Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Supreme Court Ends the Other Tyranny on Cuban Soil

The United States would never think of violating Cuban sovereignty again by removing the tyrant it installed 50 years ago in our country, but it has no problem usurping that very sovereignty by committing atrocities on Cuban soil which U.S. law would prohibit on U.S. territory.

Guantánamo Naval Base, of course, is Cuban territory under U.S. jurisdiction. It was leased "in perpetuity" in 1901 as a naval coaling station during the U.S. Occupation of the island that followed the Spanish-American War. The U.S. refused to end its occupation unless Cuba's Constituent Assembly approved the lease of Guantánamo and incorporated the Platt Amendment into the new Cuban Constitution. Actually, the Americans originally wanted ten bases in Cuba. It was a pyrrhic victory that Cubans were able to keep them to one.

Under international law, then as now, the U.S. could not just take a chunk of Cuban territory as recompense for "liberating it." France, after all, did not claim Chesapeake Bay as its due for winning America's independence at Yorktown in 1789. Nor, do I think, will the U.S. claim the oil fields in Iraq as compensation for liberating it. Back in 1901, however, the U.S. was just getting its bearings as an imperialist power and pretty much did as it wanted in regard to its pseudo-colonies. That "lease in perpetuity" was a triumph of American gunboat diplomacy. Under international law, no such thing ever existed before or since.

No doubt the U.S. would have returned Guantánamo to Cuban jurisdiction at the time it agreed to cede the Panama Canal to Panama except for Fidel Castro. The Panama Canal Zone, where, incidentally, John McCain was born during his father's term of service there, was indeed U.S. territory, not "leased" from the Panamanians. Guantánamo is not. It is that legal fact which allowed the Bush administration to subvert the Constitution and the Rule of Law by aping the worst abuses of Fidel Castro in the land where, apparently, all rights end for everybody.

Since Castro does it to his own people, Bush figured that he was also entitled to torture his enemies on Cuban soil, deprive them of all rights under the U.S. Constitution and the Geneva Convention, and, without bringing charges against them in an American court, hold them indefinitely as the U.S. once did the Mariel excludables. Infinitely worse than the internment of the Japanese during World War II as "enemy aliens," the confinement of these 270 political prisoners under truly inhuman conditions and in violation of all norms of international law has weakened the U.S. position as an advocate of human rights throughout the world and led directly to the revamping of the U.N. Human Rights Commission, which in the past had condemned Communist Cuba but which is now controlled by its terrorist allies, and the election of a Sandinista relique as president of the General Assembly. George Bush not only did great damage to this country but empowered, indeed, resurrected its enemies when he agreed to stand on the same moral plane with them.

Today the Supreme Court restored America's moral equilibrium when it ruled that the detainees at Guantánamo have the right to challenge their detentions in U.S. Courts. In a 5-4 decision, it struck down the parts of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 that would have created special military tribunals to hear their cases. Under the provisions of this Act the detainees would not have been allowed access to the evidence against them and hence would not have been able to refute it (if, in fact, any such evidence existed). It is the closest that the U.S. has ever come to establishing star chambres since the Sedition Act of 1798. Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy noted that "The laws and the Constitution are designed to survive, and remain in force, even in extraordinary times." We should all hope so.


Anonymous said...

I couldn't find History of Cuba part III on your blog. Did you write it already? Great articles.Thanks.

Agustin Farinas said...

"Infinitely worse than the internment of the Japanese during World War II as "enemy aliens," the confinement of these 270 political prisoners under truly inhuman conditions and in violation of all norms of international law has weakened the U.S. position as an advocate of human rights" (???)

I think you are playing into the hands of the US enemies when you say this. I saw many reports, including a very good one from the BBC, about the living conditions of these detainees and they far from inhuman. They have specially prepared meals, in accordance with their religion, they pray 4 times a day facing Mecca as required by their religion and they enjoyed games and exercises in the sun. That is a lot better than any Cuban can expect to see in Castro's jails. Stern? Yes, inhuman? No. Sorry, I have to disagree with you on this one.

Anonymous said...

Manuel is more worried about the terrorists in Gitmo than he is about the political prisoners in Castro's jails.
MAT, you better keep talking about Babalu because when you try to write about anything else you stick your foot in your mouth.
Stick to Henry and Val, would you?

Manuel A.Tellechea said...


With which specific points do you disagree?

1). The U.S. has no right to hold political prisoners on Cuban soil as that is a violation of Cuba's sovereignty. We must guard the sovereignty of our country as the Castro clan will not.

2). The U.S. has admitted that detainees have been kidnapped, tortured and otherwise abused while in U.S. custody. The U.S. has no right to torture prisoners on U.S. soil. Neither does it have the right to torture them on Cuban soil.

3). The detainees at Guantánamo are denied all recourse of the law. They are kept there precisely so that they would not be able to avail themselves of the protections guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution to all defendents.

4). If the U.S. has evidence against the detainees that would stand up in court, why does it not use it to secure convictions in U.S. courts? Why detain them indefinitely without due process or try them before kangaroo courts unless the government fears that they not guilty, or, at least, that it can't prove their guilt.

Manuel A.Tellechea said...


I am worried about every miscarriage of justice on Cuban soil whether committed by Castro or Bush.

I want both Castro and the U.S. out of Cuba.

I want the Rule of Law upheld on either side of Gitmo's fence.

Anonymous said...

"I want both Castro and the U.S. out of Cuba."

Guantanamo Naval base is not in Cuban soil

It is located in US soil for life

Get it

Manuel A.Tellechea said...


