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Candace Gorman

H. Candace Gorman is an attorney specializing in civil and human rights

April 2nd, 2013 10:45 AM

A Hunger Strike Has Taken Over Guantanamo

A hunger strike has taken over the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, prison camp. The main reason, as our military has reluctantly acknowledged, is the growing sense of frustration and despair among the detainees, most of whom, like my client, have been there over eleven years without charge, trial, or, it seems, hope. As Gen. John Kelly, the head of U.S. Southern Command, explained to the House Armed Services Committee last week, detainees “had great optimism that Guantanamo would be closed. They were devastated . . . when the president backed off. . . . He said nothing about it in his inauguration speech. . . . He said nothing about it in his State of the Union speech. . . . He’s not restaffing the office that . . . looks at closing the facility.”

My client, and the other men at Guantanamo, have apparently chosen death as preferable over their indefinite detention- without charge or legal process. I support my client’s decision to starve himself to death rather than to live at Guantanamo until his natural death and I will not ask a court to interfere with his decision. But I say this knowing that my client would prefer to live- he would like to be in the arms of his family- he would like to walk as a free man in his home country.  But since, it would seem that Obama is afraid of something---perhaps his own shadow, perhaps the military, perhaps the congress---it really doesn’t matter, my client now only has two choices.  He can spend the rest of the 30 or 40 years of his natural life in a cage at Guantanamo, or he can starve himself to death. Which would you choose? For me, I personally would not hesitate for one moment to do what my client has now chosen to do….

Of course our military cannot simply allow my client to starve himself to death, so they will try to force feed him, as they have done with other hunger strikers over the years. Once the powers that be have decided that he is on death's door- they will then restrain him in a chair similar to the chair shown below. Actually, identical to this chair (the photo was taken at a seminar where the military’s technique was displayed-unlike our clients the man below was a volunteer). They will restrain him - and after the restraints are put on his head, neck, arms and legs- they will shove a tube down one of his nostrils and administer the liquid "nutritional product" “Ensure” down the tube- and if the tube is inserted properly the liquid will end up in his stomach (and if, as has often been the case at Gitmo, it isn’t, the liquid will end up somewhere else in his abdominal cavity).

As a way of discouraging the men from engaging in a hunger strike the military deliberately uses a tube that is oversized – and of course more painful and medically problematic than an appropriately sized tube. They are also moving the men who are getting weak to solitary confinement so that they will have to starve themselves to death while entirely alone.

Of course some have asked that the courts intervene….but why? So that our clients can continue to be detained at Guantanamo without any legal rights or legal process?  Our once independent judiciary has become an unabashed rubber stamp for the military…and needless to say, the courts have long decided it has no place in this torture, especially no place in trying to stop it. Last week after attorneys for one of the hunger strikers filed an emergency motion in court asking for humanitarian aid for their client, Obama’s “justice department” quickly responded by telling the judge that he simply had no right to interfere at Guantanamo. District Court Judge Hogan has, nevertheless, set a hearing on the issue at the federal courthouse in Washington DC for April 15th. Although I do not expect much to change, if you are in the vicinity you can certainly show your support to those attorneys and their client by attending the hearing.

Oh- but did I mention the good news?

The good news is that the white house claims that our commander in chief, President Barack Obama, is monitoring the situation… Somehow I don’t think the president is taking the men’s vital signs, so what, exactly, is the "monitoring" that he is doing? Counting the men being force fed?  

One thing is clear (as described above)- while our president is “monitoring” things, his justice department continues to argue to  the Federal Court that the courts still have no business in Guantanamo issues – familiar arguments, seeing as they are identical arguments made by the Bush “justice department.” Funny that. Seems times change….or do they? “There is also no question,” Obama said in a May 2009 speech, that Guantanamo has undermined “America’s strongest currency in the world” — our “moral authority.”  But that currency has been debased more by the fact that Obama’s own “task force” found over half the men there should be released-a decision that was unanimous across government agencies including the military, FBI, Justice department, homeland security etc….and yet those men are still held in brutal maximum security conditions, seemingly until their deaths.

So much for moral authority. Mr. President-you have left the prison open and you have failed to lead our nation to anything even resembling justice. As someone else once said, have you no shame, Sir? It is time for the president to appoint someone in the White House responsible for coordinating efforts to close this prison once and for all, rather than to continue to cower in fear of doing the right thing and to cower in fear of upholding the principles he campaigned on, and to continue to pander the right wing fear machine  every time the word Guantanamo is voiced.  Do the right thing, Mr. President. Just do it. 

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