Gitmo Hunger Strikers: What DO They Want?

(11:00AM EST – promoted by Nightprowlkitty)

I’m just gonna lose my damn mind. I’m reacting, partly, to some of the comments in the front page piece at dKos by Lithium Cola about forced feedings at Gitmo.

LC says:

President Obama has declared that America does not torture — an overly careful use of verb tense. However, even granting the present tense, and that the President’s claim is strictly about the current moment, the claim is false. According to the Red Cross report, force-feeding is never justified, is always torture. I am inclined to agree with the Red Cross. However, we need get into no debates about the morality of allowing a hunger-striker to die. It is inarguable that force-feeding a hunger striker who is not on the verge of death is a form of torture, and nothing other than a form of torture.  

There was a variety of replies, but this in an example of what set me off:

Force Feeding Is Torture (5+ / 0-)

I don’t believe that prisoners who starve themselves should be force fed.  If they die they die.

Uhm… WHAT?!?!?

Okay, in all fairness, they weren’t all like that, but it just makes me wonder… if “progressives” kneejerk like this, what’s going on in general? Well, most people know little or nothing about this, thanks to MSM and what passes for “journalism” these days. But, still.

So. Let’s back up a little. Try doing a google search for “Gitmo hunger strikers” and you’ll see reports dating back a few years. LIke this gem from CNN with the headline, on Sept 13, 2005, of “Hunger strike at Guantanamo grows; Eighteen detainees being force-fed; 128 now refusing to eat”.


Human rights activists and the Red Cross have criticized the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. The controversy surrounding the facility in recent months prompted some lawmakers to suggest that it may need to be shut down.

But Bush administration officials have defended Guantanamo Bay. Vice President Dick Cheney said in June that the U.S. Guantanamo policy “is the correct one” and that all detainees are “treated with respect and dignity.”

Dated a couple of weeks later, this piece in The Nation tells the story a little differently.

Still 2005, same episode.

Despite the traditional British hostility to free speech, every moment of Bobby Sands’s decline was broadcast live. In contrast, nothing we lawyers learn from our Guantánamo clients can be revealed until it passes the US government censors. Thus, two weeks went by before the public even knew there was a hunger strike, and the military has been allowed to dissemble on the details since.

From its inception, Guantánamo has relied on a soldier-speak that is replete with half-truths and distortions. In 2002 there was a ripple of concern at the number of Guantánamo detainees trying to take their own lives. The military then announced that suicide attempts had radically declined. It took a foreign journalist to expose the truth: The very word “suicide” had been replaced by the authorities with the term Manipulative Self-Injurious Behavior (SIB)–and there were still plenty of SIBs. The military was lying by semantics.

Similar dissimulation is taking place around the Guantánamo hunger strike, which began June 28. It was suspended July 28, when the military promised various concessions, terrified at the public relations prospect of having six prisoners in the hospital within forty-eight hours of death. The strike started again on August 11, because the detainees concluded that the military had broken its promises.

Defense Secretary Rumsfeld has insisted that the Guantánamo prisoners are being treated in a manner “consistent” with the Geneva Conventions. To end their hunger strike, the detainees ask simply that they be treated in a manner “consistent with the Geneva Conventions.” If Rumsfeld is telling the truth, why would the prisoners have to starve themselves to death?

Another one, April 2007 in The New York Times.

“My wish is to die,” one reported hunger striker in the camp, Adnan Farhan Abdullatif, a 27-year old Yemeni, told his lawyer on Feb. 27, according to recently declassified notes of the meeting. “We are living in a dying situation.”

Commander Durand, the Guantánamo spokesman, dismissed such accounts as part of an effort by the prisoners and their lawyers to discredit the detention mission. He described the new unit as much more comfortable than the detainees’ previous quarters, and denied that they suffered any greater sense of isolation in the new cell blocks.

“This was designed to improve living conditions,” Commander Durand said, “and we think it has.”

And so on.

What boggles my mind is the underlying attitude of the posters who suggest we “let them starve” rather than further torture them with the feeding tubes in restraints, seemed to be… well intended. Righteous even. Like, allow them the dignity of choosing their own fate or manner of death … somehow … or something.