Guantánamo Naval Base is Cuban territory which is leased to the United States. That is the reason that Bush uses it as a dumping ground for his country's "undesirables." He would not be able to hold them indefinitely in U.S. jails without according them due process. Nor, theoretically, would he be able to torture them.

In Cuba, however, Bush does as the Castros do.

Agustin Farinas said...

the Catholic church in Cuba sinks to a new alltime low. Read the article and you can form your own opinion about Monsignor Cespedes.

Warning: take some anti-acid before reading it unless you want to vomit from disgust.

Agustin Farinas said...

you did not address te pint as was making. While I agree with you about the other points you made, their treatment is not inhuman as you have stated. Unless you consider granting them their own chosen food, praying 4 times a days as required by their religion, food intake according to their religion also, and exercising in the sun. These are things the Cuban prisoners are only dreaming of in Castro's dungeons.
As for me, I would have them tried and sentenced to jail a long time ago. End of the problem. Or even if they are proven guilty of massacres of innocents people, execute them.
Muerto el perro se acabo la rabia.

Fantomas said...

My tenure commenting in this blog is coming to an abrupt end. Creo que I have benefit RCAB greatly. It is time to move to a higher level of discussion and debate. i'm considering moving to Penultimos Dias and Los miquis de Miami for a while . so if you want to engage with me It will have to be done over there and mostly en español

I wish Manuel the best or I should say until Nov 5 , 2008 si Gana Obama

6/12/2008 5:25 PM

Manuel A.Tellechea said...


Then we are agreed. They should be tried in U.S. courts with all the protections afforded by the Constitution.

That would also get them out of Cuba, which I am sure you would also have no objection to.

As for their current treatment at Guantánamo, I would not be surprised if it had improved in the wake of stories documenting past mistreatment.

Yet the detainees have been imprisoned for years without due process, and, except for today's Supreme Court ruling, they might have spent their entire lives without the hope of justice.

Agustin Farinas said...

Well now Fantomas has decided to move to los Miquis de Miami. I think that now he has really chosen a great place to comment. The level of discourse there and the language used by the commenters are more in tune with Fantomas's level of intelligence and education. He should feel among his peers there with the gutter language and insults used by their commenters.

As far as Penultimos Dias all I can say is: Dios mio, les cayo carcoma!

Manuel A.Tellechea said...


Henry is now Babalú's Managing Editor. Perhaps you could beg him to rescind your ban. Or, perhaps, your departure from this blog may be a means to achieve that.

Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Ay, Fantomita we all know you are under pressure to stop coming here. It's either that or the boys at babalu will drop you from their blogroll. Adios!

serafin el carnicero said...

agustin said :

"I saw many reports, including a very good one from the BBC, about the living conditions of these detainees and they far from inhuman."

I have also seen many reports, including a few from the BBC, ABOUT LIVING CONDITIONS IN CUBA. All Cubans enjoy free education and free medicine-- that place is a paradise...

Ms Calabaza said...

I have to tell you that I have not lost one millisecond of sleep over these detainees in Guantanamo. I wish the US would have tried them and sentenced them a looooooong time ago under military tribunals and be done with it. I agree with Agustin in that I don't think they have been subjected to inhumane conditions. I do agree with you though, that there is no reason to keep these folks locked up indefinitely with no trial.

Manuel A.Tellechea said...

ms. calabaza:

Something to consider:

Since George Bush did not use the opportunity which he had for 8 years to try the detainees, it is likely that Barack Obama will release them en masse if he is elected president. He wouldn't even have to pardon them because they've never been convicted of anything. "Potential dangerousness" is not a crime under U.S. Civil Code or Military Code.

Agustin Farinas said...

"All Cubans enjoy free education and free medicine--"

Well, I do not know about enjoy, but don't they have it for free?
Now ,whether is good, then that is a horse of a different color.
BBC and many others have run the reports about the living conditions. You are in jail there, it is not a golf country club, but from there to inhuman, is a long stretch.
If only the Cuban prisoners had the food and the exercise allowed these wonderful folks, they would be very glad.
Sorry Serafin, I don't buy it.

BTW, I don't believe the BBC glowing reports such as they are about Cuba, since we have relatives which tells us how things are. I don't have to rely on someone who traveled from Coventry or Leeds to Cuba, to tell me how Cubans live outside the Guantanamo base.

Agustin Farinas said...

I agree with your last comment. They should be brought to the US from Cuba and face the criminal justice system with the rights all our citizen enjoy, and have their due process whether in a military or a civil tribunal.
If found guilty, then sentence them to long terms in jail. If they are found innocent, send them back to their countries of origin.
To hold them in suspended animation like they are now, even if is done without physical mistreatment, is inhuman and not worthy of a democracy like the US.

Julio Rey said...

Very good post, Manuel. Very Libertarian (not meant as an insult).

Vana said...


Remember the Nazis allowed the Red Cross to visit Terazin, which they found to be a model prison.

Who's to say all that sunning and praying was not just for the cameras?

Vana said...


You are right, this is the post the Justice Department should have read. Superb!

Vana said...

My tenure here is coming to an abrut end, where have I heard that before? anyone?

Mamey said...

I wonder who that idiot is who says Guantanamo Naval Base "is not in Cuban soil." Do we still have to put up with Plattistas?
There is no question that torture has taken place in Guantanamo. The Bush administration has violated the U.S. Constitution--to ignore this undermines democracy and freedom. Are we to ape the terrorists by ignoring due process and the rule of law? This has nothing to do with caring about those monsters. It has a lot to do with the survival of civilized institutions. Since the early days of the Cuban Revolution one of its biggest victims has been the practice of due process. Cubans should be especialy wary of this type of behavior.