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One Man’s Thoughts: What Should We Do With Guantanamo Bay

by Rev. John L. Colburn

Brief Background:

The 45-square mile site of the United States Naval Station at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba was first leased by the American government in 1903 – as a coaling station during the Spanish-American war.  In the years that followed, America became a major player in Cuba’s economy.  After the Cuban Revolution in 1959 and Fidel Castro’s rise to power, the U.S. ended diplomatic relations with Cuba but retained the base.  More recently, in the aftermath of 9/11, President George W. Bush made it, in the words of The New York Times, “the central prison for suspects considered unlawful enemy combatants in the war on terror.”  Controversy has swirled about it ever since.  Two days after his inauguration – on 1/22/09 – President Barack Obama directed the closing of the Guantánamo Bay detention camp within a year.  There are still detainees imprisoned there.

If Guantánamo Bay closes, what then?  What should become of those 45 acres and the buildings on them?  Here are my* suggestions:

  • First – clear and detonate all ordnance on the premises.
  • Second – redeem, reclaim, and rehabilitate the premises.  The beaches should be cleared and cleaned to make it possible for people to swim, sun bathe and hike the beaches and a pier erected from which people can fish.
  • Third – the number of buildings and facilities should be reduced – but not totally obliterated.  A skeleton structure should remain to show what went on there – both good and bad.
  • Fourth – no ordnance, guns or knives should be allowed on the premises and Guantánamo Bay should never again be a naval or other military base, prison or place of incarceration. 
  • Fifth – Guantánamo Bay should be offered to the United Nations as an International Park for rest and recreation, with no casinos, large buildings, hotels or inns allowed for 15 years.  Cuba should then be given legal jurisdiction, with the stipulations previously listed – including no weapons and should be free to build or encourage the building of casinos, hotels and inns on the perimeters of Guantánamo Bay.  Anyone who violates these stipulations should be removed from the premises and not allowed to return.


*These are my recommendation as a citizen of the United States of America.  Born in California in 1922, I was raised in Huntington Beach and Long Beach, graduated from Woodrow Wilson High School in Long Beach in 1941 and I served in the U.S. Marines Corp during World War II.  I graduated from UCLA in 1951 and from Yale University Divinity School in 1955 then, an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ (for 54 years) served churches in Ohio and California.
Editor’s Note:  Recently deceased, Rev. Colburn was married to Carol for 61 years and had five children, six grandchildren and one great grandchild

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