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Guantánamo: An American History Hardcover – October 11, 2011

4.3 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Jonathan M. Hansen has dug beneath all the self-serving American myths about the history of Guantánamo Bay to expose a fascinating--and enduring--colonial enterprise. It makes a great story, which Hansen carries through to its latest twist--the use of Guantánamo as a prison for suspected terrorists, some of whom were subjected to torture. Hansen shines a bright new light on Bush administration lawlessness.” ―Anthony Lewis, winner of the Pulitzer Prize

“In this brilliant blend of social and political history, Jonathan M. Hansen puts a small but critically important corner of the American empire under the microscope. What he reveals may not be pretty, but it's powerfully instructive and endlessly fascinating.” ―Andrew J. Bacevich, author of Washington Rules: America's Path to Permanent War

“Most accounts of the United States in Cuba paint heroes and villains in black and white according to the author's political perspective. With exquisite craftsmanship, Jonathan M. Hansen paints in all the subtle shades of gray required to illuminate the tangled history of this highly charged symbol of American power. This fascinating book is the one to read if you want to understand what lies beneath the current controversies surrounding Guantánamo.” ―James T. Kloppenberg, Chair of the History Department and Charles Warren Professor of American History, Harvard University

“With wit and verve, Jonathan M. Hansen illuminates the long, strange, compelling, and troubling story of Guantánamo. A vivid and thoughtful writer, Hansen employs Guantánamo as a prism to reveal the tangled construction of an overseas American empire.” ―Alan Taylor, winner of the Pulitzer Prize

“As former commander in chief of the U.S. Southern Command, I thought I knew everything there was to know about Guantánamo. And then I read Jonathan M. Hansen's book. This is essential reading for all who are curious about how America got into its current predicament--and about America's global aspirations reaching back before the United States was even a country.” ―General Barry R. McCaffrey, USA (Ret)

“As we confront the future of Guantanamo, we need to know the long and complex pre- 9/11 history of this unique place. Jonathan M. Hansen's important and deeply researched book delivers that fascinating and often disturbing history.” ―Thomas Bender, author of A Nation among Nations

“Like a rough tear in the fabric of our national identity, the United States' presence at Guantánamo Bay betrays the paradox that has shaped our history: the U.S. has been, since its inception, both a bastion of independence and an imperial nation. In this enthralling and meticulously researched narrative, the historian Jonathan M. Hansen lays bare the uncomfortable truths that precipitated our occupation of a small and fiercely independent neighbor. Guantánamo has been a stronghold of American influence over an independent Cuba, a holding pen for Haitian refugees living with HIV, and, more recently, the site of human rights atrocities at its notorious prison camp. Here, Hansen offers a clear-eyed and fearless examination of the place that remains a global theatre for the consequences of America's pursuit of power.” ―Paul Farmer, United Nations Deputy Special Envoy to Haiti

“This well-researched and well-written book will appeal to all readers.” ―Library Journal

“In this well-written and lively account of a place most Americans find thoroughly mysterious, Jonathan M. Hansen, a historian at Harvard University, offers a carefully crafted history of one of America's most paradoxical possessions, viewed in connection to United States national interest.” ―Charles R. Gallagher, America: The Catholic Weekly

“Hansen's book is the best, and certainly the most comprehensive, I've read on Guantanamo.” ―Dr. Wayne S. Smith, Senior Fellow and director of the Cuba program at the Center for International Policy in Washington, D.C.

About the Author

Jonathan M. Hansen, a historian at Harvard University, is the author of The Lost Promise of Patriotism: Debating American Identity, 1890–1920.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Hill and Wang; 1St Edition edition (October 11, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0809053411
  • ISBN-13: 978-0809053414
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.6 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #332,157 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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By Judith Hallenbeck on March 22, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In 1956 as a young girl of 16 moving to Guantanamo Bay, due to my father being assigned to the Naval Hospital, it was just another move as a Navy Junior. Now some 56 years later and after reading Mr. Hansen's book, Guantanamo, An American History, I realize what a privilege it was to live in a place with so much exciting history and so much more history to come.

I can attest to the 1956-1958 period and the Coral Reef yearbook. Imagine my surprise to see my name and those of my classmates in the book. We were typical teenagers living in an unusual place free to do whatever we wanted.

