Green Gitmo: A Way to Redeem Prison's Dark History

2016-03-21T13:39:40+00:00 March 21, 2016|
A sea turtle offshore from the U.S. naval station at Guantanamo Bay. (Credit: James Cornwell, U.S. Army)

(Click to enlarge) A sea turtle offshore from the U.S. naval station at Guantanamo Bay. (Credit: James Cornwell, U.S. Army)

A Science proposal for how Obama could redeem prison’s dark history

(From ScienceDaily) — On February 23, President Obama announced plans to close the notorious military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Whether he’ll be able to is a hot political question. Now, Joe Roman, a conservation biologist at the University of Vermont, and James Kraska, professor of law at the U.S. Naval War College, are asking the next question: what to do with Gitmo after the detainees are gone?

Their answer: transform the naval base into a marine research center and international peace park.

The new proposal was published in Science, one of the world’s top academic journals, on March 17, days before the U.S. President’s trip to Cuba.

Woods Hole South

“Guantánamo could become the Woods Hole of the Caribbean,” says Roman, referring to the famous U.S. ocean science center. “This could be a powerful way for the Obama administration to achieve the president’s 2008 campaign promise to close the prison–while protecting a de facto nature reserve and some of the most important coral reefs in the world.”

Kraska sees advantages for the U.S. military as well. “Our view is that the proposal looks down range to what might be possible or beneficial for the natural environment and for the Pentagon,” he notes. The Department of Defense faces an “overhang of base infrastructure,” Kraska says, meaning that it may need to trim its operations and will likely be exploring which military installations to close. “The naval base at GTMO is a prime candidate” for closure, Kraska notes, “and could generate positive externalities”–like repurposing the navy facility into a research station for the benefit of marine conservation.

“This model, designed to attract both sides, could unite Cuba and the United States in joint management, rather than serve as a wedge between them,” the two scholars write, “while helping meet the challenges of climate change, mass extinction and declining coral reefs.”

Roman and Kraska’s op-ed notes that Cuba has more than three thousand miles of coastline, including some of the most pristine mangrove wetlands, seagrass beds, and tropical forests in the region. Perhaps as “an accidental Eden,” Roman says–because of Cuba’s years of political and economic isolation– and mostly from Cuba’s determined conservation efforts over the last few decades, the nation’s coral reefs, fish diversity, and marine life are “unparalleled in the Caribbean.”

“As U.S. involvement in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq winds down,” the researchers write, “and detainees are released or subject to criminal trial, perhaps the most compelling raison d’être for the Pentagon to possess the base disappears.” And the base’s other missions–like antidrug operations or search-and-rescue work–could move to the naval station at Key West, Florida, only 90 miles away.

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