First-time visitors might be surprised to learn that the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base offers a full complement of recreational activities. One can rent a kayak, visit a bowling alley, or stop by the arts and crafts pavilion operated by contractors for the Department of Defense.

And so it came to be that I found myself standing in the warm surf of a well-groomed Cuban–American beach, belongings perched on a lounge chair nearby. Behind me stood a series of shaded cabanas, a just-renovated restroom facility, and a posted sign admonishing visitors to please refrain from feeding the iguanas. To my right were beautiful rock formations protecting the cove from the strongest gusts of wind, and to my left loomed a picturesque rocky cliff with a sheer one-hundred-foot drop into the ocean. On top of that cliff, stark and unmistakable, stood one of the island’s famous military detention facilities. Encased in concentric rings of razor wire, it was flanked on all sides by spotlights and guard towers. The view from the top, for the undisclosed number of Saudis, Yemenis, and Pakistanis housed there for more than a decade, is no doubt breathtaking. . . .