My inclination is more to ask… well, what it is these “detainees” want, do you suppose?

Their freedom? Perhaps? Well, actually, not necessarily that in a total demanding immediate kind of way. But, how bout … Fair humane treatment. Due process, fairness, decency, uhm, a hearing maybe? know what the charges are? … stuff like that. Y’know…  justice?

Guantanamo Bay ‘torture’ prisoner will leave detention centre ‘insane or in a coffin’

Binyam Mohamed, the British resident being held prisoner at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, will only leave the detention centre ‘insane or in a coffin’ unless freed immediately, says his lawyer.

He has been on hunger strike since January 5 and has been force fed with a tube since January 14, his US military lawyer, Lt Col Yvonne Bradley said.

The detainee was “nothing but skin and bones” when she visited him a fortnight ago, she said.

Lt Col Bradley is in Britain this week to urge the Government to put pressure on Washington to have Mohamed released and returned to the UK.

She told a press conference in central London: “Mr Mohamed will leave Guantanamo Bay two ways if people don’t act.

“Either insane, because that is slowly what’s happening to him, or in a coffin because his condition is declining.”

source, Feb 11 2009

(Binyam Mohamed was released and returned to the UK on Feb 23, 2009.)

Back to the April 2007 NYT article:

“We don’t have any rights here, even after your Supreme Court said we had rights,” one hunger striker, Majid al-Joudi, told a military doctor, according to medical records released recently under a federal court order. “If the policy does not change, you will see a big increase in fasting.”

more, 2006 TIME article..

Thousands of people, of course, endure some form of voluntary intra-nasal feeding every day in hospital settings. But when force-feeding is involuntary and the recipient is in a state of high anxiety, the muscles tense up and the procedure can trigger nausea, bleeding, diarrhea and vomiting. “We are humane and compassionate,”; Guantanamo commander Harris told TIME, “but if we tell a detainee to do something, we expect the detainee to do it.” As a note scrawled in al-Shehri’s medical records put it: “[The prisoner] was informed that dying is not permitted.”

My Word of the Week: “conundrum”.

It doesn’t seem that difficult to comprehend, though, really. Deal with it. Figure it out, geniuses.

The Harper’s piece, mentioned by LC, is sub only. hmmm. well. there’s this:

We face the temptation to believe that an election can “change everything”-that the stark contrast between Barack Obama and George W. Bush recapitulates an equally stark contrast between the present and the past. But political events move within a continuum, and they are driven by many forces other than democratic action, including the considerable power of their own momentum. Such is the case with the ongoing American experiment with torture.

Like I keep saying, this ain’t going away.

The current administration must address this whole mess with the courage and common sense that I thought I voted for. Remember Rule of Law? oh yeah, that. And also, some reasonable degree of transparency. They can hide those 2005 photos (apparently) but now is now and I’m ready to take delivery on some o’ that kumbaya Change and Truth and Justice stuff. Not this Indefinite Detention crap.

I’m tired and haven’t had a chance to even really keep up with reading as much as I’d like. Maybe tomorrow I’ll have a fresh perspective, but right now, I’m quite discouraged not only with our current administration but… people, just people in general. Not you guys. heh.


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  1. (where is ek anyway? that’s his saying).

    And I miss Buhdy too. ;-/

    Sorry if Im not making a great deal of sense, TV in my background & distractions.


  2. post.  My affinity and love for the 1981 Hunger Strikers is unbreakable (I am sorry if you disagree)….and I feel I would have been banned the first time someone insulted Bobby.  Nevertheless, I am grateful for somewhere to vent.  Thanks for the recap…I really wouldn’t have lasted over at the orange.

  3. I saw that comment about dying yesterday, so I clicked out of the site.  This morning I see that there’s an apologia about the Honduras coup from the anti-Chavisista elements (a huge, ill mannered gang).  So I clicked out of the site.  I wouldn’t say that I’m discouraged with people, but I am feeling that electing more and/or better democrats just isn’t enough.  Especially when they don’t deliver.

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