Meanwhile in America’s terrorist prison camp

Meanwhile in America's terrorist prison camp

by digby

This is happening.  Right now.

A week after a raid that put Guantanamo Bay's largest and most communal prison camp under lockdown, the number of detainees the U.S. military says are participating in a 10-week-long hunger strike has grown to 63 of the 166 men held at the camp -- more than one-third of the men incarcerated there, according to the Defense Department.

Just a week ago, the Pentagon's official tally was 42 men on hunger strike at the prison camp.

Fifteen of the hunger strikers are currently being force-fed liquid nutrients, "to preserve life or prevent serious self-harm," said Guantanamo spokesman Capt. Robert Durand. The process involves a detainee being strapped to a chair and having Ensure poured into a plastic tube that runs down his nose and throat.

In the past eight days, Durand said two detainees had tried to commit suicide by hanging themselves. The U.S. Southern Command, which oversees the Navy base in southern Cuba, has designated seven of the nine detainee deaths at Guantanamo since it opened in 2002 as suicides.

The military commander at Guantanamo, Rear Admiral John Smith, ordered the early morning April 13 raid on Camp Six, because guards could no longer see inside the facility, Durand said. Detainees had covered up 147 of the 160 security cameras and hung sheets blocking the guards' view of the common areas.
Last Saturday's raid came the day after a delegation from the International Committee of the Red Cross, the only independent group allowed access to the detainees, departed after three weeks at the base. The ICRC does not comment publicly on its findings, but it opposes force-feedings.

"We raise issues bilaterally to maintain access and hopefully impact the situations we work from within," said ICRC spokesman Simon Schorno.

Captain Durand disputed an Op-Ed column by detainee Samir Naji al-Hasan Moqbel published April 15 in the New York Times stating two detainees now weighed less than 100 pounds.

"None of the new hunger strikers has gone below 100 pounds," Durand said. He said one detainee who has been hunger striking for years did drop to 90 pounds last year but recently weighed 120 pounds.

In a Washington federal court on Monday, detainee attorneys lost a motion seeking an order for the military to cease what the lawyers claim is retaliation against hunger strikers, such as allegedly depriving them of clean drinking water and keeping cells at chilly temperatures. The claims have been made by detainees, including Moqbel, in statements via their attorneys.

The motion was filed on behalf of hunger-striking detainee Masaab Omar al-Madhwani, 32, from Yemen, who says he has refused food and for more than a month.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Hogan denied the motion.

"The court wrongly ruled that it did not have jurisdiction to provide any of the requested relief," said attorney Mari Newman, from Denver, who represents al-Madhwani and four other detainees.

"Judge Hogan's ruling that the courts have no jurisdiction to order humanitarian and life-saving relief for Mr. al-Madhwani is yet another blow in an unbroken record of every branch of our government abdicating responsibility for lives of the innocent men that it has tortured and imprisoned for over a decade," Newman said.

Newman and other detainee attorneys say, besides discontent over more invasive cell inspections, the underlying cause of the hunger strike is indefinite detention without charges coupled with the knowledge that half the detainees have been approved for transfer but are not leaving.

"I have no reason to believe that I will ever leave this prison alive," Madhwani stated in a written declaration. "Indefinite detention is the worst form of torture. I am an innocent man. I have never done anything against the United States, and I never would."

"You can understand why people are going on a hunger strike if they feel like they have no other option," said Zeke Johnson, Director of Amnesty International USA's Security with Human Rights Campaign.

Yeah. Being held in prison despite the fact that they know you are innocent may be the greatest long term psychological torture there is. (To me, anyway --- living with that kind of injustice is just unimaginable.)

But it isn't just psychological torture. It's physical torture. And it's been going on at Guantanamo from the beginning:

The stories coming out of Gitmo are remarkably consistent. This is not an unusual case. Indeed, the attempted suicide rate down there is astronomical, but after this was publicized, in a typical Bushian move, they have decided to simply give attempted suicidee another, less disturbing, name. From the Vanity Fair article:

In the camp's acute ward, a young man lies chained to his bed, being fed protein-and-vitamin mush through a stomach tube inserted via a nostril. "He's refused to eat 148 consecutive meals," says Dr. Louis Louk, a naval surgeon from Florida. "In my opinion, he's a spoiled brat, like a small child who stomps his feet when he doesn't get his way." Why is he shackled? "I don't want any of my guys to be assaulted or hurt," he says.

By the end of September 2003, the official number of suicide attempts by inmates was 32, but the rate has declined recently-not because the detainees have stopped trying to hang themselves but because their attempts have been reclassified. Gitmo has apparently spawned numerous cases of a rare condition: "manipulative self-injurious behavior," or S.I.B. That, says chief surgeon Captain Stephen Edmondson, means "the individual's state of mind is such that they did not sincerely want to end their own life." Instead, they supposedly thought they could get better treatment, perhaps even obtain release. In the last six months, there have been 40 such incidents.

Also too, from 2007:
New details have emerged of how the growing number of prisoners on hunger strike at Guantánamo Bay are being tied down and force-fed through tubes pushed down their nasal passages into their stomachs to keep them alive. 
They routinely experience bleeding and nausea, according to a sworn statement by the camp's chief doctor, seen by The Observer.
'Experience teaches us' that such symptoms must be expected 'whenever nasogastric tubes are used,' says the affidavit of Captain John S Edmondson, commander of Guantánamo's hospital. The procedure - now standard practice at Guantánamo - 'requires that a foreign body be inserted into the body and, ideally, remain in it.' But staff always use a lubricant, and 'a nasogastric tube is never inserted and moved up and down. It is inserted down into the stomach slowly and directly, and it would be impossible to insert the wrong end of the tube.' Medical personnel do not insert nasogastric tubes in a manner 'intentionally designed to inflict pain.' 
It is painful, Edmonson admits. Although 'non-narcotic pain relievers such as ibuprofen are usually sufficient, sometimes stronger drugs,' including opiates such as morphine, have had to be administered...
Article 5 of the 1975 World Medical Association Tokyo Declaration, which US doctors are legally bound to observe through their membership of the American Medical Association, states that doctors must not undertake force-feeding under any circumstances. Dr David Nicholl, a consultant neurologist at Queen Elizabeth's hospital in Birmingham, is co-ordinating opposition to the Guantánamo doctors' actions from the international medical community. 'If I were to do what Edmondson describes in his statement, I would be referred to the General Medical Council and charged with assault,' he said.

I'll take a leap and assume that the treatment of hunger striking prisoners  has improved since 2007. But it's still a form of torture. And the way to end it should be simple: release these innocent prisoners who have been charged with no crime. Our inability to do the obvious is completely irrational.

*And, by the way, we really do have to blame the neanderthal caucus in the congress and their timorous brethren in the Democratic party for continuing this insane policy. The administration is hamstrung on this one. On the other hand, they can certainly instruct their people in Guantanamo to go to extreme lengths to operate humanely --- since most of the people in it aren't terrorists.