Sunday, April 08, 2007


The NY Times reports on the latest conditions at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility:

A new, long-term hunger strike has broken out at the American detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, with more than a dozen detainees subjecting themselves to daily force-feeding to protest their treatment, military officials and lawyers for the detainees said.

Lawyers for several hunger strikers said their clients’ action were driven by harsh conditions in a new maximum security complex to which about 160 prisoners have been moved since December.

. . .

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.

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.

“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.

The “detention mission” has become something untethered from any previous notions of desert and punishment. For hundreds already, the link between alleged illegal action and the ongoing pre-judgment penalty was too tenuous to withstand even the watered down, due process-less military tribunals, and they were released without charge after years of captivity. From Wikipedia:

Most of the detainees still at Guantanamo are not scheduled for trial. As of November 2006, according to, out of 775 detainees who have been brought to Guantanamo, approximately 340 have been released, leaving 435 detainees. Of those 435, 110 have been labeled as ready for release. Of the other 325, only "more than 70" will face trial, the Pentagon says. That leaves about 250 who may be held indefinitely.

Now, frankly, we have the rest and don’t know what to do with them. They have the upper hand, their status as enemies of the U.S. cemented, perhaps for many after being manufactured out of nothing more than the government’s electorally-driven need for enemies.

The NY Times article continues:

“Anytime something changes, people will seize on that as an opportunity to say that things are getting worse,” [Durand] said. “This was designed to improve living conditions, and we think it has.”

Commander Durand obviously is unfamiliar with basic concepts of justice most people learn in elementary school. Maybe he had them driven out of his head at West Point. The problem is not that “things are getting worse,” it’s that they have not yet changed. No government official can adequately explain why we are holding these people after 5 years and have only informed a small fraction of them why they are being held.

The situation is utterly disgusting and shameful. The government would be hard pressed to find a way to more thoroughly discredit itself internationally. It has morally soiled itself. That the camp has not been shut down already due to domestic pressure shows once again how little regard most Americans have for the lives of non-Americans.

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