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….