At Guantanamo, America’s Looking Like A Real Empire…

Charlie Savage reports, in the NYTimes:

WASHINGTON — A hunger strike by detainees who have been held for years without trial at the military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, has grown to involve at least 25 prisoners, the Defense Department disclosed Wednesday.

That number includes eight who are being force-fed a nutritional supplement through a hose snaked into their nose while they are restrained in a chair.

There have long been about half a dozen prisoners at Guantánamo who refuse to eat and have been kept alive by force-feeding. But the number refusing meals among the population of 166 inmates has recently surged….

Lawyers representing some of the detainees in habeas corpus lawsuits, who communicate with them during visits to the island and by phone, say that the number is significantly higher than the official count. The military says it is using criteria developed by the civilian Bureau of Prisons, which generally counts a prisoner who refuses nine straight meals as a hunger striker.

The origins of the hunger strike are disputed. David H. Remes, a lawyer for several Yemeni detainees who were cleared for repatriation years ago but remain imprisoned because of poor security conditions in Yemen, said he was recently told by clients that prison officials had started searching Korans, which inmates considered to be religious desecration, in a way they had not done since 2006.

A group of lawyers representing detainees, including Mr. Remes, sent letters on March 4 and March 14 to military officials raising alarm about the strike and asking for attention to alleviate its underlying causes, citing the purported Koran searches and, in the March 14 letter, a wider set of “regressive practices at the prison taking place in recent months, which our clients have described as a return to an older regime at Guantánamo that was widely identified with the mistreatment of detainees.” …

Both Mr. Remes and military officials largely agreed, however, that a significant factor in the recent unrest was the collapse of hopes that the United States government would at some point let them go….

Mr. Charles Pierce, from whose blog I got the NYT link:

A lot of what we’ve done in our “war” on terror — including extrajudicial assassination, drumhead tribunals, and now this classically brutal response to a hunger strike, which is an act of dedicated non-violent resistance — we learned from the lessons taught by the British in Ireland, and especially those taught by Mrs. Thatcher, who allowed an elected member of Parliament to starve himself to death rather than let him wear the clothes he wanted to wear…

Yes, I agree, the Camp Gitmo fustercluck and all the other Empire GWOT horrors would be so much worse if Romney had managed to scare up or steal an electoral win. Doesn’t mean “we” get an indefinite pass for having only the best intentions. Bobby Sands didn’t “win” his argument with Prime Minister Thatcher — he died age 27, and she’s still alive, albeit suffering from dementia. But Sands’ “self-imposed” starvation kicked off a chain of violence that greatly strengthened the hardliners on both sides of that long war.

Unfortunate coincidence (let’s assume) that the authorities decided to make it much harder for outside reporters to visit Guantanamo just days before this news broke:

The Guantánamo Navy commander is halting commercial air passenger service from South Florida to the remote outpost in southeast Cuba, invoking a federal regulation that the Pentagon had apparently waived for years.

Fort Lauderdale-based IBC Travel said Friday that it will cease its several times a week service to and from the base after April 5, on an order from Navy Capt. John “JR” Nettleton to discontinue service by May 1. It will continue weekly cargo flights to the base, said IBC spokesman Richard Rose, with permission from Nettleton.

The airline will also offer $17,000 one-day charters between South Florida and Guantánamo on a case-by-case basis, by agreement with the base commander, Rose said…

The small shuttles that carry about 20 passengers had been a vital air bridge to Guantánamo, especially since the U.S. Supreme Court gave attorneys access to the prisoners in August 2004. The flight also served as a gateway for journalists, entertainers, business executives and contractors who streamed to the base in the years following the establishment of the prison camps in January 2002….

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26 replies
  1. 1
    srv says:

    Me thinks Col. Jessup or his replacement is wanting some tender loving attention or has gone off the deep end with Col. Kurtz and wants to start his own country.

  2. 2
    aimai says:

    Jeezus Christ what is wrong with us as a people?

  3. 3
    Baud says:


    Jeezus Christ what is wrong with us as a people?

    Congress, mostly.

  4. 4
    Keith G says:

    When folk have a part in doing bad things, karma usually has a say. This is a big mistake.

  5. 5
    Keith G says:

    @Baud: The actions of Congress are a problem, but if this is a moral issue, those with pretense of moral leadership need to raise voice and point to a better way.

  6. 6
    Baud says:

    @Keith G:

    I agree. There is going to be another Defense Authorization bill this year, right? Maybe it’s not too soon to start organizing an attempt to remove the restrictions that prior bills have placed on Obama’s ability to deal with Gitmo?

  7. 7
    David Koch says:

    It’s incomprehensible that liberal superstars like Russ Feingold, Ron Wyden, Barbara Boxer, and Bernie Sanders voted to block the Obama administration from closing this gulag. Yet no one has ever held their feet to the fire for stabbing human rights in the back.

  8. 8
    scav says:

    There’s a lot more lip service to values than practice of them, especially when it’s inconvenient.

  9. 9
    Keith G says:

    @Baud: @David Koch: The President needs to do more as well. It’s up to him to make sure that this problem stays in the news. That is one thing that moral leadership can easily do.

  10. 10
    Baud says:

    @Keith G:

    Fair enough. If he does, hopefully he’ll get some support this time.

  11. 11
    RaflW says:


    …what is wrong with us as a people?
    Congress, mostly.

