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Presentation for the 4th International Seminar for Peace and Abolition of Foreign Military Bases

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Reprinted from Code Pink

Note: This speech was presented on November 25, 2015

First, let me thank the World Peace Council (WPC) and the Cuban Movement for Peace and Sovereignty of the Peoples (MovPaz), Regional Coordinator of the WPC for America and the Caribbean, for planning and hosting the 4th International Seminar for Peace and Abolition of Foreign Military Bases.

I am honored to speak at this conference specifically about the need to abolish United States military bases in the Caribbean, Central and South America. First, let me state on behalf the delegations from the United States, and particularly our delegation with CODEPINK: Women for Peace, we apologize for the continuing presence of the U.S. Naval Base here in Guantanamo and for the U.S. military prison that has put a dark shadow over the name of your beautiful city of Guantanamo.

We call for the closing of the prison and the return of the U.S. naval base after 112 years to the rightful owners, the people of Cuba. Any contract for use of land in perpetuity signed by a puppet government of the beneficiary of the contract cannot stand. The U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo is not necessary for U.S. defense strategy. Instead, it harms U.S. national defense as other nations and people see it for what it is -- a knife in the heart of the Cuban revolution, a revolution the United States has attempted to overthrow since 1958.

I want to recognize the 85 members of the various delegations from the United States -- 60 from CODEPINK: Women for Peace, 15 from Witness Against Torture and 10 from United National Anti-War Coalition. All have been challenging policies of the U.S. government for decades, particularly the economic and financial blockade of Cuba, the return of the Cuban Five and return of the land of the naval base of Guantanamo.

Secondly, I am an unlikely participant in today's conference due to my near 40 years of working in the United States government. I served 29 years in the U.S. Army/Army Reserves and retired as a Colonel. I was also a U.S. diplomat for 16 years and served in U.S. Embassies in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia, Afghanistan and Mongolia.

However, in March 2003, I was one of three U.S. government employees who resigned in opposition to President Bush's war on Iraq. Since then, I, as well as most everyone on our delegation, have been publicly challenging policies of the Bush and Obama administrations on a variety of international and domestic issues including extraordinary rendition, unlawful imprisonment, torture, assassin drones, police brutality, mass incarceration, and U.S. military bases around the world, including of course, the U.S. military base and prison in Guantanamo.

I was last here in Guantanamo in 2006 with a CODEPINK delegation that held a protest at the back gate of the US military base to close the prison and return the base to Cuba. Accompanying us was one of the first prisoners to be released, a British citizen, Asif Iqbal. While here we showed to almost one thousand persons in the large movie theater in Guantanamo city and to members of the diplomatic corps when we returned to Havana, the documentary movie "The Road to Guantanamo," the story of how Asif and two others came to be imprisoned by the United States. When we asked Asif if he would consider coming back to Cuba on our delegation after three years of imprisonment, he said, "Yes, I would like to see Cuba and meet Cubans -- all I saw when I was there were Americans."

The mother and brother of a still imprisoned British resident Omar Deghayes joined our delegation, and I will never forget Omar's mother looking through the fence of the base asking: "Do you think Omar knows we are here?" The rest of the world knew she was as international TV broadcasting from outside the fence brought her words to the world. After Omar was released a year later, he told his mother that a guard told him that his mother had been outside the prison, but Omar, not surprisingly, didn't know whether to believe the guard or not.

After nearly 14 years of imprisonment in Guantanamo prison, 112 prisoners remain. 52 of them were cleared for release years ago and are still held, and incomprehensibly, the U.S. maintains that 46 will be imprisoned indefinitely without charge or trial.

Let me assure you, many, many of us continue our struggle in the United States demanding a trial for all prisoners and the closing of the prison in Guantanamo.

The sordid history of the past 14 years of the United States imprisoning 779 persons from 48 countries on a U.S. military base in Cuba as a part of its global war "on terror" reflects the mentality of those who govern the United States -- global intervention for political or economic reasons, invasion, occupation other countries and leaving its military bases in those countries for decades.

Now, to speaking about other U.S. bases in the Western Hemisphere -- in Central and South America and the Caribbean.

The 2015 U.S. Department of Defense Base Structure Report states that the DOD has property in 587 bases in 42 countries, the majority located in Germany (181 sites), Japan (122 sites), and South Korea (83 sites). The Department of Defense classifies 20 of the overseas bases as large, 16 as medium, 482 as small and 69 as "other sites."

These smaller and "other sites" are called "lily pads" and are generally in remote locations and are either secret or tacitly acknowledged to avoid protests that might lead to restrictions on their use. They usually have a small number of military personnel and no families. They sometimes reply on private military contractors whose actions the U.S. government can deny. To maintain a low profile, the bases are hidden within host country bases or on the edge of civilian airports.

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Ann Wright is a 29-year US Army/Army Reserves veteran, a retired United States Army colonel and retired U.S. State Department official, known for her outspoken opposition to the Iraq War. She received the State Department Award for Heroism in 1997, after helping to evacuate several thousand (more...)
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