By Jacob G. Hornberger*
The U.S. Empire, which controls much of the world through hundreds of military bases in foreign countries, through foreign regimes run by domestic U.S. puppets, and through foreign dependency on U.S. foreign aid, got its start in 1898 during the Spanish American War. It was that war that enabled the Empire to acquire its imperialist domain in Cuba known as Guantanamo Bay, which is now the Empire’s premier international indefinite-detention prison, torture center, and kangaroo judicial system.
The late 1800s were a time of worldwide empires. Great Britain, France, Spain, and others were empires, possessing and oftentimes brutally controlling people in faraway colonies. Although the U.S. Constitution had called into existence a limited-government republic, by the time the latter part of the 19th century had arrived, many Americans had been swept up in the pro-empire fervor, owing largely to the Progressive movement, which was also influencing America toward embracing the worldwide move toward socialism and interventionism. The Progressive idea was that in order for the United States to become a great nation, it needed to become an empire, just like other empires.
In 1898, Cuba and other possessions of the Spanish Empire were fighting for their freedom and independence. Since this was a time in which U.S. officials were still following the Constitution’s declaration-of-war requirement, President William McKinley sought and secured a declaration of war against Spain, with the ostensible aim of helping the Spanish colonies win their freedom and independence.
It was a lie and a double cross of those who were fighting for their freedom and independence. In fact, the real aim was to replace the Spanish Empire by defeating it and taking possession and control over its colonies, with the aim of making America great by converting it into an empire.
Upon winning the war, the U.S. took control of Cuba, the Philippines, Guam, and Puerto Rico. The Filipinos kept fighting, this time against the world’s newest empire, the United States. For a good account of that war and what it did to American values, see “ America’s Other Original Sin ” by Andrew J. Bacevich, which appeared this week in the American Conservative.
The Cubans, on the other hand, surrendered to U.S. power. As part of its victory, the new U.S. Empire forced Cuban officials to entire into a lease that granted the empire a perpetual lease of the 45-square-mile property known as Guantanamo Bay.
The lease provided for payment of $2,000 per year in gold coin. After President Franklin Roosevelt nationalized gold in the United States, in 1934 U.S. officials forced Cubans to accept a modification of the lease that enabled the Empire to pay Cuba $4,000 in U.S. paper money, an amount that, needless to say, has significantly decreased in value over the decades owing to the Empire’s inflationary financial policies.
The Cubans don’t cash the checks the Empire sends them because their position is that the lease isn’t valid anyway.
From a legal standpoint, the Cubans are right. Since the lease agreements for Gitmo were made under conditions of force, fraud, and duress, they have been null and void from their inception. Moreover, since the leases provide for no fixed expiration date, that also makes them null and void under the law.
Of course though, the law is irrelevant. All that matters is force. Since the U.S. Empire is much more powerful than the Spanish Empire was, there is absolutely nothing the Cubans can do to regain their property.
Beyond the illegality of the U.S. Empire’s control of Gitmo, Americans need to ask a critically important question: What business does the U.S. government have owning and operating an imperialist military outpost in a foreign country? America was founded as a limited-government republic, not an empire.
Moreover, the Progressives have been proven wrong in the assertion that the way to national greatness lies in empire. It’s the exact opposite. An empire weakens, corrupts, and ultimately destroys a nation, not only through the out-of-control spending and debt required to sustain it but also through the moral degradation that comes with forcibly controlling and brutalizing people in faraway lands.
After all, look at the stain of immorality that the U.S. national security establishment — i.e., the Pentagon and the CIA — has brought to our nation because of Guantanamo Bay. How can a nation whose government establishes an indefinite detention prison, a torture center, and a kangaroo judicial system in an overseas imperialist outpost, with the express intention to avoid the Constitution and the Supreme Court, be considered a great nation? That’s the sort of thing that totalitarian nations, not great ones, do.
It’s time to dismantle the U.S. Empire and restore our founding principle of a limited-government republic to the United States. A great place to start would be by giving Guantanamo Bay back to Cuba, followed by a termination of all foreign aid, a closure of all foreign military bases, and an end to regime-change operations around the world.
*About the author: Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. Originally published by the Future of Freedom Foundation.
Source: This article was published by the MISES Institute