted by William Vann – University of Minnesota – Twin Cities
The University of Minnesota – Twin Cities is participating in the Guantánamo Public Memory Project‘s National Dialogue and Traveling Exhibit. Opening at NYU’s Kimmel Center for University Life Windows Gallery in December 2012 and traveling to 9 sites (and counting) across the country through at least 2014, the exhibit will explore GTMO’s history from US occupation in 1898 to today’s debates and visions for its future. The exhibit is being developed through a unique collaboration among a growing number of universities as a dialogue among their students, communities, and people with first-hand experience at GTMO.