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Obama Steps Up Cruelty to Gitmo Hunger-Strikers

From the moment Obama became a presidential candidate in 2007, he campaigned vigorously against Guantánamo as a pillar of the flawed and failed Bush-Cheney war policy. He won the election and signed that executive order in his third day on the job, and then – once it became clear that House Republicans would be delighted to use the issue to depict him as a crypto-Muslim, terrorist-coddling pantywaist – let the whole thing drop. The rest of us, I’m afraid, mostly assumed that the right guy was in office and the right thing would be done eventually, and moved on. Andrew O’Herir


According to Andy Worthington, Shaker Aamer is the last British resident in the Gitmo prison. In a “desperate” phone message to one of his lawyers he related:

“The administration is getting ever more angry and doing everything they can to break our hunger strike. Honestly, I wish I was dead.”

Shaker was cleared for release from the prison under the Bush administration in 2007 and again under the Obama administration in 2009. And yet, here we are in 2013 with him being tortured with force-feeding.

According to Worthington citing the Observer:

“the US authorities are systematically making the regime more hardline to try to defuse the strike, which now involves almost two-thirds of the detainees.”


Techniques include making cells “freezing cold” to accentuate the discomfort of those on hunger strike and the introduction of “metal-tipped” feeding tubes, which Aamer said were forced into inmates’ stomachs twice a day and caused detainees to vomit over themselves.

The 46-year-old from London tells of one detainee who was admitted to hospital 10 days ago after a nurse had pushed the tube into his lungs rather than his stomach, causing him later to cough up blood. Aamer also alleges that some nurses at Guantánamo Bay are refusing to wear their name tags in order to prevent detainees registering abuse complaints against staff.

Shaker also told his lawyer about his “declining health” and “how the camp’s regime deliberately inflates the weight of detainees on hunger strike,” as the Observer put it. “They said I was 160lb,” he explained, “but I was 154lb a few days ago. Unless there has been a miracle, my weight has not gone up without eating. But they cheat by adding shackles and sometimes even pressing down as they do it to add to your weight.”

Shaker added, “If you have a medical standard for when a detainee should be force-fed for his own health, then force-feed him when it can still save his health. Don’t wait until his body is so harmed by the lack of food that all you are protecting is the US military — from the harm of a prisoner dying for a principle.”

Let’s repeat that, shall we?

“Don’t wait until his body is so harmed by the lack of food that all you are protecting is the US military — from the harm of a prisoner dying for a principle.”

The force-feeding is not about concern for human life. I mean, let’s face it, the “humanity factor” ship sailed early on in the Obama administration.

Clive Stafford Smith, the director of the legal action charity Reprieve told the Observer:

“These gruesome new details show just how bad things are in Guantánamo. The whole thing is at breaking point. Clearly the US military is under enormous pressure and doing everything it can to hurt the men and break the hunger strike.”

US authorities admit 104 of the remaining 166 men are taking part in the hunger strike. The hunger strike is on its 139th day. 44 of the men are being force fed.

Andy Worthington explains that 150 doctors from the US and around the world wrote Obama a letter last week calling for an end to the force-feeding AND for independent medical personnel to be allowed to visit the prisoners. Even Sen. Dianne Feinstein, upon hearing this, called Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to end the force-feeding. Feinstein emphasized that the force-feeding policy stood in conflict with “international norms.”

So let’s see. When Obama gave his national security speech on May 23rd he promised to resume releasing prisoners. He has not released a single prisoner since then.

Worthington acknowledges that Congress has created obstacles for the release of prisoners to “dangerous countries” where there may be “recidivism” (returning to the battlefield) but Aamer is from Great Britain.

British Prime Minister David Cameron is feeling some British public heat on this, to use his political power on President Obama’s realpolitik anti-humane Gitmo policy.

According to Worthington there is a desire on the part of the US authorities to have Shaker sent back to Saudi Arabia, overlooking the fact that he is a British citizen. The US authorities want released prisoners monitored which Worthington asserts would not be hard for the British government. Apparently the UK has been requesting Shaker’s return to his home and family since August 2007.

Worthington published a letter from Aamer’s daughter, Johina, written to David Cameron two months ago. Johina wrote:

“I had just turned four when my family was deprived of a father and husband. He has been in Guantánamo Bay for more than 11 years while the British government allowed him to be tortured, causing both physical and mental scars. ...

Like the public you are most likely to be knowledgeable of the fact that my father has been cleared for release many times in the past, which leads me to question why is he still in prison? I am also wondering how many times it will take for me to say “My name is Johina Aamer, I am 15 years old and my dad is in prison” until someone from the government takes our plight seriously, and actually does something to help?  My father is now one of the many Guantánamo detainees who are on hunger strike: exhausted by our government’s neglect of his situation, he is starving himself out of protest. My father has been on hunger strike many times in the past but now his lawyer has attested to the fact he is genuinely frightened for his survival this time. Do you have any concept of what it is like for me, my brothers and my mother to hear this news?

I am writing to you to ask — please explain to me what you have been doing to secure my father’s release? I previously wrote to the former Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, but he did not consider my family’s difficult situation important enough to reply — I hope that you will not be so inconsiderate.

Cameron did reply politely, offering nothing substantial.

This is what I blogged back in April in “Lying Time for Obama/Media, Dying Time for Gitmo Detainees”:

It is also the 54th day of a mass hunger strike of Gitmo detainees hoping -- and actually risking their lives -- to have their BASIC human rights finally respected by this not so bastion of human rights -- this United States. 
To have their BASIC human rights FINALLY respected by the present, politically scaredy-cat to appear soft on terror, surreally peace prize winning and shamelessly prevaricating President Barack Obama along with so many craven Congresspeople willing to politically grandstand their own anti-terror toughness on the “faux-worst-of-the-worst.”  Still milking that lie to a gullible or indifferent majority of American citizenry, enabled by an amoral and/or stupid corporate media. 

Then there is a Pentagon/CIA network that doesn’t seem to regard foreign peoples as precious human life forms.  As statistics to be celebrated as conquest? How about bugsplats or pawns to be discarded or maimed or shoved around in a vast addictive geopolitical bloodbath and ruthless game of chicken chess?


Many of these men at Gitmo could die soon, even though some are enduring the rape-like violence of force-feeding from guards to stop their protest. Apparently a new crew of super-macho guards has helped trigger the defiance. Guards who seriously and immediately want to show ‘em who's really boss. After 11 years of surreal injustice? WTF I ask again?

Obama and Congress and the Pentagon are still counting on low information Americans to believe their bullshit about the detainees being “the worst of the worst” or faking the starvation protest.  Or they are counting on passivity of the U.S. population no matter how some of its citizens may feel sympathy.  Citizen passivity has been a sure thing thus far. 
Our "powers that be" are bottom-line shameless, gutless and murderous.  Yet, still seemingly so popularly enabled!
As the world watches. 

As the international media reports the reality of the Gitmo spiritual/physical death camp, our own President and media are silent for the most part.

Andy Worthington writes:

Tomorrow (Wednesday June 26) is the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, established by the United Nations in 1997 to mark the 10th anniversary of the day that the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment came into force.

[cross-posted on open salon]

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