A military spokesman at Guantánamo, Cmdr. Robert Durand of the Navy, played down the significance of the current hunger strike, describing the prisoners’ complaints as “propaganda.”And why are they striking?
Lawyers for several detainees being held in the new maximum security complex, called Camp 6, compared it to “super-max” prisons in the United States. The major differences, they said, are that the detainees have limited reading material and no television, and that only 10 of the roughly 385 men at Guantánamo have been charged.Ahem; as I was saying....(and DAS's comment deserves to be folded in here, on that point). But let's put this in context now:
The Camp 6 inmates are generally locked in their 8-by-10-foot cells for at least 22 hours a day, emerging only to exercise in small wire cages and shower. Besides those exercise periods, they can talk with other prisoners only by shouting through food slots in the steel doors of their cells.Catch that? The
“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 new unit as much more comfortable than the detainees’ previous quarters, and he denied that they suffer any greater sense of isolation in the new cellblocks.
“Anytime something changes, people will seize on that as an opportunity to say that things are getting worse,” he said. “This was designed to improve living conditions, and we think it has.”
Camp 6 was originally designed as a modern, medium-security prison complex for up to 200 inmates, with common areas where they could gather for meals and a large, fenced-in athletic field where they might jog or play soccer outside the high, concrete walls.Do you see the neat trick? We proclaim the actions of the
But after a riot last May and the suicides of three prisoners in June, the unit was retrofitted to limit the detainees’ freedom of movement and reduce the risk that they might hurt themselves or attack guards, military officials said.
Lawyers for half a dozen Camp 6 detainees said their clients were uniformly despondent about the move even though, as military officials note, the new cells are 27 square feet larger than the old ones and have air-conditioning, nicer toilets and sinks, and a small desk anchored to the wall.Might as well match conditions in Americs. Clearly the inmates are in charge of the asylum here. "Senior officials" keep making all the right noises: "Senior officials expressed concern in interviews about how prisoners would react to the greater isolation in Camp 6." But apparently no one listens to them anymore. And of course, there's the bouncing rationale for forced feedings, which all comes down to a matter of control. We will keep you imprisoned, and we will keep you alive, and we will make your life a iiving hell, and don't you try to do a thing about it, because it can always get worse:
“They’re just sitting on a powder keg down there,” said one lawyer, Sabin Willett, who, like others, described an atmosphere of growing desperation among the prisoners. “You’re going to have an insane asylum.”
In an interview as the move began in December, the commander of the military guard force, Col. Wade Dennis, suggested that he would be unperturbed by such protests: “If they want to do that, hook it up,” he said of the restraint-chair feeding system.Oh, and since you "terrorists" have no respect for human life, we can prove to you that two can play at that game:
Military officials have described the restraint-chair regimen as unpleasant but necessary. They originally said prisoners needed to be restrained while digesting, so they could not purge what they were fed.
Now, the rationale has changed: The restraints are generally applied “for safety of the detainee and medical staff,” records show, and they are kept on for as little as 15 minutes at a time, rather than the two hours commonly used before. Afterwards, the prisoners are moved to a “dry room,” and monitored to make sure they do not vomit.
Even so, some detainees describe the experience as painful, even gruesome.
One Sudanese detainee, Sami al Hajj, a 38-year-old former cameraman for the Arab television network Al Jazeera, described feeling at one point that he could not bear the tube for another instant. “I said I would begin to scream unless they took it out,” he wrote in a recent diary entry given to his lawyer. “They finally did.”Probably better medical care than he'd get outside of Gitmo! Damn straight! (On second thought, perhaps we shouldn't even go there. Too many embarassing questions about Hippocratic oaths and such.) Besides, concern for torture victims (and what is solitary confinement if not a form of torture?) is a liberal vice, so we shouldn't expect this Administration to have any qualms at all, eh?
Military officials said they have segregated the hunger strikers from other detainees to impede their recruitment of others. The authorities have also continued to isolate at least two detainees considered leaders among the prisoners, and lawyers for the men complained that their clients’ mental health is deteriorating.
“The man has been in segregation — virtual isolation — for over nine months,” said Stephen H. Oleskey, who represents Saber Lahmar, an Algerian religious scholar whom military officials accused of propagating a religious legal ruling that was linked to the suicides. “Physically and emotionally, he’s collapsing. We think this punishment does exceed what the law allows, and that he won’t survive.”
Military officials said Mr. Lahmar receives adequate medical attention.
Do the conditions in this prison begin to sound even vaguely familiar?