    And yet, and yet! Obama gets criticized for not shutting Gitmo. Saw it again on TeeVee the other night, an ex-Cheneyite on maybe MSNBC saying he voted for Obama twice to keep us out of new wars, though he was “disappointed that Obama didn’t keep his promise to shut down Guantanao.”


    As you say, Baud, it’s Congress.

  12. 12
    David Koch says:

    @Keith G: yeah, but this is a big problem with liberals. They put it all on the president (whether it’s Truman, JFK, or Clinton) when in reality, when it comes to messaging, it takes a village.

    What do the republicans do when they want to push a message (whether they hold the WH or not)– they all go out together and push the same lines, thereby creating saturation and amplification. It’s simple advertising techniques.

    liberals should be out there together pushing this on the floor of the senate, filibustering the NDAA, going on cable, radio, editorial pages, town hall meetings, Stewart, Colbert, and pushing a point of view. But no, they’re unorganized and resent doing grunt work and team work (ironically it’s liberals who are the party of individualism), so then they put it all one person and then decline to back that person up, and in this very case, stab Obama in the back. Seriously, Bernie Sanders is in a rock solid seat and yet he turned yellow on this moral, fundamental issue of human rights.

  13. 13
    Yutsano says:

    @Keith G: Set them free. We cannot deny these men freedom for any conscionable reason at this point. Then shut down Guantnamo. It’s time for the US to put on its big kid pants and suck up to the fact that not everyone likes us. And if their home countries won’t take them find one that will. All of this is doable tomorrow with one executive order. But the Repubs would scream to high heaven about it.

  14. 14
    Ben Franklin says:


    Set them free

    Is the worm turning?

  15. 15
    Michael says:

    @Yutsano: Well, the problem is that its actually not so easy to find countries that will take these guys. The Uighers are refusing to go to Palau because its basically awful for them — unemployed, homeless, discriminated against. We sent I think two inmates to Venezuela last year.

    The problem is we won’t take any. If the US took, say, 4, our allies would undoubtedly step up and each take a few, and the 50-odd inmates we’ve cleared for release would be taken care of. But as of now, nobody will take them.

    As for the “home country,” the US is barred by treaty from releasing these guys back to places where they’re likely to get tortured or killed. That’s a major problem for everyone still stuck in Gitmo who’s been cleared, because they all face those threats back at home, wherever that may be (Yemen, China, etc.)

  16. 16
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Michael: You are correct, and so is Yutsano. We can’t properly try them; the evidence is all suspect – even the evidence not gathered by torture. Releasing them is difficult. Perhaps we could pay a country to take them, but that would probably require money from Congress.

  17. 17
    Yutsano says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: @Michael: I know there will be challenges with organising this, starting with the pantswetters in Congress. But Guantanamo is a boil that needs to be lanced if we are ever to call ourselves a moral society again. You’re correct OO that any money that could be used to get a host country to take them will be instantly snatched back by the pantswetters. I don’t even think diversion of DoD money would be sufficiently opaque to do that. We could check if Venezuela is at least willing to take the Uighurs, who have no reason to be in there at all. I know they can’t go back to China.

  18. 18
    Paula says:

    @David Koch:

    Only 6 nays. Awesome.

  19. 19
    PIGL says:

    @Michael: barred by treaty? Like that would slow your nation down by a microsecond.

    All these men should be freed with $10,000,000 at least in accessible secure form, a valid passport in the nationality of their choosing, and a secure escort to any airport of their choosing in the world, and valid tickets to help them disappear, and rebuild what life they can where they feel best. And well-funded case officers to see to their care and feeding for the rest of their lives.

    Or you could just shoot them. Horrifyingly, slow torture for decades is demonstrably the treatment of choice. This comes as no surprise.

  20. 20
    The Sheriff's A Ni- says:

    @aimai: Ask the West Memphis Three. At least they got a music album in their honor.

  21. 21
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @PIGL: Any money will have to come from Congress. That is where anything will come unglued.

  22. 22
    Svensker says:


    Yes. This is just so awful. Jesus wept, and I mean that.

  23. 23
    NotMax says:

    Nice to see you getting up to speed.

  24. 24
    clayton says:

    In this gerrymandered country, is there no place that could say, yes, we will take them in?

    Aren’t we, as a country, up to doing this at this point?

    There are times that I think about people who are trapped — in their circumstances, their bodies, their lives — who with just some help could “escape” it.

    Perhaps it is time, here with the anniversary of the war, to make some noise, to make a difference.

    I think, however, it would be much like what Kay wrote about earlier — people’s first impressions have already stuck and the people — both the inmates and their keepers are the ones that have lost the most.

  25. 25
    The Moar You Know says:

    They’re not getting out, and Gitmo’s not getting closed. I’m in my forties, and I know goddamn well that gulag will still be open and running after I’m dead.

    A tribute to our fundamental cowardice as a nation.

    At least Obama tried. He’ll be the last president to do so, I guarantee you.

  26. 26
    gratuitous says:

    I’m very glad this made it into the post:

    Doesn’t mean “we” get an indefinite pass for having only the best intentions.

    Because the continuing crime against humanity being perpetrated at Guantanamo now belongs to the Obama administration and indeed to all of us. I don’t care about what Congress will or won’t fund, we have the money laying around somewhere to pay to close this gulag and set the inmates up for life somewhere. Some country will take them if we shower enough money on them.

    It’s way past time to end this, and if the money has to come out of the White House budget or the president’s discretionary budget, then that’s where it comes from. If the Republicans want to keep holding up funding, then Democrats who still believe in the Constitution can put some of their office budget money where they claim their principles are.

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