Instead of writing what could have been an extremely dry book Mr. Hansen has written a very readable one starting with US relations with Spain and ending with the ongoing imprisonment of 9/11 detainees.

Many mistakes have been made by the United States in Guantanamo and relations that ensued with Cuba,Haiti, Russia, etc. but I don't think the book represents a bashing of the United States. It is a statement of fact. We have in the past and continue now to impose our will and what we think is best on other countries. Is this practice wrong-only time will tell.

Judy
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Well written , a lot of historical detail, gives you much insight and the origins of American rights to the base at Guantanamo Bay. Much better understanding of the issues relating to present day Guantanamo.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Great piece of research. I appreciated the geology and anthropology pages. Best treatment of the Platt debate both in U.S. and Cuba. Thorough and clearly stated. If U.S. Latin American policy following the Spanish-American War reads 'imperialist' with a tinge of 'divine right', so be it. It was. It isn't pretty by today's standards. And hypocricy seems never to go out of fashion. Panama, Mexico, Nicaragua, Haiti, Guatemala and others have experienced similar treatment. We must continue to read histories like this until we learn a little humility. If the truth hurts, find out why. Scholarship such as this certainly enlightens us all and might even influence Washington. One would hope.
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Format: Hardcover
Sometimes a single place or incident becomes a lens for viewing a huge expanse of time and events. In this book, Jonathan Hansen has made Guantanamo a larger than life location from which the history of the Americas and particularly the United States can be viewed. The connections of so many famous figures to this place and the seemingly never ending American fascination with Guantanamo and Cuba comes completely alive and engages you with its twists and turns. I agree with the reviewer who wrote that it was hard to put down the book as one follows Guantanamo from incidents like the early military engagement there involving George Washington's half brother to the Cuban Revolution and on to the present disgrace of the US prison there. The writing style sets a quick and easy pace while the historical details are absolutely fascinating. This book is so relevant as we debate what should be the extent of our current foreign involvements today; Hansen artfully allows the reader to think through their own perspective on these issues while trying to learn from the past. This is not just a history of Guantanamo but a wonderful piece of writing that brings a new perspective on the American experience. It will surprise and capture you.
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Format: Hardcover
Jonathan Hansen’s well-written and thoroughly researched Guantanamo: An American History, impacted me in two ways. It helped fill the void in my understanding of America’s imperialistic efforts at the beginning of our country’s founding leading to Cuba in general and Guantanamo Bay in particular; and, it resonated with many of my own memories of being stationed at Gitmo in 1956 and 1957. The latter part of my stay was influenced to a degree by Fidel Castro’s gathering revolution: no liberty on Cuban soil, shipmates’ tales of nightly shots being fired in Guantanamo City near their familys’ homes, threats of shutting off the base’s water supply, guarding the fence line and beaches against infiltration, all mentioned in the book.

Hansen points out that Castro was not showing communist leanings at this time. That opens an interesting speculation of what might have been had the U.S. removed its support from Fulgencio Batista, Cuba’s President, and fostered an alliance with Castro. Perhaps the author will cover this aspect more thoroughly in his upcoming book on Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution.

The book’s excellent base map and a visit to the Gitmo area via Google Earth helped refresh my recollection of our SeaBee camp location, layout of the base, various work sites involving our battalion, and as an aid in referencing locations the author discusses. Unfortunately, the dark cloud of the contentious detainee situation flavors the concluding chapters.

I highly recommend Guantanamo: An American History to those with an interest in American history and to those who had a personal involvement through military service there. My only regret is the book’s material up to the mid-1950s was not available during my own time at Gitmo.
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Format: Hardcover
As one who was stationed at Guantanamo Naval Base for two years, from July 1959 to July 1961, I found this book very interesting, informative and well researched and written. I take serious issue with those reviewers who feel that the author was unfairly critical of the U.S. and some of its policies over the years. To me it is quite clear that our country made many mistakes concerning a number of issues in which Guantanamo was either central or peripheral. What makes our country strong is the ability to discover those mistakes, reassess them and try not to repeat them in the future. As I think many of us have learned over the past 10 years our country is not perfect, but that it is still the best country in our difficult world. For those who are interested in U.S. history, this is a well done look at an important segment of our history and I recommend it highly.
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